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Tips for managing a partnership

Are you a project director or project co-ordinator for a Partnership Grant, Partnership Engage Grant or Partnership Development Grant? For help with managing your partnership, first consult the research support services at your institution. Next, we encourage you to read the information below.

The tips provided are based on advice from past Partnership Grants project directors and project co-ordinators and are not advice directly from SSHRC.

Note: The tips below are for reference only and do not replace any guidance or requirements from your institution.

Project co-ordination
  • Consider hiring a full-time, experienced project co-ordinator with strong administrative and financial tracking skills (e.g., knowledge of accounting software) to help with project management. This can allow the project director to focus more on research and less significantly on management.
  • Provide opportunities early on for the project co-ordinator to meet/shadow other Partnership Grant project managers/co-ordinators.
  • Keep detailed documentation of the project’s operation and store it in a central location. This ensures everything is easily accessible at all times, which is especially important if someone else moves into the project director or manager/co-ordinator roles.
Budget considerations
  • Budget for regular in-person meetings. In-person meetings have been one of the most valuable means of allowing us to make equitable and transparent budgeting and governance decisions.
  • Build enough money in your budget for a full-time project co-ordinator.
  • Track your partners’ financial contributions throughout the year to ensure that nothing is forgotten at the end of the year.
  • Consider requiring co-applicants to provide a list of everything they’ve done on the project in the past year before releasing annual funds. Develop contract letters with co-applicants to keep them accountable for project timelines and objectives.
  • Keep detailed records of expenditures and create annual budget forecasts to the end of the project.
  • Maintain project funding at the host institution and reimburse expenses rather than sending annual subgrants to partner institutions. This can help prevent issues of over- or under-spending.
  • Building capacity among student research associates needs to be balanced with the central demands of the grant operations.  So it is advisable to include adequate budget for hiring professionals for certain services, such as communications, media and knowledge mobilization.
Financial co-ordination
  • To help forecast ahead, develop a shadow account (e.g., in a spreadsheet) with the budget lines from the application included by year and track all expenses. Have a running tally each month of funds spent.
  • Create subgrants for co-applicants for specific projects when needed, with a clear timeline and spending plan.
  • Check with your institution to see if you can get a credit card linked to the project’s financial code (one in the project co-ordinator’s name and one in the project director’s name). This enables you to purchase supplies for the project without having to do small out-of-pocket expense claims.
  • Look into booking all flights through the institution’s provider. With some institutions, this means that the tickets are paid directly out of the grant rather than having to reimburse people on the team.
  • Use SSHRC forms and templates as a model for tracking tools you use with partners.
  • Consider having each subproject lead complete mock versions of the annual SSHRC financial reporting document. Have them provide information on what they have spent in each category and what they had in in-kind contributions, and what they plan on spending in the next year. This provides a permanent record that is signed by each subproject lead, which prevents the need to fill out multiple forms during the year and helps with planning.
  • Create multiyear agreements that last the entire length of the granting period, and make amendments to those agreements instead of making new ones every year.
Partnership governance and management
  • Meet in person at the very beginning of the project with all the host institution’s departments involved in providing management support. 
  • Develop intellectual property agreements early on and come to agreement with the team; work with the host institution.
  • Ask each team member to write a statement of commitment to the project, which should include how they will work as a team member.
  • Connect researchers directly with specific partners to encourage the development of more linkages and reduce the workload on the project director.
  • Have partner representatives at your institutions with strong connections with professors or directors of institutes.
  • Have a clear but flexible timeline and strategy for every part of your partnership, including the research, outputs and knowledge mobilization strategy.
  • Understand the communities that you are partnered with and don’t impose a structure on them.  Decide together what kind of governance will work best for your partnership.
  • When carrying out Indigenous research, create a Project Management Committee with parity between academic and Indigenous members representing all research areas and all communities covered by the grant.
  • Build in a transition plan from the beginning where someone else will take the lead at an appointed time. This also allows the project director to better participate as a researcher.
Project evaluation and reporting
