Moving toward synergy: Lessons learned in developing and sustaining community – academic partnerships

May 1, 2015

Although community–academic partnerships are becoming a more common approach to addressing community health problems and engaging vulnerable populations in research, these partnerships continue to face particular challenges that impact their effectiveness, efficiency, and long-term sustainability. This article presents a modification of a “synergy-promoting model” (Lasker et al, 2001) for building and evaluating community–academic partnerships, which was used to establish a partnership between the University of Michigan and University of Detroit Mercy schools of nursing and the Family Care Network. The study outlines the theoretical framework of this model, and continues with a detailed account of applying the theory to practice by analyzing the interaction of three characteristics (trust, collaboration, and engagement) that can produce partnership synergy. Various lessons were learned, such as the importance of developing trust between stakeholders, conducting continual evaluation of the partnership, and giving attention to existence of power differentials among the partners. In conclusion, the article emphasizes the importance of using a theoretical framework to not only establish community-academic partnerships, but as a guide to sustaining an environment that encourages open communication and collaboration to devise strategies that can help build trust and address power differentials.

Brush, B.L., Baiardi, J., & Lapides, S. (2011). Moving toward synergy: Lessons learned in developing and sustaining community – academic partnerships. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 5(1), 27- 34.

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