There is no framework, benchmark or standard on best practice for governmental, corporate, non-profit, or academic collaborations, especially for international collaborative research and innovation involving low- and middle-income countries and this is where the Research Fairness Initiative (RFI) intends to make a difference.
The RFI is an organisational learning tool that encourages governments, business, organisations, research / academic institutions and funders to describe how they take measures to create trusting, lasting, transparent and effective partnerships in research and innovation – and how they plan to improve their practices moving forward.
The RFI tool is a which aims to improve international research partnerships in all sectors by creating a global learning platform for fair and equitable research partnerships. We aim to contribute towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 for partnership.
Learning is usually understood as a set of actions and capacities that apply to individuals. But, increasingly, the idea that learning strategies and capacities should be designed and managed more deliberately within organizations, and within health systems, is gaining currency both in strategic management circles and in fields such as public health and health research. In businesses, learning is often oriented to individual customer experience management and in healthcare there is a growing attention to institutional and systems learning in the context of individual patient experience management. But there is a notable lack of attention to the design and management of learning strategies that apply to complex, multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as research partnerships and health campaigns.
One dimension of these partnerships and campaigns that is frequently invoked as a high priority is fairness and equity. Yet there is surprisingly little attention to what, precisely, must be known and acted upon, by whom, in order to make partnerships fair and equitable. And how that knowledge should be acquired and organized to enable responsive action in pursuit of fairness. And because fairness and equity are rarely adopted as explicit goals, or outcomes of strategic value, for research partnerships and health campaigns, they are seldom represented in formal evaluations of the performance of these initiatives.
Among its many other attributes, the RFI represents a significant innovation in organizational learning.The RFI makes explicit what organizations need to pay attention to, and learn about, to ensure that their policies and practices conform to emerging standards of fairness and equity. The RFI encourages a forward looking and pragmatic institutional culture change – ‘what will we do better over the next 2 years’ –
The second core aspect of the RFI focuses on global and systematic learning that becomes an essential part of conducting research in partnerships. Imagine annual growth of sharing organizational learning and organizational best practices around the globe. That is the RFI global learning platform that (finally) provides a tool to document, analyze and change systemic inequities in collaborative research.
Thirdly, we are now also actively exploring how the RFI can be applied prospectively as a conceptual architecture—and a framework to guide the design of evaluations—to guide fair and equitable practices and policies within and between health campaigns.