Academic partnerships with NGOs – What To Do & What Not To Do!

evidence peer review

I presented virtually to a conference at Notre Dame University’s John J Reilly Centre for Technology, Society and Values.  The conference, called The Collaboration Conundrum, explored the new collaborations and partnerships between different stakeholders and academia.  My talk was on Working with NGOs, what do to and & what not to do.

In proper RRI mode, and having no cash for an official consultation, I emailed some NGOs I knew and asked for their views.  In particular Duncan Green from Oxfam sent me his excellent Blog on the subject, and based on our experience,  further conversations and some literature review here are the quotes which make up the findings – they are great!

Top 5 things not to do:

1     Do not contact them if your agenda is not really relevant to their aims and goals

‘The norm is alas, for an institution to decide on a largely irrelevant agenda and then approach the INGO as an afterthought to help with the communications, or do the ‘voices of the poor’ bit’

2     Do not expect your boring conferences to fire them up with enthusiasm for collaboration!conference coma

‘Standard academic conferences                  are coma-inducing’



3     Do not see them as just sources of data or dissemination

‘We know they want to get access to guinea pigs and data for their theories.  We are not just sources of data for their research’.

‘They seem to think we’re there to tick the box in the dissemination of their findings.’



 4    Do not assume you are the expert and they are the audience for your brilliance




5     Cold call a week before the tender is due and expect them to jump at the opportunity to be tagged onto the end of your H2020 tender!


Top 5 things to do:

1     Build relationships first

‘Build relationships with key organisations first, before you need them, as a strategic priority.

2     Put the time in to co-create the joint purpose and objectives

‘Put in lots of time up front to co-create with them the joint purpose and outcomes of the collaboration.

‘The clearer the joint purpose, the more likely it is to work out’.

3     Choose the right people

‘Choose collaborative, flexible people to work on the project – not just subject experts’.

4     Think hard about communication

‘Communicate in real people’s language at all times!’

5     Fund everyone’s costs properly

‘We have overheads, salaries and families to feed.  We can’t do your work for free just because we are a charity’.

There are lots more ‘Handy Hints’ in the Powerpoint presentation below

…and remember:

‘Through collaborations with CSO’s Universities can see themselves as contributing to changing the world and not just understanding it, and in the process, transforming themselves’.  

Chris Roche, Assoc Prof La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.


working civ soc front

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