RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIPS: THEORIES OF ACTION
NNERPP RPP KNOWLEDGE CLEARINGHOUSE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Below you’ll find answers and resources to the following questions:
WHAT IS A RESEARCH-PRACTICE PARTNERSHIP THEORY OF ACTION?
Broadly defined, a research-practice partnership’s theory of action identifies a set of goals or objectives the partnership is interested in working towards and describes the process by which the partnership expects to achieve those aims. In more basic terms, a theory of action clarifies how change is expected to occur. The format of a research-practice partnership’s theory of action will vary considerably, especially given the nature of the goals, the current capacity and constraints of participating organizations, and preferences for how the work will unfold. Developing and implementing a partnership theory of action is still a relatively new process for the larger RPP field and we expect to be able to provide more information on this going forward. In the meantime, we provide a sample template as well as some guiding literature that will help inform your initial thinking on this below.
RESOURCES | What is a research-practice partnership theory of action?
WHY DO WE NEED A THEORY OF ACTION?
We have learned over time that a research-practice partnership theory of action is critical to establishing and operating RPPs with the potential for success. Without one, a partnership risks a number of possible opportunities for failure.
These may include having untested, unrealistic assumptions about how the partnership’s activities will lead to changes in practice; allocating already scarce resources inefficiently; having an inability to learn about why something is or is not working; and making it difficult to communicate and justify to multiple stakeholders why the partnership is engaging in a particular activity.
By investing time in developing and implementing a partnership theory of action, the RPP may be able to enhance their potential for success through the following: clarifying the activities necessary to support the hoped for change; communicating the partnership’s priorities both internally and externally; having a platform for negotiating roles across both the research and practice sides of the partnership; and enabling the partnership to continuously learn and improve on partnership processes, activities, and outputs.
RESOURCES | Why do we need a theory of action?
HOW DO I CO-DEVELOP A THEORY OF ACTION WITH MY PARTNERS?
Because there are a variety of dimensions to consider when developing the partnership’s theory of action, there is no one accepted way to co-develop one. Additionally, our knowledge of how theories of action might be utilized to support successful partnering is still in its infancy. While we continue to expand our knowledge on how these might work, here we offer several resources that provide some initial thinking on how one might go about creating a research-practice partnership theory of action, including sample templates.
RESOURCES | How do I co-develop a theory of action with my partners?
Laura Desimone, Tonya Wolford, and Kirsten Lee Hill | 2016
AERA Open article providing a framework for planning, building, implementing, and monitoring partnerships