Four Approaches to Supporting Equitable Research Partnerships

Guidance Guidance

UKCDR and ESSENCE Good Practice Document (2022)

Garry Aslanyan, Alice Chadwick El-Ali, Maggy Heintz, Eva Kagirl-Kalanzi, John Kirkland, Yaso Kunaratnam, Sheila Mburu, Tolu Mohammed, Amen-Patrick Nwosu, Laura Scott and Daniela Toale
20 September 2022

Transforming the global research partnership ecosystem in ways that increase equity and restore balance requires consistent action and reflection; the crux is finding a balance between flexibility and equity that enhances trust and respect among all partners.

Drawing on the experience of funders, research organisations and researchers in low-, middle- and high-income countries, Four Approaches to Supporting Equitable Research Partnerships provides insights into how the principles of equitable partnership can be applied in multi-country research consortiums and partnerships.

Each of the four approaches highlights potential barriers to equity, and provides practical recommendations for how these can be addressed and overcome. Strategies for building mutual respect and trust between collaborators and institutions – the software of equity – are outlined, while the hardware of equity – such as funding procedures and contractual conditions – receives equal attention.

Practical recommendations and relevant case studies underline the interdependent and mutually reinforcing roles of relational hardware and software in strengthening equity in research partnerships.

About this Good Practice Document

In 2019, UKCDR cohosted the International Research for Development Funders Forum with the African Academy of Sciences and the Science Granting Councils Initiative. Delegates at the event identified knowledge gaps in relation to the implementation of equitable partnership principles, enablers of equitable partnerships and examples of good funding practices. ESSENCE and UKCDR then sought to identify how the principles of equitable partnerships can be realised in practice. The aim of this document is to provide funders, research institutions and researchers with practical advice and recommendations on establishing and sustaining equitable research partnerships.


UKCDR provides data analysis, tools and guidance to build coherence and best practice among government departments and other funders of international development research in the UK. A core part of UKCDR’s work is collaborating with funders and the research community to support the impact of research through the strengthening of safeguarding, research capacity and equitable research partnerships. By providing guidance, resources and opportunities for engagement, UKCDR helps to ensure that research investments optimise development outcomes, while helping to support scientific and research systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Read more about UKCDR’s work on equitable partnerships


ESSENCE on Health Research is an initiative of international funding agencies to improve the coordination and harmonisation of research capacity investments in health. ESSENCE members embrace the principles of donor harmonisation and country alignment expressed in the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action. In following these principles, donors align and harmonise their activities and procedures with the priorities of the countries in which they work. For further information about ESSENCE, please visit

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