Making science work for development

Finding and Building Effective Partnerships

Working in partnership across countries, disciplines and sectors is vital to understand the context of international development challenges and develop appropriate solutions.

Researchers are excellent at developing collaborations, however, working in global development can add specific challenges. These include finding the right partners in other countries and sectors, overcoming cultural and language differences, creating equitable relationships, and developing effective communications. Below we’ve put together a variety of resources to help you build successful, high impact collaborations. To the right-hand side are some UKCDS resources on capacity strengthening intiatives (these are from 2013 so may not all be current).

Creating an effective, equal partnership

There are no simple rules for how to build efficient, effective and equitable research collaborations or partnerships. Factors for success include:

  • A common, shared vision and purpose and realistically defined goals
  • Support for the partnership from participating organisations
  • Equitable sharing of resources, responsibilities, and benefits
  • Transparent decision-making
  • Creation of genuine respect and trust between the partners
  • Pursuit and achievement of higher level outcomes beyond the partnership itself

There are lots of guides and resources available with tips and suggestions for how to build successful partnerships. We've picked out a few below:

General guides

  • The Partnering Initiative provides a wealth of resources including case studies and tools for developing transdisciplinary and cross-sector partnerships in international development
  • Co-producing knowledge is a toolbox of methods for jointly producing knowledge across different academic and non-academic fields of expertise. 

Planning and building a partnership

Researchers discussing their experiences of building partnerships:

  • Ian Scoones discusses experiences from an international transdisicplinary programme on human, livestock and ecosystem health and the challenges for research collaboration on global challenges
  • Time, effort and preparation are key as described by Gray Handley in Science 

Finding partners

Formal and informal contacts, university research and international partnership offices, conferences and online networks such as LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Piirus are a good place to start to find partners internationally, across disciplines and sectors. There are also specific partner matching services and common interest networks and, increasingly, funding calls include partnering or networking events. The following list provides an overview of national, international and common interest networks that could help you to find partners.

Organisational support

  • The UK Science and Innovation Network (SIN) consists of 90 staff, based in 28 countries around the world, including Newton Fund officers. The SIN is a good first point of contact for science and innovation opportunities in the UK and internationally through events, networking activities and direct contact. Visit the SIN website for in-country staff contacts and to subscribe to country and regional newsletters. If you are looking for connections at international organisations or NGOs based in Geneva, contact Elisabeth [dot] Wallaceatfco [dot] gov [dot] uk (Elisabeth Wallace) at SIN Switzerland.
  • The International Unit of Universities UK (UUK) supports the UK Higher Education sector's international activities. It can provide some support for UK and international organisations looking for contacts to build research partnerships. It also provides a partnering service for students applying for PhD’s under the Newton Fund, and has an online noticeboard of researchers who are looking for collaborators under the Newton Fund calls.
  • The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) offer several networks which allow members to share knowledge and best practice, and provide for debate and discussion on key policy and operational issues.
  • The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) works for the advancement of science and engineering for sustainable prosperity in the developing world. It has regional offices around the world.
  • INASP works with partners to support global research communication through innovation, networking and capacity strengthening, focusing on the needs of developing and emerging countries. INASP’s AuthorAID platform has over 12,000 members from more than 170 countries. It supports researchers in LMICs to find collaborators and mentors to help them through the process of research design, writing and publication. 

Finding collaborators and opportunities:

  • Piirus is a free online platform enabling researchers to find collaborators around the world.
  • EURAXESS supports researcher mobility and acts as a support mechanism for researchers moving abroad or moving to the UK.

Common interest networks:

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