"A successful partnership depends on a number of things," said Dr. Dominique Charron. "It depends on like-mindedness and mutual interest of the parties, and whatever it is that we do together must achieve more than we could accomplish separately." In addition, “each partner needs to bring something to the table that’s valued by the others."
IDRC has developed partnerships with many organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the Pan American Health Organization, said Dr. Roberto Bazzani. Its collaboration with the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) of the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, raises the profile of the ecohealth approach to preventing communicable diseases.
A goal of the International EcoHealth Forum (IEF 2008) was to promote partnerships. From the outset, a diversity of organizations participated in the planning of the Forum. IDRC also hosted a series of activities before, during, and after this scientific gathering to "build connections between researchers," Dr Charron said. These connections lead to new collaborations and new ideas to help address health and environmental problems in more effective ways.
Some of these connections were forged at IEF 2008. "There were revelations on the public health side of how important it was to connect with the conservation movement, and there were [scientists] on the conservation side who were newly sensitized to the importance of also thinking about human health," Dr Charron said.
IDRC encourages and supports the building of knowledge networks across disciplines and countries, and the Forum was "an explicit opportunity to foster linkages between research teams working on similar issues in different parts of the world. That [was] one of the key successes of the Forum," Dr Charron said.
By participating in the global networking meetings of the Communities of Practice in Ecohealth (CoPEHs), researchers from East Africa were inspired to explore forming their own network. This effort is now ongoing. "We continue to support the evolution of the CoPEHs," Dr Charron said. "We’re making a concerted effort in our programming to support the CoPEHs, or to seek ways to link projects together." The CoPEHs still consist primarily of researchers and academic professors, but all are steadily expanding their reach to incorporate practitioners, government managers and policymakers.
IDRC is also forming partnerships with "civil society organizations," Dr Bazzani said. "In many countries, we are working with important NGOs" that have an ecohealth agenda. Greater representation from civil society and decision-makers is needed at the next Forum. The numerous networks and CoPEHs may have a role in helping bring this about.
"That’s our challenge for the future," Dr Bazzani said.