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Session 9. Defining Partnerships

A Definition * B Background * C Tools and Excercises

Aim of the Session

The aim of this session is to identify what “partnership” means for refugee-led organisations and ways in which structures for partnership and expectations can be established.

Suggested Timing for the Session

The presentation and discussion will take 1 hour, with a further hour for the exercises.

Some PowerPoints to use when running this session.

A. Partnerships – Useful Definitions

While Partnership is often used when discussing the meaningful participation of refugees, we could find only few direct references, including this two useful ones:

There are two different types of community partnerships: formal and informal.

  • Formal community partnerships often involve legal agreements and clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each party.
  • Informal community partnerships happen when groups and individuals come together to work on a common endeavour and support.

Partnering with someone means you share their experience, expertise and knowledge. A good partnership will help two parties bridge the gaps that exist in their operations. Working with a partner who offers a different perspective than what you currently have may help tackle problems in a new way.

Based on definition of business from the European Commission 2022 

B. Background Readings on Partnerships

We were unable to identify any readings directly related to partnerships with refugee-led organisations and other stakeholders. However, we found this article interesting because, while focusing on academic partnerships, it highlights the many problems which can also be experienced in partnerships were the two potential partners have uneven access to resources, information and power.

Beyond the Partnership Debate: Localizing Knowledge Production in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies by Richa Shivakoti, James Milner. Journal of Refugee Studies, Volume 35, Issue 2, June 2022, Pages 805–826, https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/feab083

Abstract: There is a growing recognition in refugee and forced migration studies that research partnerships, especially those that cross geographies of the global North and global South, are both a blessing and a potential curse. They are a blessing as they encourage new approaches to the co-creation of knowledge, build solidarity networks, and leverage support for scholars based in the global South. But they can also be a curse as they typically function within and can inadvertently reproduce deeply embedded structures of inequality. Drawing on the results of a review of forced displacement research centres based in the global South and interviews with the directors of these centres, this article encourages a shift from focusing on research partnerships to an approach that supports the localization of knowledge production in refugee and forced migration studies. This approach seeks to change the structures of knowledge production, including direct funding to researchers and research centres based in the global South, an emphasis on the transfer of power to researchers in the South, a recognition of the diverse forms and sources of knowledge produced within the field, and an appreciation for the diverse understandings of success and impact across contexts.

The Asia Pacific Network of Refugees, (APNOR) have produced guidelines which address many of  the concerns discussed in this article:

Guidelines for Co-produced Research with Refugees and Other People with Lived Experience of Displacement

How we have approached partnership in this project

We looked at the Global Compact on Refugees which refers to Partners and Stakeholders and asked “Who are they” ?  They are potentially everyone who is working to improve the protection of refugees:

  • Refugees themselves
  • Local NGOs
  • International NGOs
  • UN agencies
  • All donors
  • Host governments
  • Host communities

To be true partners, as far as possible, each group needs to share a common understanding and agreement of the principles of meaningful participation, and the principles which underpin it.  These include:

  • Using a human rights approach
  • Applying an Age Gender and Diversity framework
  • Respecting the commitments in the Global Compact on Refugees

As we consider forming partnerships, we need to record and consider what each group could bring to the relationship, and work out together how best to use these resources.

How can we develop partnerships between refugee communities and service providers

We need to look at what each stakeholder can bring to the table

For example – What can the University of NSW team, who developed this resource kit bring to project?

  • Over 35 years of experience in the field
  • A track record at the United Nations
  • Networks with refugee women’s organisations across the Asia Pacific region and around the world
  • Academic knowledge and credibility
  • Knowledge of how the system works

What we don’t have:

  • Lived experience as a refugee
  • Loss of country, status, citizenship, family members
  • Experience of torture, and sexual and gender based violence
  • Experience of extreme poverty and deprivation
  • Experience of violence and severe discrimination
  • Knowledge of the community, strengths and vulnerabilities
  • Prior skills and qualifications
  • Skills and knowledge gained as a refugee
  • Historical understanding of our people
  • In depth cultural understanding
  • Experience providing support to our families and communities
  • Analysis framed by this lived experience
  • Determination to build a new and better future
  • Potential solutions based on our knowledge and wisdom
  • The strength of survivors

These are just some of the things that refugees can bring to the table.

C. Tools to identify locally appropriate ways to foster partnerships and potential solutions to barriers

Ci If you are interested in working  as partners in a project, please list

  1. What you can bring to the table
  2. What you hope the potential partner can bring to the table.

Discuss how these different resources could work together for mutual advantage.  If there is no clear advantage apparent, consider if this will be a useful partnership or not.

Bringing these different resources together to influence positive change should be straightforward – but it isn’t! Because we bring one more very important thing to the table: INHERITED PRIVILEGE

We discuss this in the next session.