Accepted paper:

Real or perceived? Power asymmetries in an academic partnership programme that seeks to globalize sustainability scholarship


Ruth Blackshaw
Henrieke Max (Jacobs University Bremen)
Robert Lepenies (Social Science Center Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

How can we globalize sustainability scholarship? How can we mitigate power asymmetries in global partnerships? This paper evaluates a global research partnership programme that offers practical answers to these questions by connecting sustainability scholars from the Global North and South.

Paper long abstract:

The concept of global partnerships is prominent in discussions on sustainable development. For young scholars in the Global South, these are of particular importance: they help give scholars a voice and provide entry points into global research networks and career opportunities. This paper provides an evaluation of findings from the pilot cohort of a new initiative to globalize sustainability and poverty scholarship. 'Global Colleagues' is a research partnership programme that pairs earlier-career scholars working on sustainability and poverty based in resource-constrained institutions in the Global South with more experienced scholars (mid-career or beyond) working on similar topics at relatively well-resourced, research-intensive institutions in both the South and North in one-on-one partnerships that last for a minimum of one year. As Carbonnier and Kontinen (2014) underscore, research partnerships sit 'at the intersection between the scholarly and development worlds'. Further, 'implementing equitable partnerships is difficult' and research partnerships are 'far from immune to the tension and conflicts permeating unequal power relations accruing from unequal access to funding, knowledge and expert networks' (ibid). Drawing on the literature of best practices in partnerships, we have tried to find both a theoretical and practical solution through a partnership programme that addresses real and perceived power asymmetries from the outset. In addition to revealing perceptions of power in partnerships, surveys conducted with programme participants provide insights about the motivations, aspirations and ideas, as well as the challenges faced by young scholars to which sustainability research should pay attention.

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panel P68
Partnerships and power in the 2030 Agenda