Beyond partnerships: embracing complexity to understand and improve research collaboration for global development

Fransman, Jude; Hall, Budd; Hayman, Rachel; Narayanan, Pradeep; Newman, Kate and Tandon, Rajesh (2021). Beyond partnerships: embracing complexity to understand and improve research collaboration for global development. Canadian Journal of Development Studies / Revue canadienne d'études du développement (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02255189.2021.1872507

Abstract

While there is a burgeoning literature on the benefits of research collaboration for development, it tends to promote the idea of the ‘partnership’ as a bounded site in which interventions to improve collaborative practice can be made. This article draws on complexity theory and systems thinking to argue that such an assumption is problematic, divorcing collaboration from wider systems of research and practice. Instead, a systemic framework for understanding and evaluating collaboration is proposed. This framework is used to reflect on a set of principles for fair and equitable research collaboration that emerged from a programme of strategic research and capacity strengthening conducted by the Rethinking Research Collaborative (RRC) for the United Kingdom (UK)’s primary research funder: UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The article concludes that a systemic conceptualisation of collaboration is more responsive than a ‘partnership’ approach, both to the principles of fairness and equity and also to uncertain futures.

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