Building an IR team

Ownership, trust, responsibilities and roles

Recent work on health system strengthening has identified some useful common requirements and characteristics of research teams and partnerships. Among other criteria, Larkan et al3 have suggested that complex partnerships require all parties to agree to a common minimum programme, should involve all major stakeholders from the design stage, and have resources clearly allocated. Summary attributes (a) and core concepts (b) for successful research teams are proposed in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Summary attributes (a) and core concepts (b) for successful research teams in global health (adapted from Larkan et al). At an early stage in the IR team establishment process, an initial team/partnership meeting is essential. The first meeting should involve as many potential stakeholders as possible, and is an opportunity to bring partners together – possibly for the first time – to begin defining a common research question and approach, and to commit to continue working together to develop an IR proposal. As far as possible, it should create a neutral, inclusive space where all potential IR stakeholders have the opportunity to understand and question the IR approach, as well as gauge and agree to their own involvement and roles.

This is also an occasion for team members to explore the division of labour and any critical capacity needs or gaps across the team. The topics that might be covered during the initial meeting might include:

  • Decision-making mechanisms clarified and agreed.
  • Agreement on core objectives.
  • Team member commitments and responsibilities defined and agreed, e.g.:
    • networking with other potential stakeholders;
    • initial publicity/advocacy for the IR study;
    • strengthening/complementing existing team members' capacities;
    • IR team coordination and conflict resolution;
    • monitoring, evaluation and review;
    • learning and sharing;
    • resource mobilization.

Following the meeting, a concept note should be created that captures the discussion and decisions, and begins to lay out the vision, goals and design/methodology for the IR project, and should refer to the shared values, strategic objectives, IR core team members, collaboration and ways forward. One or two individuals need to be assigned this task during the initial team meeting, preferably the scientific leader.

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References