Cooperation in Global South-North Research Partnerships: Challenges, Needs, and Good Practices of Collaboration with Partners and Stakeholders (Academic Panel)

Addressing the global challenges is undoubtedly not feasible without a well-equipped, innovative and needs-based-oriented research sector. The importance of science and research for development in general and for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in particular has been highlighted repeatedly. The interconnectedness of research, outreach and policy-making (outward focus), as well as the simultaneous occurrence of capacity development in research, teaching and management (inward focus) and finally the merge into each other so that experiences are reflected and further developed in research and teaching, are prerequisites for higher education institutions (HEIs) and networks if they want to become strong global players.

Goal 17 of the SDGs emphasizes the significance of “partnerships” for the achievement of all other goals. Furthermore, the SDGs refer to the higher education sector as essential, not only regarding the improvement of access to tertiary education and lifelong learning opportunities as stated in Goal 4 but also for the achievement of all other Goals. HEIs and networks are knowledge producers and teacher educators; they can contribute through their research, teacher training, curriculum development, extension services, assessments, etc.; they can be drivers for sustainable development but they have to be ascribed a specific role in the development process of their countries and regions as well as in South-North partnerships. In order to do so, they will have to dismiss monodisciplinary solutions to multi-faceted problems and open up for inter- and especially transdisciplinary approaches. Transdisciplinarity in this context is understood as science that includes non-scientific partners who are not only subjects of research but rather key actors, with a clear role in the definition of needs and problems, who are actors of knowledge and who provide their knowledge and experience to complement and enrich the scientific work. To get the most out of this applied transdisciplinary approach HEIs and networks need to build strong links with different stakeholders and actors, such as research institutions, civil society, NGOs, governments, donor agencies and the private sector.

While the outputs and outcomes of collaborative research projects are usually perceived, measured and evaluated, the nature and forms of cooperation on different levels and with different stakeholders, i.e. the modes of collaboration with non-academic actors, the quality of cooperation, the inclusion of different knowledge systems, etc. usually are not. This academic panel provides insight into transdisciplinary Global South-North research partnerships and explores the question, how cooperation on different levels is possible, particularly given structural differences, boundaries, inequalities, expectations, etc. It looks at research partnerships for sustainable development on a meta-level and approaches the topic from a multi-level perspective that is needed for the adequate design of such programmes. More precisely, it covers the perspective of three scientists from Austria, Tanzania and Germany, with backgrounds in different academic disciplines, i.e. social and natural sciences. The speakers will outline the research partnerships they are involved in, their efforts to put a transdisciplinary approach into practice and the key actors they are collaborating with. Finally, the challenges but also the opportunities of these cross-sectoral collaborations will be discussed, the needs of the researchers addressed and ways forward suggested. One of the partnerships in question has been funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The other two have received funding by two – comparatively – small-scale Austrian funding programmes/institutions for HEI cooperation, namely the Austrian Partnership Programme in Higher Education and Research for Development, APPEAR, and the Commission for Development Research, KEF. The underlying question is, to what extent and based on which factors do projects (even with minor funds) successfully cooperate with relevant stakeholders and contribute to science that is focused on societal transformation and sustainable development?


  • Dr. Maria Wurzinger, is co-director of the Centre for Development Research and senior scientist at the Institute of Livestock Sciences at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. (CONFIRMED)
  • Dr. Zena Mabeyo, is lecturer at Institute of Social Work in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (CONFIRMED)
  • Kacana Sipangule, is managing director at the Poverty Reduction Equity and Growth Network, PEGNet and a PhD candidate at the University of Goettingen. (CONFIRMED)


Julia Lichtkoppler-Moser (OeAD) / Nikoleta Nikisianli (OeAD)


Dr. Tiina Kontinen, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä (CONFIRMED)


Doris Bauer, programme officer and current representative of Austrian EADI members, (OeAD)

OeAD – Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (Austria) and PEGNet – Poverty Reduction Equity and Growth Network (Germany)