No impact without equity

No impact without equity
24 March, 2021

The value of equitable research partnerships

Sheila Mburu, Laura Scott, Marta Tufet and Garry Aslanyan

Equitable partnerships are essential for delivering impact through international development research. While there are a range of principles and guidance aimed at supporting funders and the research community to support equitable partnerships, these resources are often on different platforms, with no centralised repository.

We at UKCDR and ESSENCE have therefore partnered to deliver the Equitable Partnerships Resources Hub. Our blog below sets out more about this initiative, and why building equitable partnerships is essential to the research process.

Global research challenges need global expertise

As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges the world faces are more interconnected than ever. Research has been central to the COVID-19 response and continues to be pivotal for addressing global issues such as climate change, poverty reduction and economic development. To effectively address these challenges, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need truly global research expertise.

Equitable research partnerships are necessary for research impact

Over the past few decades we have seen a rise in international research partnerships, in which researchers from the “Global North” and “Global South” work together to address these global and multi-sectoral challenges. Historicallybeen marked by inequity and extractive practices. To address this, there has been a growing awareness of and action towards building more equitable research partnerships. However, persisting power asymmetries remain.

Research partnerships are built on mutual respect and trust, with all partners involved in design, delivery and dissemination. Without equal value placed on the voices and expertise of the Global South at all stages of the research process, international development research will not achieve the desired impact. Therefore, equitable partnerships are not only a moral imperative, they are essential to achieve greater research impact and effectively tackle the world’s greatest development challenges.

How funders can ensure equitable research partnerships

Funders have a key role to play in ensuring equitable partnerships and have the ability to set the tone for equity in research partnerships in their language, expectations, and practices. At UKCDR, we previously produced a report on 10 ways in which funders could make North-South research partnerships more equitable.

Some funders have been embedding practices to support equity such as funding directly to institutions and lead principal investigators in low and middle income countries, funding longer term research partnerships, providing partnership building and travel grants and using  peer review panels including LMIC stakeholders when funding LMIC focussed projects.

However, there remains a need to continue to move from principles to practice, shift the centre of gravity, and ensure equitable research partnerships between the Global North and South.

Global funders meet at the International Research Development Funders Forum (IRDFF) to explore commonality and to improve research funding practices through collaboration

A resource hub for equitable partnerships

A range of principles and guidance exist to support funders and the broader research community to develop and sustain equitable research partnerships. These include the KFPE’s guide for transboundary partnerships, the TRUST Global Code of Conduct, the Research Fairness Initiative, the ESSENCE Five Keys to improving research costing in LMIC’s and UKCDR’s report. All of these principles highlight important elements of equity, such as joint agenda setting, benefit sharing and direct funding into LMIC institutions, and other recommendations which may be of value to the research community. However, as there is currently no centralised hub for these resources, they are not always easily accessible.

We at UKCDR and ESSENCE wanted to address this problem, and so are partnering to launch the Equitable Partnerships Resources Hub. The purpose of this resource hub is to create a central repository for resources on equitable partnerships and support the researcher community (funders and researchers alike) to gain awareness of these guidance, and more importantly, embed them into their practices. This will be a living resource, and we will continue to update it with relevant resources. If you have any resources you think we should add, please do email these to

From principles to practice

The equitable partnership resource hub is only one step towards supporting equitable research partnerships. UKCDR is also working in partnership with ESSENCE, and The Equitable Partnerships Taskforce* to support global research funders to identify remaining barriers to and enablers of equitable partnerships.

Collectively, we will develop practical guidance on how funders can operationalise equitable partnership principles, with innovative recommendations on how they can embed these partnership principles into their practices.

*The Equitable Partnerships Taskforce brings together a range of global research funders of international development research, with an interest in supporting equitable research partnerships.

Sheila Mburu, Research & Policy Officer, Equitable Partnerships lead

Laura Scott, Senior Research & Policy Officer

 Marta Tufet, Executive Director

Dr Garry Aslanyan, Manager, Partnerships and Governance, ESSENCE on Health Research Secretariat
World health Organization/TDR

ESSENCE on Health Research is an initiative that allows donors/funders to identify synergies, establish coherence and increase the value of resources and action for health research.

Image credit: Henry and Co. via Unsplash

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