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What do Partnerships refer to?

Partnerships relate to the involvement of relevant actors at all levels, such as governmental agencies, civil society organisations, service providers, trade unions, and staff and student associations. External partners complement the available skills, competencies and expertise available within the institution. As well as cooperation and liaison with legal, police and criminal justice organisations and professionals, partnerships include close liaison with and learning from NGOs and other organisations with expertise in gender-based violence.

In the context of research-performing organisations, examples of external partnerships can consist of:

  • Partnerships with local and national governmental agencies, including legal, police and criminal justice organisations. These partnerships can, among other things, improve the provision of counselling and legal assistance;
  • Partnerships with civil society organisations and From the design of policies to the implementation of specific measures, these partnerships could help in organising joint initiatives, events, awareness-raising campaigns, training programmes on gender-based violence etc.;
  • Partnerships with student groups and associations to engage students from several higher education institutions and research organisations in prevention efforts and create a supportive environment for those who experience gender-based violence;
  • Partnerships with local community and healthcare organisations to coordinate services and provide support to people who experience gender-based violence, such as shelters, healthcare clinics and advocacy groups;
  • Collaboration with the private sector for the provision of specific expertise, such as training or for the creation of specific tools and resources to prevent gender-based violence (e.g. development of digital tools to connect students with support services, panic buttons, etc.);
  • Partnerships with other higher education institutions and research organisations for mutual learning and the exchange of good practices and resources.

Think beyond the examples: Have you ever thought your university could partner with local bars, sports clubs and the police to reinforce safety measures? “Ask for Angela” is a programme that has been implemented in university campuses and other public spaces to help prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. The programme provides a discreet way for individuals who feel unsafe or uncomfortable to ask for help from staff members without drawing attention to themselves or escalating the situation. Read more. 

Partnerships are a way to strengthen and complement initiatives and expertise available within the organisation and can contribute to any of the Ps in the 7P framework.

How to approach Partnerships?

Here are some practical suggestions on setting up well-functioning partnerships.

Map stakeholders and actors

Identify potential internal and external partners, groups and organisations that work on gender-based violence and support services. You may start by reaching out to any existing links and connections before expanding your network. Explain your interest in partnering and ask about their work and services. To help you map the different actors, find a practical tool from the SUPERA project, the stakeholder mapping technique, available here.

Develop a partnership agreement with joint actions and activities

After establishing the contact, work with your partners to develop a clear and comprehensive plan that outlines the goals, roles, and responsibilities of each partner. A memorandum of understanding or similar agreement could also detail the resources and support each partner will provide to the collaboration.

Evaluate the effectiveness of the collaboration

After the implementation of the first set of actions and activities, assess their effectiveness and the impact on the university community to tailor any activities and refine partnerships. This can include tracking metrics such as the number of individuals reached by training sessions, the number of policies implemented, participants’ satisfaction with events or services, etc.

Expand the partnerships

You may seek to expand your partnerships to include more organisations and groups that can contribute to your goals and efforts. Diverse stakeholders and communities could be integrated to address intersectional aspects of gender-based violence.

Tips and Hints / Dos and Don'ts

  • Participation in EU/international projects such as UniSAFE or international events and activities is beneficial. You may start by looking within your European projects, if any, involving the funding office at your institution (e.g. EU project office) to identify any potential groups and partners for collaboration;
  • Leverage any funding opportunities to support the partnerships. This can include grants, research funding, corporate sponsorships and individual donations;
  • Awareness-raising activities are important to create engagement and gain traction, and help avoid the implementation of initiatives in a passive community;
  • Informal networks help the forging of partnerships, highlighting the importance of having good relations with key actors and aware agents inside the organisation;
  • When mapping the different actors, it is important to assess the interest and capacities of key people inside your institution. These key people will be helpful for the successful design and implementation of activities;
  • As far as possible, avoid having the important work on gender-based violence done by voluntary and unpaid individuals within your organisation. Rather, this work should be embedded in the task descriptions of relevant staff. If volunteers are involved, it is paramount to acknowledge their efforts;
  • Students who take on roles and responsibilities in institutional policy design, implementation (such as in disciplinary committees) or assessment should gain recognition for the labour they perform (e.g. through awarding them stipends or study credits). Their study, assignment and exam schedules must be considered;
  • Make sure that your formal and informal partnerships do not entirely rely on temporary members/functions of the organisation (e.g. deans or members of committees appointed for a limited term);
  • Participation in funding schemes and awards (e.g. HRS4R) has proven to create a favourable environment for more partnerships;
  • External partnerships can be mobilised to different degrees: either to allow for the provision of services on behalf of an under-resourced responsible unit, or as an important support;
  • Getting external consultation for victims/survivors from an independent organisation that deals with issues such as sexual harassment and assault can be beneficial, even before an official complaint is made;
  • Building partnerships with a network of translators could strengthen the provision of services and inclusive support for different groups.

Thinking intersectionally about Partnerships

Intersectionality aspects are scarcely considered in institutional responses to gender-based violence, and partnerships could help to integrate more aspects in activities against gender-based violence.

  • Engaging facilitators and advisors from external organisations with a specialisation in intersectionality or with intersectional characteristics (e.g. from different minority groups, age groups, etc.) can create more favourable conditions for change and environments for reporting and seeking support that are perceived as safer;
  • Some organisations rely on partners to deal with forms of violence related to intersecting discriminations. It is however important to ensure the institutionalisation of such services for reasons of sustainability;
  • Collaborations with organisations which address specific groups (e.g. LGBTQIA+, minority groups and refugees) can provide services and support to survivors from different communities. These organisations can provide insights into the unique challenges and experiences of survivors from different backgrounds and can help to develop programmes and services that are more inclusive and relevant;
  • Include clauses related to gender-based violence policies in contracts with companies and other institutions when student internships, exchanges and placements are organised.

