Universities, CSOs

Academic/CSO partnerships - what to do & not to do!

Hilary Sutcliffe

13 Jan 2017

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.  Thanks to a number of CSOs for their contribution and in particular to Duncan Green of Oxfam for his great blogs on the subject (& the great pic above!)

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

‘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’.


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

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


5     Cold call a week before the tender is due...

"Don't call at the last minute and expect them to jump at the opportunity to be tagged onto the end of your H2020 tender because they suddenly saw the section on involving stakeholders!"  (Ha!  This happens to me alot too!)

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’.

…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.




There are lots of 'handy hints' in the presentation which is available here