Background To identify the key opportunities and issues in research collaborations between academics, health professionals and the non-profit/voluntary sector.
Methods Qualitative one-day symposium with fifty participants from across policy, practice (healthcare and the non-profit/voluntary sector) and research in Scotland. The research team facilitated round-table discussions using case studies, with participants recording their main discussions points through simple summary notes. Facilitated World Café session on the research process followed, with facilitators recording the iterative discussion points. Responses were then analysed thematically to identify key themes, relating to the theoretical and practical implications of collaborative research with the non-profit and voluntary sector.
Results Three key themes were identified from the case study discussions including what facilitators, barriers and key recommendations/best practice. The second discussion moved onto more practical solutions/issues, generating five key themes around partnership, planning, research methods, tailored dissemination and lasting impact. Across the discussions relevant points included the need to engage and collaborate as equal partners from the start, with trust and sustainable projects built-up from this foundation. However, lack of time, short-term funding, differences in expectations/values and fears of a lack of impact could, and do, hamper collaborations. Even where strategies are employed to counter potential issues and make these partnerships as strong as possible, there remains confusion about demonstrating and achieving meaningful change and impact to funders and the public.
Conclusion Collaboration means being equal partners while building on each other’s strengths, but to do this effectively these collaborations need time and partnership throughout the process. Demonstrating impact remains something of a black box though to all partners.
- public health
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