Academic-Ngo Collaboration in International Development Research: A Reflection on the Issues

53 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2017

See all articles by Chika Charles Aniekwe

Chika Charles Aniekwe

University of Antwerp; Osgoode Hall Law School

Rachel Hayman

University of Edinburgh

Anna Toner


Date Written: September 1, 2012


There is a renewed interest in research collaboration between NGOs and academics in international development. International development, like many areas of public policy in the UK, Europe and beyond, is increasingly framed by an evidence-based logic. The evidence-based logic is inextricably tied in with a demand for demonstrable impact from development interventions. A similar logic prevails within academic institutions – the need for academics to be able to demonstrate how their research is having an impact upon society. Consequently, spaces seem to be opening for more engagement between academics and practitioners, whether it is within joint research projects or in sharing expertise and knowledge on the framing and use of research. In early 2012, the Development Studies Association of the UK and Ireland funded a small project involving the International NGO Training and Research Centre (INTRAC), World Vision UK and the John and Elnora Ferguson Centre for African Studies (JEFCAS) at the University of Bradford. The project explored current thinking on research collaboration between academics and practitioners in international development, drawing upon existing literature and the experiences of a small sample of collaborative projects (annexed). A workshop brought academics and practitioners together to tease out issues enabling and prohibiting collaboration. The project was driven by questions such as: why do academics and NGOs collaborate; what is required for successful collaboration; what institutional and philosophical barriers exist to collaboration, and how can these be overcome? This working paper draws together the thinking which emerged during this project. It provides an overview of the literature and theoretical perspectives on collaboration, summarises a range of approaches from the case studies explored, and considers how these relate to existing conceptualisations of collaboration. It aims to provoke critical thinking and debate on new trajectories for academic-NGO collaboration. The paper concludes with an exploration of current challenges to collaboration. It calls for a more nuanced and robust understanding of how collaboration between academic institutions and NGOs can lead to better outcome in development interventions, programmes and projects.

Keywords: Partnership, Collaboration, Academic, Practitioner

Suggested Citation

Aniekwe, Chika Charles and Hayman, Rachel and Toner, Anna, Academic-Ngo Collaboration in International Development Research: A Reflection on the Issues (September 1, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Chika Charles Aniekwe (Contact Author)

University of Antwerp ( email )

City campus building S
Lange Sint Annastraat 7
Antwerp, 2000

HOME PAGE: http://

Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

HOME PAGE: http://

Rachel Hayman

University of Edinburgh ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9JY
United Kingdom

Anna Toner


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