Given the diversity of organizations involved, the multiple components or steps involved in our research-development process and the different levels of action (local, regional, national), our partnerships have inevitably been complex and dynamic [18, 19]. Though complementary in the overall program of work, we will focus on the research, implementation and knowledge use partnerships in turn.
Research partnership has been facilitated by a longstanding Associate Scientist position held by the key Canadian researcher (DCC) with CIP, where the lead social scientist is located (GP). In Ecuador, a formal relationship of the key Ecuadorian health scientist (FOT) with INIAP and a mentoring relationship between the Canadian and Ecuadorian leads has helped immensely. Each lead contributes to joint conceptualization, design, and obtaining funding for the research, oversee its implementation and takes primary responsibility for analysis and reporting to the broader scientific community. These core research collaborations have been complemented through multi-disciplinary agricultural research alliances with national and international scientists in CIP and other Ecuadorian and Peruvian organizations. Decisions have been primarily made in country by collaborative research-action teams, complemented by supporting virtual dialogue (email, Skype) among Canadian and Andean colleagues.
Implementation partnerships involved dynamic shifts in the core collaborations among organizations strongly linked with Andean institutions. Foremost among these were farmers' organizations. The common role of the project teams has been to strengthen existing organizations, though the HortiSana team has also worked with farmer innovators to facilitate organization of groups of organic farmers in municipalities where no such organizations existed. Representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) which regularly work with farmers and municipal technicians, and who increasingly perform development roles in their jurisdictions, played key roles during implementation. To formalize links between, for example CIP or INIAP and NGOs, memoranda of understanding have been elaborated, specifying in detail the nature of the collaboration, resource flows, counterpart support and mutual objectives. NGOs have also worked with a wide range of stakeholders, often bringing them together in “platforms”, and social spaces where discussion, coordination, project development and learning from research results could occur. An example is the “Platform for Inter institutional Dialogue to Work towards Sustainable Production in the Mantaro Valley” in Peru, in which the idea of a “bioferia” in Chupuro, Peru was developed into a successful marketing and health education event .
A third kind of partnerships has involved knowledge use by mainly policy actors, usually at higher levels of government, who can position the activities and results of the intervention-research process. Relationships with these political actors have been more complex, often taking the form of shifting alliances among a wider range of social actors. For example, in policy and regulatory initiatives, such as the prohibition of extremely and highly hazardous pesticides in Ecuador , much work is required by multiple civil society actors working with sympathetic government actors to undertake effective implementation.