Relatively little funding is allocated to building the research capacity of partnerships in child welfare, juvenile justice and children’s mental health. Most funding is tied to specific program initiatives, and funding for research doesn’t include dollars to support the early research activities needed to build a research-practice partnership. In an era when programs are asked to adopt evidence-based models, funding for data infrastructure and administrative operations are needed to enable RPPs to take root. Palinkas, Short, & Wong (2015) relayed that the director of the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center (CASRC) at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, in partnership with county-level child welfare and child mental health service systems, budgeted a full-time position at the mental health agency to support research-related activities. Relationship maintenance is an essential investment, but projects rarely have funding to cover relationship-building activities, particularly between projects. While foundations might fill some of the gap, universities and agency partners can also be encouraged to provide seed money and staff time to cover the essential work of relationship maintenance, such as long-term engagement and sustained presence of researchers, face-to-face meetings, and staff time for coordinating across and between projects (Coburn, Penuel, & Geil, 2013).
Communication and engagement are also areas that can be difficult to fund. Local funders can be especially helpful in this vein as they are often interested in projects that build capacity in their own backyards and in work that demonstrates effectiveness in improving outcomes for local populations. Community outreach workshops, events for sharing research findings with community stakeholders, and other forms of communication to disseminate research findings in accessible ways can be mutually beneficial for the RPP’s ongoing work and for the local funder interested in community impact.
The private sector is often more nimble than their public sector counterparts. Public sector bureaucracy sometimes slows down an agency’s ability to take up available funding or act nimbly in the start-up phase. To get partnerships up and running, funding partners can fill the start-up gap with the expectation that agencies will cover the ongoing maintenance of the partnership. One administrator suggested that this kind of up-front private investment could stimulate more research-practice partnerships, giving them modest but essential support to get up and running. A countering concern is to what extent the researcher’s dependency on the agency for funding threatens the independence of the research and reporting of findings.