Inspiring practices

Addressing gender-based violence and harassment outside the campus in partnership with a youth association – University of Namur, Belgium

The University of Namur has established a partnership with an association working with young people on issues relating to respect and consent that typically arise during festivals and similar events. The ‘SACHA’ plan (Safe Attitude Against Harassment and Assaults) is a tool that can be developed in any institution. It aims to address violence and harassment in party settings and to train a team of resource persons (first line). The SACHA plan presents itself as based on an intersectional feminist analysis of society.

Free online course on Violence Against Women for the Academic Community in partnership with a regional women’s rights institute – Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, Spain

The university’s Directorate for Equality, as part of the agreement between the university and a regional women’s rights institute, offers a free online course on Violence Against Women that is open to the entire academic community. The main aim is preventative, as the course addresses different forms of gender-based violence, the context in which they occur, the factors that reproduce them, and the resources available. It is conducted through various sessions that include reading materials and a discussion forum for over 25 hours a month. In the last course, 200 places were offered, 236 people signed up (more than 200 women), and 131 were accredited. Further information about the assessment of the training can be found here.

Partnership with the government sub-delegation on gender-based violence – Universidad de Granada, Spain

The university is cooperating with the government sub-delegation on gender-based violence to create common lines of work around gender-based violence through which the university carries out projects subsidised with funds from a regional institute for women and the State Pact against Gender Violence. The university is also carrying out other relevant activities with the support of a regional directorate of equality.

Joint awareness-raising campaigns against gender-based violence in partnership with an independent organisation – University of Akureyri, Iceland

The University of Akureyri has participated in the annual awareness campaign called the ‘International 16 Days of Awareness against Gender Violence’ since 2011, organised by the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, and has written newspaper articles on those occasions. This partnership was based on the aims of the Active Citizens Fund to create a new civil society network for the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) creating cross-organisation synergies and promoting cooperation and partnerships with public bodies.

Partnership with the European project USVreact to develop a tool for guiding training courses – Università Di Torino, Italy

In 2016-2017, the university collaborated in the European project USVreact to develop an innovative training course for university staff, to train them to respond appropriately to manifestations of sexual violence. The university conducted and evaluated an experimental model of training and ran a survey to understand the perception of harassment in the university environment. A report was produced, which was used as a tool for guiding training courses within universities on prevention.

“Ask for Angela” in partnership with local bars, sports clubs and the police

“Ask for Angela” is a programme which originated in Lincolnshire, UK, but has been implemented in several countries across university campuses and other public spaces to help prevent and respond to incidents of sexual harassment and gender-based violence. The programme provides a discreet way for individuals who feel unsafe or uncomfortable to ask for help from staff members, using a code word, without drawing attention to themselves or escalating the situation. There are several examples in different contexts and universities e.g. the University of Glasgow implements this inspiring practice to allow students to enjoy the university’s sports club (more information available here), while the Leeds Beckett University has a few concrete posters here, and examples of campaign material are also here. You may also watch UniSAFE’s webinar, available here.

“Why we did not report”, in partnership with student associations – Charles University, Czech Republic

Why we did not report” originated as a student initiative at Charles University in Prague with online and offline posters with anonymised cases, presented e.g. at the Faculty of Philosophy as an exhibition or in the university cultural centre and accompanied by panel discussions inspired by the US why I did not report movement. This kind of initiative could be taken up by an institutional body responsible for gender-based violence work in collaboration with student associations, to raise awareness of gender-based violence and also direct survivors to places where they can receive help.

Stamp out sexual harassment on London’s public transport

This poster campaign encourages customers and staff who experience or witness harassing behaviour to report it. It highlights various forms of unwanted sexual behaviour that can take place on public transport, sending a message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. This campaign could be replicated in partnerships with universities in other countries to make students and staff aware of their safety while using public transport.

Resources and further reading

  • “Understanding How to Engage Men in Gender Transformative Approaches to End Violence Against Women” is a report by the United Nations Population Fund. Explore further.
  • The EU-funded SUPERA project provides a guidance document and cards on the use of participatory techniques. Participatory techniques are helpful at every step of the way, from mapping your actors and stakeholders to co-creating solutions.
  • Les imaginaires du consentement” was organised in Paris as a two-day event in September 2021 by Sexe et Consentement, in collaboration with various academic institutions and other organisations, to promote consent culture. The event included workshops, performances and discussions on topics related to consent and sexual violence prevention. The aim was to encourage people to rethink the ways we approach consent in relationships and interactions. Participation in the event was mandatory for students before leaving on an exchange project. Explore further.
  • Building Authentic Partnerships for Responding to Gender-Based Violence in Universities: Burman, M., Dawson, K., McDougall, L., Morton, K. & Nokhbatolfoghahai, F. (2020). In Marine, S. B. & Lewis, R. (eds.), Collaborating for Change. Oxford University Press. Retrieved from here.
  • This book chapter discusses the importance of building partnerships to respond to and challenge gender-based violence in universities and to lay the groundwork to facilitate and support cultural transformation in the complex and risk-averse environment of higher education. Explore further (not in open access).