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Partnership methods

We were thrilled when Food Dignity received the 2014 Community-Campus Partnerships for Health Annual Award, which recognizes “exemplary partnerships between communities and academic institutions that are striving to achieve the systems and policy changes needed to overcome the root causes of health, social, environmental and economic inequalities.” We have also felt honored whenever community-based and academic leaders have described our collaboration as “groundbreaking.”

Our attempts to build an equitable community-university action and research partnership for food justice may indeed be among those at the frontiers of current practice, and some of our core strategies for that are listed below. However, that frontier is still very far from the destination of truly equitable relations, in the face of what the project PI calls academic supremacy, compounded by ways many of us have internalized that (Porter & Wechsler, 2018).

Food Dignity partnership approaches in striving for equity in community-university relations included:

  • Planning the project together at the proposal stage, at least partly.

  • Sharing the funding, even if not equitably.

  • Issuing subawards to each community-based organization (CBO) partner, and mostly paying these in advance, rather than arrears.

  • Investing in co-authorship with and first-person work by community-based co-investigators.

  • Investing heavily in spending in-person time together. This included seven national all-team meetings, a smaller writing workshop, dozens of co-presentations at national conferences, and visits to CBOs.

  • Changing our research methods to match project and partner needs and interests.

  • Developing shared guiding values and starting with an ethics base.

  • Supporting a community-university liaison as a half-time position, who also worked as a co-investigator based at one of the five CBOs partnering in the project.

  • Increasing the subawards to CBOs by about 10% each from the original proposal to support leadership development.

  • Increasingly striving for not only epistemological but also ethical and emotional rigor in our research (Bradley et al. 2018, Porter 2018).

  • Engaging an external facilitator for our 4th and 5th national team meetings (if doing this again, would have done this for at least the first four team meetings).

  • Organizing a community-partner-only retreat in 2013, just before the 3rd team meeting.



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