The Ivory Tower And The Trenches: Finding Common Ground

By Emily McGiffin

In a new era of global cooperation and sustainable development goals, the effectiveness of Canada’s participation rests more than ever before on the ability of various sectors to work productively together, sharing their knowledge and expertise and generating better evidence. When it comes to development and humanitarian assistance, Canadian civil society organizations (CSOs) and academic communities have much to learn from one another, and much to gain from successful collaborations.

Unfortunately, despite the rich potential benefits of collaboration and its very real potential to increase the success of development and humanitarian assistant efforts, collaboration between these two sectors is less frequent—and often less effective—than it could be. Divergent priorities, approaches, and organizational cultures can lead to misunderstandings on both sides and prevent long-term partnerships from emerging. Even worse, such divisions have often driven CSOs toward commercial consultants and away from the rich intellectual resource of Canada’s academic community. This divisive trend can limit the scope and reach of much CSO research even as it drives academics towards research focused on theory and concepts, and divorced from policy and other practical applications. In fact, Canada stands out among Britain, the US and other G7 countries in terms of its gap between research and practice. Yet with shrinking funds to the international development and humanitarian assistance sectors (and particularly to their research-related projects), it only makes sense to seek ways to integrate the work of academic scholars and development practitioners.

Faced with this scenario, the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) and the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID) have partnered in a decisive step toward change. Their new three-year program, Next Generation: Collaboration for Development, aims to identify and promote new and existing ways in which practitioners, researchers, academics, students and policy developers can help create the right conditions for collaboration between academics and civil society organizations working in international development and humanitarian assistance.

As a first step, the program launched a literature review to discover what has been written on the topic of CSO/academic collaboration specific to international development and humanitarian assistance in Canada and to assess knowledge gaps. The review involved systematically searching research databases for key terms and concepts then assessing successes, trends, and lessons learned in the gathered resources.

One key finding of this review was that although

Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel

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