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Equitable Partnerships

More Partnerships

There is a worldwide trend to funding more North-South partnerships. Academics and researchers in the global North are encouraged to work with different types of organisations/sectors  in the global South, such as Universities, NGOs, government actors and the private sector, and they do so and in different regions/countries. All these different actors bring different knowledge, skills and perspectives to the research. This way of working creates new approaches to development challenges and ways of thinking and addressing poverty and development.

When undertaking international research and innovation activities, projects must recognise and address the possible impact of contextual, societal and cultural differences on the ethical conduct of these activities.

Researchers and innovators should also adhere to the principles of equitable partnerships to address inherent power imbalances when working with partners in resource-poor settings.

Principles for Equitable Partnerships

Rethinking Research Collaborative, via a UKRI funded project, identified eight principles for different stakeholder groups to apply  to better engage with the politics of partnerships

  1. Put poverty first. Constantly question how research is addressing the end goal of reducing poverty through better design and evaluation of responsive pathways to development impact.
  2. Critically engage with context(s).Consider the global representativeness of partnerships and governance systems and commit to strengthening research ecosystems in the global South.
  3. Redress evidence hierarchies. Incentivise intellectual leadership by Southern-based academics and civil society practitioners and engage communities throughout.
  4. Adapt and respond. Take an adaptive approach that is responsive to context.
  5. Respect diversity of knowledge and skills. Take time to explore the knowledge, skills and experience that each partner brings and consider different ways of representing research.
  6. Commit to transparency. Put in place a code of conduct or memorandum of understanding that commits to transparency in all aspects of the project administration and budgeting.
  7. Invest in relationships.Create spaces and commit funded time to establish, nurture and sustain relationships at the individual and institutional level.
  8. Keep learning.Reflect critically within and beyond the partnership.

Speaking on behalf of the Collaborative, Rajesh Tandon (UNESCO Co-Chair in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education) explains:

“Research partnerships do not exist in isolation. They are part of a complex knowledge-for-development ecosystem, which includes research agenda-setting and governance alongside production, communication, uptake, adaptation and use. So it’s important to rethink fair and equitable collaboration across that whole system. This will allow us to respond to locally defined development agendas, to map and incorporate the relevant actors, to utilize the myriad of knowledge and skills that actors bring, and to take an adaptive and learning-oriented approach to collaboration.”


Building Partnerships

What works

Graphic depicting what works in partnerships


What doesn't work

Graphic explaining what does not work in partnerships

Graphic highlighting weaknesses of partnerships


 Source: fair-and-equitable-partnerships_research-report-public.pdf (


Different approaches to engaging with stakeholders in research activities – The Ladder of Co-production

Graphic depicting co-producing examples

Download an accessible version of this presentation.

 Source: The Ladder of Co-Production — Business Lab


Relevant links