Lessons Learned About Coordinating Academic Partnerships From an International Network for Health Education

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Abstract

There is a growing trend of academic partnerships between U.S., Canadian, and European health science institutions and academic health centers in low- and middle-income countries. These partnerships often encounter challenges such as resource disparities and power differentials, which affect the motivations, expectations, balance of benefits, and results of the joint projects. Little has been discussed in previous literature regarding the communication and project management processes that affect the success of such partnerships. To fill the gap in the literature, the authors present lessons learned from the African Health Open Educational Resources Network, a multicountry, multiorganizational partnership established in May 2008. The authors introduce the history of the network, then discuss actively engaging stakeholders throughout the project’s life cycle (design, planning, execution, and closure) through professional development, relationship building, and assessment activities. They focus on communication and management practices used to identify mutually beneficial project goals, ensure timely completion of deliverables, and develop sustainable sociotechnical infrastructure for future collaborative projects. These activities yielded an interactive process of action, assessment, and reflection to ensure that project goals and values were aligned with implementation. The authors conclude with a discussion of lessons learned and how the partnership project may serve as a model for other universities and academic health centers in high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries that are interested in or currently pursuing international academic partnerships.

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