Partnerships for Impact: Making Research Partnerships Work

CRFRThis week’s guest post comes from CRFR (Centre for Research on Families and Relationships) located in Edinburgh, Scotland . It was originally published on October 1, 2015 on the CRFR blog and is reposted here with permission.
The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships in consultation with ResearchImpact in Canada and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) have developed a Manifesto for Partnerships between Universities and Non-academics. Here Executive Director Sarah Morton explains what’s in the manifesto and how it can be used.
There is broad agreement amongst research funders in the UK ( that if academics work more closely with partners from outside the academy their work is more likely to have impact. It helps to embed research in real world issues, creates a group of willing and ready stakeholders, linked to wider networks and can help academics learn about the kind of language and methods required for effective take-up of research. At CRFR we often work together with range of public and third sector partners. We wanted to draw together what we have learned from this and make it more widely available. A partnership manifesto was the way we decided to do this.
Where did the manifesto come from?
In my own research (Creating research impact: the roles of research users in interactive research mobilisation) I investigated partnership and found that there were many ways in which CRFR working in partnership with ChildLine Scotland had led to the impact of that research. I presented these findings about impact to the Scottish Third Sector Research Forum in 2014, and the level of interest led to the idea for a manifesto for partnership research.
Findings from my research were discussed at a workshop at the NCCPE national conference in 2014, with a range of experienced researchers and KE professionals adding their experience. It was then discussed by the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Community of Practice and the ResearchImpact network in Canada:
« At ResearchImpact we were happy to be invited to collaborate on the Manifesto. » says David Phipps, Executive Director, Research & Innovation Services, York University, Canada. « We shared it among our members who provided feedback to Sarah and her CRFR team. Working closely with partners creates the conditions for research to have an impact beyond the academy. The manifesto provides guidance and tips to help support community-campus collaborations. »
The final version has taken on board all comments received and we are confident it is based on the most recent research and informed by the key experts in this field.
What is in the partnership manifesto?
The manifesto takes a process approach to thinking about partnership. It looks at identifying partners, and then goes through the stages of partnership research: starting partnerships, developing funding bids, developing partnerships, and sharing research findings. Advice includes being explicit about what both sides in a partnership can gain, and what commitment is needed, recognising knowledge and resources, and being clear about the difference between research, evaluation and commissioning. A few final comments suggest the need to choose partners carefully where possible, create spaces to reflect on what is and isn’t working, and to include impact assessment so that everyone can show what difference is being made.
How can the partnership manifesto be used?
We hope that the manifesto will provide a useful tool for people interested in research partnerships, whether from third or public sector organisations, or researchers themselves. Whatever stage of partnership people are in, we imagine the manifesto being a useful tool for discussion, development and reflection during partnership research. It can be a means of ensuring everyone is on the same page, by setting out key considerations for open discussion. When partnerships are not going well it might be a tool for reflecting together or separately on what the issues are and how they might be addressed.
Download a copy of the partnership manifesto