(The Humanitarian Social Network)
Rowan Emslie recently shared a blog post on AidSource discussing the separation between academics and practitioners in aid and development. And while having practitioners storm the lecture halls of universities and colleges is one way we might see more interaction between the two, I have to hope that there is a great more that can be achieved together beyond classroom instruction.
Working with many non-profits in Los Angeles, it is a very common thing to see academics and community activists and leaders working together. While there may be some distrust of the researcher or academic, at the end of the day many community leaders recognize that their efforts can be strengthened if they utilize the resources and knowledge that exist in the academic community. Of course this requires researchers and academics to open up the process to others and allow them to contribute and even shape much of what goes on.
One topic that has been discussed is the idea of “research justice”. The Data Center in Northern California gave an excellent description of it in a workshop I attended recently. It argues that research injustice exists when: 1) community voices are not heard, 2) information in inaccessible, 3) narratives are misrepresented, and 4) communities are excluded in the production of research/information. Now, research injustice is not just something that occurs in California but the worst instances of it are perhaps international. So research justice might be one area that more collaboration could occur. Evaluation and monitoring might be another. And still another reason might be simply to gain institutional support and access to networks.
And I’m not necessarily sure that it ought to be Western academic institutions that are partnered with, but regardless the potential benefit that could result from such partnerships between academics and practitioners seems obvious. Yet many might feel they do not need this sort of collaboration, whether it is b/c the two groups live in separate universes or perhaps there is just too much immediate work that needs to be done so that the slow work of institutional relationships and knowledge seems less important.
Why aren’t such partnerships/collaborations utilized more? What are steps that can be taken by either side to overcome the gulf of distrust, different languages, operational constraints, etc?
Here's a guide on ELRHA for effective partnerships..