Establishing equitable North-South research partnerships

Collaboration among research institutions in the Global North and Global South is widely regarded as critical in supporting evidence-based action on the global challenges of sustainable development. Funders call repeatedly for partnerships to be ‘equitable’. Yet the exact meaning of this term, and its practical implications, often remains unclear.

Having truly equitable partnership is difficult and goes beyond good intentions – it involves recognising structural power differences, unconscious bias and divergent incentive structures, which cannot be simply wished away. North-South partnerships have been central to ESPA’s ethos and Theory of Change. ESPA project partnerships show wide variations in complexity, from the very simple (bilateral collaboration between academic institutions in the Global North and South) to the multifaceted, with multiple layers of interactions (multi-country, interdisciplinary partnerships involving both academic and non-academic actors in different regions). Based on this experience, ESPA elaborated a framework for designing equitable partnership, based on the three equity dimension of recognition, procedure and distribution.

Read our policy brief: Research for development impact, the role of equitable partnerships.

Find more on this topic in our working paper: Research with development impact.