Background: Community-academic partnerships are an increasingly popular approach to addressing community health problems and engaging vulnerable populations in research. Despite these altruistic foci, however, partnerships often struggle with fundamental issues that thwart sustainability, effectiveness, and efficiency.
Objectives: We adapted a synergy-promoting model to guide the development and evaluation of a community-academic partnership and share lessons learned along the way.
Methods: We analyzed the partnership process over time to determine the interaction of trust, collaboration, and engagement in creating partnership synergy and promoting sustainability.
Lessons Learned: Few community-academic partnerships use a conscious and systematic approach to guide and evaluate their progress. We argue that this is an important first step in creating a partnership, sustaining a milieu of open dialogue, and developing strategies that promote trust and equalize power dynamics. Still, as we learned, the best laid plans can go awry, challenging partnership synergy throughout its lifespan.