‘Bridging the Gap’: Taking academic and practitioner partnership to the next level

‘Bridging the Gap’: Taking academic and practitioner partnership to the next level

iStock_000002175265Medium1_800x516_acf_croppedBy Dr Jessica Field

The interface between academia and practice in conflict and disaster research has become quite the hot topic in recent years, particularly in relation to how academics and practitioners can work together more productively.

This is driven in part by the complementary ‘impact’ agenda shaping academic research and the ‘results’ focus of NGO practice, which seeks an ever-stronger evidence base to underwrite policy. In addition to fuelling a shared dedication to an enhanced understanding and, in an ideal world, solving or improving some of the world’s most intractable problems: conflict, crime and disaster.

Just five months ago Save the Children UK (SCUK) and the University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), one of the UK’s pre-eminent institutes for the study and practice of humanitarianism and conflict response, took that idea of collaboration to the next level. In which, they formalised a longstanding partnership and agreed on an innovative, collaborative agenda that will not only enable SCUK to draw upon HCRI’s research capacity and scholarly expertise, but also offers HCRI opportunities to conduct field research that directly informs humanitarian policy and practice.

It is ‘The Bridge’ – that intangible connection between critical research, policy and practice that so often eludes both sectors.

The partnership is certainly starting with a bang. With the appointment of a Humanitarian Affairs Adviser (that’s me!) to sit within both SCUK’s Humanitarian Affairs Team (HAT) and HCRI, the year ahead looks to involve co-constituted critical engagement and will generate lots of exciting things on the SCUK-HCRI menu, including:

  • The HAT’s pioneering project examining and challenging established approaches to understanding ‘humanitarian effectiveness’. Research is currently being undertaken across seven different field study locations, of which I am focusing on the Philippines and Syria.
  • The co-organisation and hosting of a conference in Manchester in September entitled ‘A Quest for Humanitarian Effectiveness?’ featuring world leading practitioners and academics from across the humanitarian sector – the call for papers and posters is out now. 
  • An important contribution to 2016 World Humanitarian Summit and the Humanitarian Effectiveness strand, which will build on both the project and the conference.

Importantly, beyond the macro level, this partnership is as much about individuals within the organisations as it is about the organisations themselves – it’s a connection designed to engender head-space, learning opportunities and constructive critical thinking that isn’t afraid of challenging the status quo.

If you’d like to find out more about the partnership or any of our collaborative projects, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Dr Jessica Field is a Humanitarian Affairs Adviser at SCUK and HCRI. Jessica can be contacted at: