Building equitable community-academic research collaborations: Learning together through tensions and contradictions

Naomi Nichols, Uzo Anucha, Rebecca Houwer, Matt Wood


This article explores the findings from a multi-method study of a community-university research alliance (Assets Coming Together for Youth) that brings together multidisciplinary academics, graduate student research assistants, community stakeholders and youth research interns. The project undertook evaluative and reflexive research to better understand how these different partnership group members experienced the collaborative process. The article draws on focus group discussions with the four stakeholder groups, in-depth interviews with youth research interns and an online partnership assessment survey of partnership group members. Data highlight people’s ambivalence toward the partnership process. Despite a shared desire to collaborate, it is difficult to maintain a process that mobilises the outcomes of collaboration for the mutual benefit of all stakeholders. In this article, we explore three key factors that shape people’s perspectives on the partnership process: historical and institutional relations; structures for communicating across difference; and opportunities for learning. A close examination of these three factors suggests that ongoing opportunities for communication about, and learning from, people’s ambivalence (that is, uncertainty or hesitation) supports a positive and productive partnership process.

Keywords: Community-academic research, collaboration, process, equity, learning, youth

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