  • Review your reporting requirements early on, including the Partnership Achievement report, and regularly monitor your partnership’s progress so it’s easier to assemble the final data. Encourage all of your partners to complete the Partner Report to help capture the impacts of partnered research in the social sciences and humanities.
  • Collect a list of activities, outputs and partner contributions on an ongoing basis to help make sure you are on track with deliverables.
  • Familiarize yourself immediately with the details that need to be collected for SSHRC reports and other reports associated with the research and matching funds. Devise tracking tools.
  • Participate in SSHRC’s webinars, which inform new project directors of the additional reporting requirements and mid-term review for Partnership Grants.
  • To encourage team members and partners to report on what they are doing, send out a list of the achievements you are aware of and ask team members and partners to fill in the blanks.
Internal communication
  • Stay connected with team members and partner organizations to ensure they are informed and engaged through meetings, project updates, and other communication strategies (e.g., member section on website, Facebook page, eNewsletters).
  • Use annual team meetings to workshop upcoming initiatives, and survey partners at the end of the meeting to see how they want to be involved in each of the next year’s deliverables.
  • Ask partners how they prefer to communicate and try to have a standard system for everyone, such as email or an instant messaging platform like Slack. Be prepared to adapt and tailor to particular team members as needed.  
  • Avoid sending partners too much information at once. Be concise and respectful.
Working with multisector partners
  • Structure the research so that partners who want to be more hands-on can do research themselves, work with graduate students and have access to research funds.
  • Be prepared to adapt the research approach to meet the needs of industry partners. If needed, meet with the partners and redevelop a strategy with the researchers.
  • Honour the time your community partners are devoting to your project. Help them fully immerse themselves in the partnership work by ensuring they are provided with resources (e.g., time, personnel, access to campus facilities) whenever and wherever you can.
  • Protect your government partners. It’s important to educate your research network that these government partners and representatives are there to contribute to the research and are not a one-way conduit to policy change.
  • Include researchers and management teams from multiple age and experience levels in your partnership. This can provide opportunities for intergenerational learning in both academia and communities.
Knowledge mobilization
  • Be aware of the different publication styles of your partners. Partners from non-academic sectors are likely more interested in policy papers and plain language summaries than in conventional academic publications.
  • Tailor knowledge mobilization products to the particular audiences you wish to reach, and work with your partners to ensure the products are useful for them.
  • Consider hiring a professional writer to capture key insights on particular projects in plain language that can be used for multiple audiences, including those from non-academic sectors.
  • Connect/partner with other organizations that do knowledge translation.
Making connections for project co-ordination
  • Get to know the research services for available supports and connect with the staff working in finance and ethics at your institution. These individuals will help you navigate rules, regulations and processes (e.g., subgrants, ethics clearance).
  • Connect with your SSHRC program officer.
  • Take the opportunity to meet or shadow other project managers at your institution.
Training and mentoring
  • Develop a recruitment strategy for hiring a diverse group of students from all levels, from undergraduate to postdoctoral researchers, within and beyond your institution, who can bring different perspectives to the project. Ensure your recruitment plan includes an equity, diversity and inclusion strategy.
  • Provide opportunities for students and postdoctoral researchers to publish/co-publish in academic journals and to present their research at conferences and workshops.
  • Help students and postdoctoral researchers network with academics and representatives from partner organizations outside of academia.
  • Provide professional training opportunities, such as internships with public, private and not-for-profit partner organizations, and help students make connections with prospective future employers.
  • Offer international opportunities for students to conduct research and engage in knowledge mobilization activities outside of Canada.
  • Integrate students and postdoctoral researchers in the governance structure of the partnership.
  • Take an active role, checking in with supervisors and students directly to ensure quality mentorship to students and postdoctoral researchers engaging in the project.
  • Develop an online communications space for students and offer face-to-face opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with the partnership team.
  • Leverage additional funds for students and internship opportunities, such as through Mitacs, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that delivers research and training programs.

Have questions?

Check out the frequently asked questions or contact your program officer or the relevant email below.

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