“You Travel Faster Alone, but Further Together”: Learning From a Cross Country Research Collaboration From a British Council Newton Fund Grant

Document Type : Short Communication


1 Human Sciences Research Council, Population Health, Health Systems and Innovation, Cape Town, South Africa

2 Faculty of Community and Health Science, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

3 Human Sciences Research Council, HIV/AIDS, STI’s and TB, Pretoria, South Africa

4 Centre for Global Development, London, UK

5 School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK

6 Department of Surgery and Cancer, Centre for Global Development, London, UK

7 Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Aga Khan University, Nairobi, Kenya

8 Faculty of Population Health Sciences, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, UK


Providing universal health coverage (UHC) through better maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health (MNCAH) can benefit both parties through North–South research collaborations. This paper describes lessons learned from bringing together early career researchers, tutors, consultants and mentors from the United Kingdom, Kenya, and South Africa to work in multi-disciplinary teams in a capacity-building workshop in Johannesburg, co-ordinated by senior researchers from the three partner countries. We recruited early career researchers and research users from a range of sectors and institutions in the participating countries and offered networking sessions, plenary lectures, group activities and discussions. To encourage bonding and accommodate cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary partners, we asked participants to respond to questions relating to research priorities and interventions in order to allocate them into multidisciplinary and cross-country teams. A follow up meeting took place in London six months later. Over the five day initial workshop, discussions informed the development of four draft research proposals. Intellectual collaboration, friendship and respect were engendered to sustain future collaborations, and we were able to identify factors which might assist capacity-building funders and organizers in future. This was a modestly funded brief intervention, with a follow-up made possible through the careful stewardship of resources and volunteerism. Having low and middle-income countries in the driving seat was a major benefit but not without logistic and financial challenges. Lessons learned and follow-up are described along with recommendations for future funding of partnerships schemes.



Watch the Video Summary here.


Main Subjects




  1. van Deurzen I, van Oorschot W, van Ingen E. The link between inequality and population health in low and middle income countries: policy myth or social reality? PLoS One. 2014;9(12):e115109. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115109
  2. Ruiz JI, Nuhu K, McDaniel JT, Popoff F, Izcovich A, Criniti JM. Inequality as a Powerful Predictor of Infant and Maternal Mortality around the World. PLoS One. 2015;10(10):e0140796. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140796
  3. Agyepong IA, Sewankambo N, Binagwaho A, et al. The path to longer and healthier lives for all Africans by 2030: the Lancet Commission on the future of health in sub-Saharan Africa. Lancet. 2018;390(10114):2803-2859. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(17)31509-x
  4. Victora CG, Requejo JH, Barros AJ, et al. Countdown to 2015: a decade of tracking progress for maternal, newborn, and child survival. Lancet. 2016;387(10032):2049-2059. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(15)00519-x
  5. Nagata JM, Ferguson BJ, Ross DA. Research Priorities for Eight Areas of Adolescent Health in Low- and Middle-Income Countries. J Adolesc Health. 2016;59(1):50-60. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.03.016
  6. Bhutta ZA, Chopra M, Axelson H, et al. Countdown to 2015 decade report (2000-10): taking stock of maternal, newborn, and child survival. Lancet. 2010;375(9730):2032-2044. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(10)60678-2
  7. WHO. World health statistics 2015. World Health Organization; 2015.
  8. WHO. Global Health Observatory (GHO) data. 2016; http://www.who.int/gho/child_health/mortality/neonatal_infant_text/en/.  Accessed November 30, 2017.
  9. Requejo JH, Toure K, Bhutta Z, Katz I, Zaidi S, de Francisco A. Regional collaborations as a way forward for maternal, newborn and child health: the South Asian healthcare professional workshop. J Health Popul Nutr. 2010;28(5):417-423.
  10. Ramaswamy R, Kallam B, Kopic D, Pujic B, Owen MD. Global health partnerships: building multi-national collaborations to achieve lasting improvements in maternal and neonatal health. Global Health. 2016;12(1):22. doi:10.1186/s12992-016-0159-7
  11. Newton Fund. 2015; http://www.newtonfund.ac.uk/.  Accessed August 28, 2016.
  12. Researcher Links. British Council website. https://www.britishcouncil.org/education/science/researcher-links.  Accessed February 20, 2017.
  13. Reddy SP, James S, Sewpaul R, et al. Umthente Uhlaba Usamila: The 3rd South African National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2011. Cape Town: South African Medical Research Council; 2013.
  14. Reddy SP, Panday S, Swart D, et al. Umthenthe Uhlaba Usamila – The South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2002. Cape Town: South African Medical Research Council; 2003.
  15. Reddy SP, James S, Sewpaul R, et al. Umthente Uhlaba Usamila - The Second South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2008. Pretoria: Medical Research Council; 2010.
  16. Beran D, Byass P, Gbakima A, et al. Research capacity building-obligations for global health partners. Lancet Glob Health. 2017;5(6):e567-e568. doi:10.1016/s2214-109x(17)30180-8
  17. ICAI. Report: Global Challenges Research Fund An ICAI rapid review.  https://icai.independent.gov.uk/html-report/global-challenges-research-fund/.  Accessed October 26, 2017. Published 2017.
  18. Van der Veken K, Belaid L, Delvaux T, De Brouwere V. Research capacity building through North-South-South networking: towards true partnership? An exploratory study of a network for scientific support in the field of sexual and reproductive health. Health Res Policy Syst. 2017;15(1):39. doi:10.1186/s12961-017-0202-z
Volume 7, Issue 11
November 2018
Pages 977-981
  • Receive Date: 31 January 2018
  • Revise Date: 26 July 2018
  • Accept Date: 29 July 2018
  • First Publish Date: 01 November 2018