It has long been known in the CBR community that successful research partnerships are built through the equitable exchange of resources, knowledge and workload (Minkler, Wallerstein, 2005). Facilitated partner building sessions – to explore mutual and individual expectations of the research partnership from the very beginning – could establish a strong communication channel and circumvent future project derailment resulting from unclear expectations (Hillery, 1955). Historically, research has often not directly benefited and sometimes actually harmed the communities involved and excluded them from influence over the research process. Community members can become the conscience of investigations, and researchers must be aware that community members have placed their credibility on the line through the partnership. Partners often harbor stereotypes about each other that can pose obstacles to healthy and efficient teamwork. If groups do not devote adequate time and energy to relationship building, they may find the challenges posed by the process of CBR to be overwhelming or self-defeating.
Through honest discussions and a process marked by transparency, groups can stay on task. Growing attention to and funding for CBR has lead to a surge in name-only CBR in Canada. These endeavours have a high risk of damaging partnerships and trust, which could spread through a community and even negatively affect well-functioning partnerships (Horowitz, M., Robinson, M., Seifer, S. 2009).
Academic researchers are not community developers, just as community developers are not academic researchers. There is an overlap of roles and activities in community–university partnerships, but not a blurring of them. Nonetheless, a key element of a successful partnership – one that produces useful new knowledge and facilitates useful new actions – is a deeper appreciation for the differing capacities each partner brings to the process of creating healthy social change, and some adoption of each other’s working styles. (Williams et al, 2005)
A potential venue for promoting such academic/community partnerships is featured in the following workshops series:
Funding is currently being sought for a series of five structured Partner Building Sessions that will facilitate discussion to establish equitable action-based relationships. Sessions will include:
- The exploration of resources currently available and/or required within each participant group pertinent to partner matching session activities.
- Establishing communication guidelines focusing on verbalizing expectations, roles and responsibilities of each partner, and scope of CBR needs in the form of a ‘paragraph of passion’.
- Offer guidelines for probing questions to determine potential partnership challenges and help with developing solutions.
- Framework to develop research proposal elements and action timeline.
- Provide participants with an inventory of additional CBR resources available to assist in the process.
Partnership Sustainability and Future Ongoing Support for Partner Building
Additional resources will be sought to fund future Partner Building Sessions, and some ongoing benefits to initial and future participants will be accessible from these Sessions.
- Document and case studies sharing: Appropriate case studies obtained from proven partner groups will be readily available with the ability to make real-time comments, ask questions, offer additional examples and many more features; give partners the opportunity to share their work/experiences in a chosen topic across all regions. Possible “blog” style expert forums on CBR specific topics to provide rapid access to partner-group mentors and/or field ideas for new project ideas.
- Online profiles can be created for each partner organization and/or individual researcher entered into a secure database to display research interests/areas of expertise, CVs, wish lists, and future desired directions in CBR.
- Grant mentoring: senior research partners will be paired with new grant writers to assist in the development, preparation and writing of funding proposals.
The Benefits of Successful Partner Building will be:
- An increase in highly rated grant applications to the CIHR HIV/AIDS CBR stream across Canada.
- More funded HIV CBR projects providing valuable evidence back to the community.
- Building CBO capacity in order to begin including personnel with a specific research job description.
- More collaborators connected for CBR, increasing the knowledge/expertise pool.
- Additional capacity building opportunities for all- generated from attending conferences, workshops, and through mentoring activities.
- More CBO partners with enhanced capacity for strategic planning, outcomes measurement and research initiatives.
- More meaningful equitable partnerships among leaders in HIV/AIDS CBR
Partner Building Sessions have the potential to collaboratively develop a paradigm of practice-based research relationship building that identifies, communicates, translates and exchanges knowledge of the different social and institutional expectations of all partners, and mobilizes this knowledge for the effective establishment of equitable HIV research partnerships. This can be accomplished with the concerted and focused efforts of all partners. We can strive to learn from one another, explore mutual research interests and synergies in resources, and develop plans to implement HIV CBR in an equitable meaningful way.
Please see the additional resources links available below:
Academic Partner Building Sessions from the University of Wisconsin are currently offered to examine ways of increasing community engagement for University researchers.
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