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Forming Partnerships

How do I start?

When formed with intention, effort, and humility, these working research partnerships between you and community partners will bring significant benefits to your area of study. Note that these relationships take real time and commitment to truly see the benefits.

How do you start building a relationship?

Starting your partnership off on the right foot with your community partners can be broken down into three concrete areas:

1. Be Present

  • Being present in the community (i.e. attending neighborhood meetings, town halls, attending social events) helps members become familiar with you and helps build trust.

2. Get to know your Community partner

  • When meeting with the leaders of the organization, do more listening than talking before talking about yourself, your credentials, and your research interests.
  • If you’ve been listening and asking pertinent questions, there are several things you should know about the organization after these initial meetings: its mission, organizational structure, clients, service, challenges, and experiences with past researchers.
  • Communicate promptly and regularly and be transparent!

3. Do Preliminary Fact Finding

  • Do research to find out about issues currently affecting the community of interest as well as the work of your potential community partner.

Formalizing Our Partnership: Creating a Memorandum of Understanding

Academic researchers and community organizations can lay the groundwork for a meaningful relationship by having ongoing conversations. These conversations can be a precursor to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). An MOU states the roles and responsibilities of each partner, specifies ownership of the data, and outlines plans for sustainability. These conversations should fall under the following headings:

  • The Research Relationship:
    • History: what were you and your partner’s past research experiences?
    • Values: what tenets will guide your every day interactions?
  • The Research Project: What are you and your partner’s goals, needs, and expectations? What will be your community partner’s level of involvement in the research?
  • Governance and Structure: How will decisions be made? How frequent will you and your partner communicate and what will be the method of communication? \
  • Funding: What resources are available for your community partner and for individuals? Are there funding requirements and deliverables?
  • Attribution of work: What type of representation and acknowledgement does your partner want on any product that originates from the research partnership?
  • Data management: Discuss ownership, access, usage, and storage of the data and any other materials produced from the research partnership.

You need to be very clear about who is going to keep the data, what’s done with the data. There were times when there was a disagreement with that and then so we had to resolve that issue. Things ought to be negotiated and then clearly spelled out somewhere. The Memorandum of Understanding is where you capture everything so that everything is clear. You set up those parameters early on.

Community Leader