Buttons with words "with not for"

Authentic Partnership Approach

Traditional approaches to knowledge mobilization fail to recognize the important contributions that persons with illness or disability can make to the knowledge generation, sharing process and the various ways in which learning and transformation can take place. Over the past decade, the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) at the University of Waterloo, Canada, has adopted an Authentic Partnership approach with people living with dementia, family care partners and professionals.

Our participatory initiatives, conducted since 2001, led to the development of an Authentic Partnership approach that focuses on incorporating and valuing the contributions of all those involved in the care process. 

Our Authentic Partnership approach includes three guiding principles and five enabling factors.

Three guiding principles

  • a genuine regard for self and others
  • synergistic relationships where the collective wisdom of the group is seen as richer than the knowledge and skills of any one person, and
  • a focus on the process that allows for supportive modifications and creative responses to issues developed from new learning.

These principles serve as our moral compass that guide us towards making decisions for all of our work.

Five enabling factors

  1. Connect and commit. This enabler joins partners from different backgrounds together, to mutually set partnership goals and guidelines, considering the strengths of all partners involved.
  2. Create a safe space. To support the formation of strong relationships, a safe space must be established that is built on trust and where all partners feel comfortable and open, both physically and emotionally, to share their opinions. The space must also be free of distractions and fuel an awareness and sensitivity to any discomfort or frustration felt by the partners. 
  3. Value diverse perspectives.  This enabler emphasizes the importance of appreciating and considering all ideas, contributions, and forms of participation within the Authentic Partnership. This enabler also views differences between partners as opportunities to learn and grow from each other.
  4. Establish and maintain open communication. Building strong lines of communication and connection within the partnership, requires partners to use accessible language, clarify meanings, and provide alternative ways of sharing within the partnership, which may include the need for flexibility during meetings, to provide partners extra time to share and communicate.
  5. Conduct regular reflection and dialogue.  This enabler focuses on ongoing check-ins throughout the development of Authentic Partnerships.  It promotes the need for personal and group reflection and communication within the partnership, to assess what is going well, what can be improved, and how the partnerships can be strengthened.

MAREP has been a pioneer in supporting people with dementia in knowledge generation and translation in that all of our research and education initiatives involve collaboration between all relevant stakeholders, including researchers, people with dementia, families, staff, and community members. MAREP actively includes all stakeholders directly in decision making and acknowledges the value of diverse perspectives. In other words we work WITH, not FOR others.

Essentially, we work in collaboration with our partners, including people with dementia because we feel:

  • People with dementia have the right to be, and must be, involved in dementia care
  • Understanding the experiences of dementia from the perspective of those living with dementia is critical to quality of life
  • People with dementia can continue to grow and learn but need adequate information, resources and support to do so
  • Good dementia care requires strong partnerships between all involved in dementia care

Although our philosophy is related to dementia, this philosophy applies to all people. 

Authentic partnership approach

Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) was highlighted as a leader in dementia care at the Alzheimer Disease International conference in 2011.

Featured in a film showcasing the best practices in the dementia field around the world, MAREP was recognized for its innovative authentic partnership approach. See the MAREP portion of the film.