RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS: PARTNERING UP
NNERPP RPP KNOWLEDGE CLEARINGHOUSE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Below you’ll find answers and resources to the following 3 questions:
3. How do I get buy-in from a variety of stakeholders? [Coming soon!]
4. How do I negotiate the work? [Coming soon!]
HOW DO I FIND A PARTNER TO WORK WITH IN A RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIP?
You’ve decided that you want to launch or work in a research-practice partnership. What’s the best way to identify and select the appropriate partner to work with?
We’ve adapted the recommendations below from “Developing and Sustaining Community-Based Participatory Research Partnerships: A Skill-Building Curriculum” to tailor them to education RPPs and to also reflect what we’ve learned across the RPPs in NNERPP. In identifying and selecting a partner, whether it be from the research or practice side, there are several important angles to consider:
Are they willing and committed? Does the potential partner understand the time, energy, and resources required to establish and maintain this new relationship? Are they open to changing their current working protocols or environment?
Is there mutual respect? Do partners recognize that important expertise comes from both researchers and practitioners? Is there evidence that ideas and knowledge will be integrated across both sides of the partnership at every step of the process?
Can you trust each other? Or in the very least, is there a possibility of trusting each other with time? Is there prior evidence that the potential partner is trustworthy (i.e., through other projects or partnerships)?
Do they have the capacity to partner? Is there sufficient staff to support a new partnership? If key interpersonal skills are not present (i.e., effective negotiation, problem solving, conflict resolution, or fostering collaboration), are they willing to seek extra training in order to improve?
Are they committed to improving local conditions through the use of evidence? Do they have the same desire to attack local problems of practice with evidence? Is there a shared understanding of the importance of high-quality evidence in the decision making process?
Is there organizational support for the partnership? Are the appropriate and relevant leaders involved in the partnership? If decisions are made, will either organization provide support for implementation? Is there recognition of the underlying value in regards to the partnership?
RESOURCES | How do I find a partner to work with in a research-practice partnership?
Christopher Harrison, Kristen Davidson, and Caitlin Farrell | 2017
International Journal of Education Policy & Leadership article
HOW DO I BUILD TRUST WITH MY PARTNERS?
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.
RESOURCES | How do I build trust with my partners?