In 2012, the Development Studies Association of the UK and Ireland funded a small project involving INTRAC, World Vision UK and the John and Elnora Ferguson Centre for African Studies (JEFCAS) at the University of Bradford. The project explored current thinking on research collaboration between academics and practitioners in international development, drawing upon existing literature, the experiences of a small sample of collaborative projects (annexed), and a workshop to bring academics and practitioners together to tease out issues enabling and prohibiting collaboration. The project was driven by questions such as: why do academics and NGOs collaborate; what is required for successful collaboration; what institutional and philosophical barriers exist to collaboration, and how can these be overcome?

This working paper draws together the thinking which emerged during this project. It provides an overview of the literature and theoretical perspectives on collaboration, summarises a range of approaches from the case studies explored, and considers how these relate to existing conceptualisations of collaboration. It aims to provoke critical thinking and debate on new trajectories for academic-NGO collaboration. The paper concludes with an exploration of current challenges to collaboration. It calls for a more nuanced and robust understanding of how collaboration between academic institutions and NGOs can lead to better outcome in development interventions, programmes and projects.


Academic-NGO Collaboration in International Development Research: a reflection on the issues

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