Best Practices

Successful international partnerships require intentional planning and a sustained commitment. To ensure the long-term success of your partnership, follow the best practices outlined below:

Vet your Partner(s)

Ensure that you know and trust the person or organization whom you’ll be working with. Partnerships depend on strong individual relationships.

Start Early

Developing strong partnerships takes time. While simple MOUs can be processed quickly, complex legal agreements may take months to complete, depending on a variety of factors. Allow ample time for agreements to be executed before initiating partnership activities.

Confirm Institutional Commitment and Internal Support

The strongest partnerships have broad institutional support and clear goals. Confirm support in your unit, department or college and consider involving other units on campus. Ensure that your partner is equally committed.

Set Clear Expectations

Explicitly discuss your aspirations and expectations with your partner. When expectations are misaligned, communication can break down quickly.

Assess Institutional Fit

Partnerships are most successful when partners have strong reputations, compatible missions and complementary academic strengths.

Align Partnership with Duke’s Mission, Goals, and Values

Privilege partnerships that are compatible with Duke’s mission, strategic goals and values. Consider the implications of working in spaces where academic freedom and human rights are restricted.

Ensure Partnership is Mutually-Beneficial

One-sided relationships are not sustainable. When pursuing a partnership, it is crucial to identify how Duke and the partner institution will mutually benefit from the relationship. Reflect on your identity, power and positionality and consider how global inequities may influence the partnership.

Review Potential Obstacles

Legal, financial and institutional obstacles can derail partnerships between even the most committed partners. Review issues such as visa restrictions, resource inequalities, tuition differentials, and differences in academic standards, schedules and cultural norms before determining partnership activities.

Champion the Partnership

Make sure that you or another faculty member are actively engaged in supporting the efforts of the partnership. Without a strong advocate, partnerships become dormant and exist in paper only.

Build Capacity

Confirm that both partners have the staff, relationships, facilities and financial resources necessary to support the partnership. When possible, allow room for growth over time.


Sustained partnerships require clear and consistent communication. Consider designating a faculty or staff liaison in your unit or department to establish a clear line of communication with your partner.

Measure Impact

Determine the intended outcomes of the partnership. How will this partnership enhance education, research and global engagement at Duke and the partner institution? Develop metrics to measure performance and progress. Review progress with your partner and celebrate accomplishments.