CBR Musings: Is collaboration more than a tit-for-tat transaction?

Collaboration is one of those words that certainly gets thrown around a lot in both community work and in the field of community based research. But what does it mean to truly collaborate? What is a collaborator?

For the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the main source of funding for most HIV-related CBR in Canada, collaboration is:  “A business transaction in which two or more entities exchange things of value. This value can be financial, in-kind, or benefits related to visibility/exposure, or publicity. It also involves a display of affiliation that stops short of product endorsement.”

This is a pretty matter of fact definition, one that indicates that some sort of tit-for-tat transaction is taking place. One partner might be leading a project for which the outcomes are beneficial for the second partner, who in return will support the research through an in-kind contribution, such as time, publicity for the project, or the donation of space or material.

Yet community-based research is guided by a set of principles – that it be community driven, based in equitable partnerships, involve capacity-building, and be action oriented. At the heart of these principles is also the meaningful engagement of people living with HIV/AIDS (referred to as the GIPA or MIPA principle). It is these principles that bring the notion of collaboration to a whole new level in CBR.

Collaboration in CBR often means putting in extra work to build meaningful partnerships – the process itself becomes a part of the journey. While the end goal – research findings and the use of these for social change – is still important, the learning that takes place in the development and carrying out of the project is also valued.

One of the unique aspects of collaboration in CBR is the development of relationships between communities and universities – which in the case of HIV research is often staff at AIDS Service Organizations collaborating with university-based researchers. Like with any collaboration, taking steps to make sure that the terms for the partnership are clear and that processes are in place to check in along the journey are always important.

This week, I came across an amazing resource from Ontario’s Centre for Excellence in Child and Youth Mental Health that provides a roadmap to community-university collaboration and some case study examples of what this looks like in action. If you are contemplating a partnership with university-based researchers, or are already involved in one, click here to access this resource.

You can also access a Research Partnership Checklist on PAN’s website. These guidelines are intended for PAN agencies who may be partaking in community-based research for the first time and want to know some of the questions to ask in order to ensure proposed research projects are suitable to their organization’s needs and capacity levels, and that research partnerships are respectful and mutually beneficial.

What’s Hot: a quick overview of a few hot topics in the HIV research world this week!

  1. The International AIDS Society’s AIDS 2012 conference in Washington DC is definitely at the top of the most discussed HIV issues in July. Watch the coverage and look for archives on this website to learn about the latest research findings presented at the conference.
  2. The STOP HIV/AIDS campaign launched the 2.0 version of their It’s Different Now social marketing campaign – “Change HIVstory” – with the goal of encouraging all Vancouverites to get tested for HIV. This follows on the heels of several innovative HIV-prevention initiatives that are all being researched to determine their impact on lowering the rates of HIV in British Columbia.
  3. From the science end of things, researchers in Florida have found a “potent new compound that virtually eliminates HIV in cell culture,” according to Science Daily. The compound defines a novel class of HIV anti-viral drugs endowed with the capacity to repress viral replication in acutely and chronically infected cells. Just another reminder that progress towards a vaccine or cure for HIV is made daily.

Thanks for reading! Questions? Email [email protected]

Andrea Langlois
CBR Manager