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"Working With Friends While Cavorting With The Enemy": The Paradox of Partnership.

By Rosalind Foskett


We all know what makes a good partnership, don’t we? Well, do we? Partnership and collaborative working is common in universities and is encouraged by governments and funding agencies seeking to gain the greatest impact from investment. Universities are powerful agents of change and synergistic partnerships for research and course development are seen as a way of increasing the competitiveness of economies. However, as the quotation in the title of this lecture suggests, partnership work often brings difficulties as well as benefits (Weaver et al, 1987). \ud \ud The seeds of the view, in countries such as the UK, the USA and Australia, that universities should increasingly work in partnership, can be traced back to 1980s political ideas that private sector businesses should show public sector organisations the way to run things. This was a centralised and controlling definition of partnership, in which one partner has the right answers which the other must adopt. The approach to partnerships involving universities has developed over time into one which is more democratic and participatory, and which embeds a social-ethical inflection. It is, therefore, much more common today to see partnerships of interested and skilled people from a range of organisations which are working together to tackle major societal problems. Not all partners will contribute equally, but they will all participate, and the decision-making process will be changing constantly to allow the partners to take account of each other. \ud \ud I will use two case studies from my research to illustrate the process of partnership, the benefits that can accrue and how problems can be anticipated and overcome. The first case study will examine partnerships between universities, further education colleges and businesses developed to design and deliver undergraduate programmes to encourage widening participation and address labour market needs in the UK. The second is an international research partnership developed to address the skills shortages in demography and population science in the Southern African Development Community and to improve the capacity of the region to tackle major societal problems such as population growth, poverty and food insecurity. My research has shown that, to be successful, partnerships must bring increased benefits to all participants. However, when people work together they will also encounter problems which can be disempowering unless addressed. This is the paradox of partnership

Topics: LC5201, H1
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