The Collaborative Process Behind McMaster’s Guide to Collaboration…. / La démarche collaborative derrière le guide de McMaster sur la collaboration…

One of the challenges for community members wishing to access university expertise is that it’s hard to find the way in.  “There’s no front door,” people tell us.

So, in April 2015, a small group of collaborators from McMaster and the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton decided to create not so much a front door to McMaster University, but a map.  Ideally, the map would help people find the kind of research collaboration they were looking for, and then negotiate the terms of that relationship once they’d found it.  The result was the just-released Paths to Research Collaboration: a Guide to Working with McMaster Researchers, online hereIn this blog post, we share with you some of our process, and highlights from our own collaborative experience.

Pour les membres de la collectivité souhaitant profiter de l’expertise qui fleurit dans l’université, l’une des difficultés consiste à savoir par où entrer. « C’est comme s’il n’y avait pas de porte ! » est une remarque qui revient souvent.

C’est pourquoi, en avril 2015, un petit groupe de collaborateurs de l’Université McMaster et le Conseil de la planification sociale et de la recherche (Planning and Research Council) de Hamilton ont décidé non pas de percer une porte, mais plutôt de tracer une carte pour se retrouver dans l’Université. Idéalement, cette carte devait aider les gens à trouver le type de collaboration dont ils ont besoin en recherche, puis à négocier les paramètres de la relation une fois qu’ils l’auraient trouvée. Le résultat est la parution toute fraiche de Paths to Research Collaboration: a Guide to Working with McMaster Researchers (« Les chemins de la collaboration avec le milieu de la recherche, un guide pour travailler avec les chercheurs de l’Université McMaster »), disponible en ligne ici. Dans ce billet, nous vous présentons certaines de nos façons de faire, de même que les aspects les plus frappants de notre expérience collaborative.


We began by pulling together a small group of people from local business and non-profit organizations who’d previously collaborated with McMaster, with the single goal of figuring out what such a map should look like.  To aid this process, we provided participants with guides produced by other universities, and invited everyone to identify what they liked and didn’t like about each.  Responses were sharp, critical, concise, thoughtful.  Participants told us exactly what not to do, and gave us a good start on what to do better.   Thus began a 3-month process of drafting, re-connecting, revising, re-connecting, and revising again.  It was a fantastic process, and a great example of what happens when creative and knowledgeable people put their heads together to do work that matters.

Ailsa Fullwood, Research Facilitator, Faculty of Social Sciences, McMaster University

Working on this project brought to mind a famous quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Now, I don’t know that we are going to change the world, but we made some small steps to help Hamiltonians and university researchers work together! That’s a good thing! While we were taking those steps on our journey toward developing Paths to Research Collaboration, I was reminded that not only what we say but how we say it reflects our attitudes and assumptions.  I really looked forward to our meetings in the community and was excited about the toolkit we were creating together.  I felt like a citizen of my city; collaborating with other citizens who happened to work either in the community or at the university. That shift was a nice surprise.

Karen Szala-Meneok, Resident, Ainslie Wood neighbourhood and Senior Ethics Advisor, McMaster University

It was wonderful to be a part of such a collaborative and useful community project. Building community-friendly research resources such as the guide for local providers will really help with making research accessible for a lot of folks. What a great contribution.

Ashley Ward Clinical Services Development Consultant, Human Resources & Organizational Development, Mission Services of Hamilton

When I opened the finished toolkit and saw how well put together it was I was very happy.  And it wasn’t the beautiful paper or the crisp printing that I liked.  It was how clear and focused each step seemed.  I really feel that this toolkit will make it easier for everyone to connect with people at the university for whatever they need.  And that will make it easier for us to share our knowledge and resources with our communities.

Sandra Preston, Director of Experiential Education, Faculty of Social Sciences, McMaster University

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