Global coalitions tend to be constrained by hierarchies of knowledge and harmful partnership practices. SOAS understands both the ethical imperative for more just partnerships and challenges the false claims about inadequate capacity in the Global South. In our new Strategy SOAS states: ‘There is an urgent need for equitable partnerships globally… If we can develop a new model of partnerships & a business model that sustains it, we could have a dramatic national & planetary impact.’ At the Global Research Network on Parliaments and People we have been investing in research organisations the Global South, as one of five Network Plus programmes funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Global Challenges Research Fund since 2017. We teamed up with other universities in the UK and research organisations in Ethiopia and Myanmar to create a grant-making programme – Deepening Democracy – with a £2m grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Programe and the Global Challenges Research Fund. Over 4 years we gave 50 grants to scholars in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Myanmar and the UK and in the intensely competitive process we created, 46/50 were won by lead scholars in the Global South, 2 by diaspora, and 2 by white Europeans. The results – films, books, policy briefs – are outstanding, described by our colleagues on their grantee pages and accessible via our resources library.
How did this happen? Mainly because if you give funding to scholars in the Global South and tell them they have full control, the incentive to create amazing work is incredibly high. Even in tragically conflict-affected countries. To a lesser extent, the success is partly because SOAS and our partners in Myanmar and Ethiopia worked unbelievably hard at trying to be good partners to each to other and the grantees. Those involved in running the programme have written a learning-from-practice paper about partnership, addressing the question about how to be good partners. The primary audience for this report is academics and professional staff working at UK universities and who are involved with planning or managing large international research collaborations. It could also be of interest to policymakers, grant-makers and governments when making decisions about where to invest resources, how to commission research, and how best to support research capacity development around the world. If anyone claims that Global South scholars lack capacity or respectful global partnerships are impossible, please refer them to our website and this paper on partnership.