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In our research on supported education (SEd) programs in Canadian psychiatric hospitals, community-university partnerships have offered hopeful findings that demonstrate the potential for improved social and educational outcomes for patients in these programs. There were inherent challenges associated with conducting academic research on these programs alongside nonacademic partners. While some of our research collaborators, who were patient-educators with varying backgrounds, were fully engaged in the research process, others were only somewhat engaged, and some wanted minimal involvement. Because most psychiatric hospital–based research involves medical or pharmaceutical research, we did not locate established frameworks that could be used as models for our educational qualitative research. Although we encountered some obstacles to fully engaged partnerships, we still conducted productive collaborations that resulted in rich, broadly useful qualitative and quantitative data from interviews with students, teachers, and administrators. That being said, we found that in trying to respect the limited time availability of our partners, we ended up with less input from our partners than we had originally hoped for. The lessons we learned—such as the need for clearer role definitions and strategies to manage power imbalances, conflicting objectives, and time constraints faced by nonacademic collaborators—may be applied to other projects that engage community partners whose time and capacity constraints may inhibit their full engagement, such as municipalities supporting long-term care homes or emergency shelters.


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20 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • When Is a Partnership Not a Partnership?

  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 14

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    20 July 2022

  • License
  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      This research was supported by the Insight Grant program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.