Ethical partnerships for collaborative action and learning

Historically, there has been a tendency for South-North research partnerships to be marked by inequitable power relations.

The traditional, colonial model of research is one in which Northern partners have often been in an advantageous position to frame research questions in relation to Northern agendas, epistemologies and development frames and to dominate research collaborations though superior access to research funding, publishing and other opportunities. Southern partners have often adopted secondary roles, as collectors of data rather than as equal partners in the research process. Traditional North-South partnership approaches can also limit the possibilities for South-South and South-North learning.

Traditional approaches to capacity development have taken a deficit view of Southern capacities.

‘Capacities’ are often understood narrowly as the ability to understand and apply existing, established research methods. This limits opportunities for methodological development based on the lived experiences, contexts and epistemologies of the global South, reproducing power imbalances and impoverishing the research process as a whole. Moving beyond Northern approaches creates the potential for adopting new approaches and developing mutual capacities, based on the lived experiences, contexts and epistemologies of the global South.

Traditional processes of evaluation often assess success against pre-determined criteria linked to Northern development frames and priorities.

Conducting research that is co-created with communities requires research teams to continuously monitor and adapt to complex and changing realities. By prioritising pre-defined project outcomes, traditional approaches to evaluation (including the use of log frames) limit opportunities for ongoing reflection and learning about the research process and thus opportunities to adapt to new, often unforeseen challenges.

Read our Call to Action and evidence informed recommendations for ethical partnerships.

This Call to Action is one of six:

  • Climate and Environmental Justice Education
  • Education for Sustainable Livelihoods
  • Education for Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Tackling Intersecting Inequalities
  • Knowledge co-creation for transforming education for sustainable futures
  • Ethical partnerships for collaborative action and learning
Country: India, Rwanda, Somalia/Somaliland, South Africa,
Download PDF