Regional research–policy partnerships for health equity and inclusive development: reflections on opportunities and challenges from a southern African perspective

Regional research–policy partnerships for health equity and inclusive development: reflections on opportunities and challenges from a southern African perspective

This article critically reflects on the experience and lessons from a health-focused social policy research project (PRARI) involving a partnership spanning multiple countries across southern Africa and Europe. It asks what factors condition the efficacy of the partnership–policy nexus. The PRARI-SADC partnership case study used participatory action research (PAR) to create a regional indicators-based monitoring ‘toolkit’ of pro‑poor health policy and change for the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The article addresses the partnership drivers, features, methodological context, and process of the project, and the wider implications for constructing partnerships for social change impact. Lessons drawn from this case study underscore the importance of PAR-inspired partnership structures and working methods while querying assumptions that the relationship between PAR and policy change is ‘seamless’. The authors argue that greater focus is needed on the wider institutional context conditioning the work of partnerships when considering the efficacy of the partnership–policy nexus.