Developing equitable international partnerships

Dr Mia Perry, Senior Lecturer in Literacies and Arts in Education at Glasgow, in collaboration with the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network, has co-created ‘A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships’, motivated by the contention that the approaches we encounter in international development very often assume the worldview of the Global North partners.

Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships front cover

Historically, it has been experts from the Global North who have studied and interpreted the South. This means that international research partnerships are inevitably imbued with power relations and possibly the assumption that it is northern knowledge that will lead transformations in the South. Without a clear recognition of this context, it is inevitable that existing inequalities, injustices, and imbalances of knowledge and power will continue to pervade our work.

If we start from the perspective of southern academics or from the lives of those in the communities we wish to help, would the research questions look the same?

‘A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships’ is the result of a week-long workshop with colleagues from Uganda, Botswana, Italy, Malawi, Canada, Bangladesh and Scotland. Drawing on experiences of international, interdisciplinary and cross-sector projects the group explored the processes that led them to the work, their expectations of project formation and conceptualisation, the day-to-day practicalities of the doing of the project, and the ways in which project outcomes were managed and prioritised.

Outing of the members of the Sustainable Futures Africa Network

What became paramount across discussions was the importance of openness and reflexivity - to difference, to individual expectations and hopes, and to the range and realities of context that the partners came from.

Partnerships and relationships not only determine the design and implementation of research, but the outcomes and impacts. Creating and maintaining successful and equitable partnerships leads to new insights and perspectives, engagement with harder to reach countries and populations, and ultimately new possibilities for sustainable impact in a changing and plural world.

This new resource seeks to offer provocation and guidance to those well-practiced and those starting out with new partnerships, to help promote the importance of reflexivity and honesty with one another in the context of international development-related research.

It has already been taken up across multiple contexts, including Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) research projects and the Scottish International Development Alliance.