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Site to Help Researchers and Practitioners Build Partnerships

Establishing and maintaining a partnership between researchers and educators takes a lot of work, and a new site launched this morning hopes to provide a "one stop shop" for best practices on everything from funding to structuring relationships.

The site, developed by the William T. Grant Foundation and the Forum for Youth Investment evolved out of two years of meetings of the foundation's network of supported research partnerships, including consortia like the Consortium on Chicago School Reform and regional educational laboratories like the American Institute of Research's Midwest REL.

The site was developed in part to help those developing partnerships understand "they don't have to reinvent the wheel," said Vivian Tseng, the vice president for programs at the Grant Foundation. "There's a lot of resources and tacit knowledge that are available, regardless of the type of partnership they are developing."

To be sucessful in the long term, the groups recommend partnerships should:

  1. Commit to longterm work, to build trust and provide time to find and use results;
  2. Focus on practical problems, not just "gaps in existing theory";
  3. Require equal contribution and benefits for researchers and practitioners;
  4. Use formal, ongoing strategies to build and maintain relationships; and
  5. Focus on new, jointly developed analyses and research agendas focused on improving students' learning and outcomes.

The site includes information on six practice areas: structuring partnerships; developing a unified research agenda and data-sharing agreements; staffing, using research findings, and funding.

With regard to that last area, Tseng said she hopes the site will also provide foundations and other funders with a better understanding of how research partnerships work and how best to support them. 

"If we believe this is about building capacity and infrastructure, we have to support that infrastructure," Tseng said. "If we only fund people to do projects, that's all they will do. It will take them away from this core work of building relationships, building trust and figuring out what districts need to address."

Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom, the senior program manager at the Forum for Youth Investment, who developed the site's content, said in a statement that educators and researchers will be able to contribute the lessons they learned from their own experiences working with each other. "This is a shared space for this community, and we look forward to including new voices from the field as we continue to develop and iterate the site," she said.

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