Connecting with the Government Research Partnerships Learning Forum
Q&A with NC Office of Strategic Partnerships Director Jenni Owen

The Government Research Partnership Learning Forum, hosted by the NC Office of Strategic Partnerships, provided a unique, real-time opportunity to connect and learn about existing work and potential future collaborations. Here's why that matters.

What prompted the Office of Strategic Partnerships (OSP) to undertake the Government Research Partnerships Learning Forum?

OSP regularly facilitates opportunities for people across North Carolina and nationally to virtually discuss cross-sector partnerships. Examples include but are not limited to the Monthly Connect (series on cross-sector partnerships), Agency Researcher Interest Meetings (see North Carolina Project Portal), and Supporting State Agencies with Program Evaluations (more here). The Learning Forum brought people together in person to expand on those efforts. It highlighted North Carolina cross-sector partnerships that involve state and local government, shared strategies for developing and enhancing partnerships among government, research, and philanthropy, and featured discussions about the importance of generating and using evidence to inform government decision making. Click here for Learning Forum Resources on Government Research Partnerships.

Convening people in-person was important, after years of almost exclusively virtual events. While OSP’s commitment to public, virtual engagement remains, the Learning Forum provided a rare opportunity for partners across sectors to connect and learn in real time about existing work and potential future collaborations. 

Government Partnerships Learning Forum reception
The Forum provided an opportunity for in-person connection and opportunity-sharing

What are some key takeaways from the event?

When government, research, and philanthropy partner, especially in an open-source way, North Carolinians benefit. Learning Forum participants shared examples of partnerships that focus on telemedicine for incarcerated individuals, kindergarten readiness, supports for first responders, efficiencies in government, substance use, and addressing student learning loss related to COVID-19. Speakers and participants also highlighted best practices and publicly available resources to help ensure the success of cross-sector partnerships work. 

Many partners across projects experience similar challenges. For example, the need to adjust communication styles to ensure all project partners can access and use information or ensuring that researchers understand the government partners’ context before launching the research. Efforts to share knowledge and information can save time and resources, and more importantly, can lead to better project outcomes. Convening people across government, research organizations, and philanthropy—even just for a day—sows new seeds for potential future partnerships and positive impacts for North Carolina. 

OSP has had success with knowledge sharing and fostering connections with its virtual Monthly Connects. How is an in-person event like the Learning Forum different? 

An in-person event like the Learning Forum creates accessibility and ease of interaction between speakers and participants. We intentionally built in time between sessions, encouraging participants to connect, and structured workshops to allow ample opportunity for questions, connections, and learning about current projects and future partnership opportunities. 

As a day-long event, the Learning Forum allowed for a more in-depth exploration of cross-sector partnerships compared to the 75-minute Monthly Connects. The workshop “Data Access and Use in North Carolina” was an example of this. Panelists and participants shared experiences working with data, gave insights where others had met challenges working with and sharing data, and even offered additional support outside of the Learning Forum. Moreover, during and after the Learning Forum, we heard about or have been part of discussions among participants who are considering new cross-sector partnerships.

Government Partnerships Learning Forum presentation
Pictured L to R: David Yokum (Office of State Budget and Management), Chad Jordan (Department of Public Safety), and Saif Khairat (University of North Carolina)

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for partnerships between state government and the research and philanthropic sectors? Are there segments of either sector missing out on these connections? 

There is tremendous potential for partnerships between state government and North Carolina’s research and philanthropic sectors. Many examples are on the NC Project Portal. State government, researchers, and foundations are already working to address many of the same issues. Better connecting those efforts to leverage expertise, form partnerships, and share the resulting learnings can increase impact and forge the way for long-term collaboration. 

There are often opportunities to partner where one sector can benefit from the expertise, data, resources, or experience of another partner. For example, a state agency may wish to evaluate the effectiveness of a program and seek external expertise to do it. Researchers could use the agency’s data to determine that there is a more effective program, and philanthropy may be willing to partner on a pilot of that program. There are different ways to get involved in such partnerships, but all involve more and better communication across sectors – agencies communicating their research needs, researchers letting government know what they’re working on before they start their research, and philanthropy sharing their knowledge and resources.  

We are intentional in our efforts to share about OSP and partnership opportunities with people across the state’s Cabinet and Council of State agencies, public and private two- and four-year colleges and universities, other research organizations, and philanthropy. To learn more, people can sign up for OSP Highlights (e-news and resources) and calendar invites to Monthly Connect sessions (panel discussions on topics relevant to cross-sector partnerships). Past issues of Highlights are here; past Monthly Connects are here.  

About the Government Research Partnerships Learning Forum

The Government Research Partnerships Learning Forum was on April 13 in Raleigh. The event, hosted by the NC Office of Strategic Partnerships (OSP), and held at the wonderful auditorium of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, featured speakers from state and local government, colleges and universities, and other organizations. The focus was on government-research and government-philanthropy partnerships, including partnership development, launch, and execution. Click here for Learning Forum Resources on Government Research Partnerships. Interested in learning more about OSP and cross-sector partnerships? Email