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Support to Aid
University & Other Education Partnerships
An overlooked partner for aid, relief and development efforts can be universities, both local to a specific area or outside the country.
Local universities near where an aid, relief or development professional is working can be an excellent resource for:
Does the local university have studies in human resources management, health care/medical training, education, law, veterinary medicine, or communications, engineering? Are there ways to work with individual departments or even classes at a local university to both access resources for your work and to build up the capacities of local people to do the work themselves?
Universities outside the country can be excellent resources for:
To illustrate further the importance of universities to aid work: Disasters: A Special Report from the National Science Foundation (USA) provides information on the critical role university-based research plays in aid, relief and development work.
The best way to establish partnerships with universities, whether locally or outside the community to be served, is through personal contact. The Internet often makes it easy to identify the names of people at a university who might be best to contact, along with their contact information. Research potential university contacts thoroughly; know as much about their current university work and previous academic and practical work as possible before you initiate contact. If at all possible, make the first contact an invitation to the key contact to come onsite to see your work firsthand, or, a request for that person to meet with you onsite at the university. Your goal for first contact is simply to have the university to know you and your initiative, project or organization, to demonstrate to the university contact that your initiative, project or organization is credible and results-oriented, and to quickly show that there are obvious, easy, low-cost/no-cost ways your work and the university contact's work may intersect. This will take several meetings and frequent contact, not just one site visit and a few phone calls and emails. Relationships take time to cultivate.
As your relationship developments, explore together possible ways your work could intersect. Before anything is proposed on paper, you should have had several conversations to ensure everyone is of the same thinking and has the same expectations for possible next steps. Offer as many benefits to the university as you are asking for from the university in any proposal.
The university will have reporting and visibility requirements of its own. If a partnership is under discussion, ask if reporting you are already doing for other partners and donors could be simply copied to the university, with a short addendum, rather than your organization having to create something specific. Make sure the university is mentioned, as appropriate, in press releases, program reports to others and your web site. Also, you will need to set a press protocol with the partnering university; who should speak on behalf of activities should the press come calling?
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