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Journal article | December 7, 2017

Building More Robust NGO-University Partnerships in Development:

Lessons Learned from Catholic Relief Services

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and US-based universities are under increasing pressure to collaborate on international development efforts in order to achieve greater impact and influence. To date, however, most of these project-based collaborations have made only limited strategic investment into achieving longer-term, transformational goals. This article explores an attempt by US-based NGO Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to develop a model for institutional partnerships that goes beyond project-driven collaborations, and the ways in which these collaborations are contributing to achievement of the agency’s strategic priorities. The article describes some of the important internal and external pressures that led CRS to adopt a new approach to university engagement; the processes that evolved to manage its five-year strategy; and some of the key activities that the partnerships supported. Based on this analysis, the paper extrapolates a series of six cross-cutting lessons learned that can help guide other NGOs and universities which are seeking to develop similar types of engagement, including a self-assessment checklist. The authors conclude that while these six-cross-cutting lessons learned are important, their significance will vary as the partnership grows, matures, and diversifies.