Trust between all members of the partnership is an essential element to all aspects of RPP work. This is one of the ways that research-practice partnerships differ over a more traditional researcher-as-consultant model: in an RPP, researchers and practitioners commit to working together repeatedly and over a longer time frame, and thus, must dedicate time to learning how to collaborate productively.

Given its importance, however, trust is not something that comes easily or quickly and must be continually tended to over time. Considering that researchers and practitioners often work in strikingly different environments, with unique languages, customs, expectations, and timelines, establishing trust and building relationships across these entities will be challenging. While we currently can find few resources that are expressly dedicated to addressing these challenges, you will find that trust and relationship building is a very common underlying theme to several of the works contained in this clearinghouse and mentioned across most of the pieces, in some way.

We can also venture outside the world of RPPs, to the world of business, where there, an RPP might be referred to as “a cross-industry” team. In “Wicked-Problem Solvers,” author Amy C. Edmondson summarizes some key findings from her research on cross-industry teams and offers some take-away lessons that we think are wholly appropriate for RPPs:


  • Foster an adaptable vision that allows the project to be flexible as new goals are added, new team members are incorporated, and learned lessons feed back into organizational processes.
  • Promote psychological safety so that the diverse group of partnership members are encouraged to share ideas, thoughts, and concerns without fearing ridicule for lacking expertise or sharing a different viewpoint.
  • Enable knowledge sharing in order to solicit more contextual information around partnership members’ thought processes: this type of “cross-domain” learning can help avoid conflicts among members with different expertise or experiences.
  • Foster execution-as-learning, meaning, place an emphasis on experimentation of organizational processes; no tried and true blueprint exists when cross-industry teams come together so it’s best to embrace the unknown.

“Negotiating Researcher Roles Within a Research-Practice Partnership”

Authors: Philip Bell, Abby Rhinehart, and Tana Peterman

Year: 2015

This resource offers observations about researcher roles within RPPs and advice on how researchers can cultivate their role to help build equitable partnerships.



“Value Mapping: An Activity for Surfacing Power Dynamics and Diverse Perspectives in Research-Practice Collaborations”

Authors: Jean J. Ryoo and Molly V. Shea

This activity introduces Value Mapping as a tool to address power imbalances between researchers and practitioners and to find common ground.