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Priceless Partnership: Inter-Association Collaboration Bring Big Returns on Modest Investments

Priceless Partnership: Inter-Association Collaboration Bring Big Returns on Modest Investments

By Sarah Lampson

Members of the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) had long been requesting standardised, formal professional development opportunities. When CARA hired me as Executive Director in 2013, one of my mandates was to develop and implement a structured, evaluated program would help members achieve formal recognition of their competence and enhance their ability to be excellent research administrators.

CARA had a single staff member (me) and a committed board looking to provide increased services and opportunities to the membership within very limited financial parameters. We also have a dedicated volunteer Chair, Professional Development, who had organized many successful webinars for our members. 

While CARA had no specific financial resources allocated to develop and launch a new, externally certified program, it did have strong relationships with similar associations in Canada and internationally. As part of a benchmarking exercise, I had gathered a lot of important information on the external environment and wanted to make sure Canadian research administrators had access to the best certificate program at a cost they could afford. 

The British Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) had established a robust, externally verified professional qualifications certificate program – the first of its kind in our profession. I was also looking at other programs in development internationally and what similar associations in Canada were doing. 

Program Partners

ARMA and CARA then partnered to offer this program to CARA members. ARMA receives the registration fee which allows it to provide administrative and IT services for the program, including hiring Canadian professionals as assessors and managing certification with the ATHE, a global provider of innovative management qualifications. CARA is responsible for the development and delivery of the formal learning for Canadian students and receives all the income from that portion of the program costs.

The partnership allowed flexibility to CARA to ensure its goals of accessibility were met. The Canadian version of the qualifications differed from international (the certificate is also offered in many European countries) norms in several ways including:

  • Offering members a chance to complete the formal learning components via webinar (rather than in-person workshops with prohibitive travel costs in our large country)
  • CARA provides free translation support so francophone members can participate without an additional financial burden
  • CARA offers two webinar registrations each year as part of its volunteer recognition which volunteers can use toward the program requirements

Working within our financial framework required creativity, a lot of research and solid relationships, but the collaboration was far more beneficial to our members than if we had simply established our own program. The international focus allows us to standardize and continuously improve the learning in a global context, position our students as experts internationally, and raises our profile as an association as we advocate for our profession with global partners.

To learn more about our program visit: https://cara-acaar.ca/professionalDevelopment/professionalCertification



Sarah Lampson is the Executive Director of CARA and works with the Executive Board to provide organizational leadership and develop and implement its strategic plan. Sarah’s key achievements include significantly increasing services to members, a proven track record of strong financial management and stewarding international partnerships that have resulted in the development of Canada’s first professional qualifications in research management and administration. Since Sarah was recruited to CARA in 2013 membership has increased 15% and the number of members volunteering with the association has increased 400%. Sarah has co-authored two books and is a nominee for the Hamilton YWCA Women of Distinction awards in March 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @lampson_sarah.




Leadership, Association, Research


Education, Guest Contributor



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