This paper analyses the politics, challenges and possibilities of an action research collaboration involving multiple partners in seeking socially just educational change in a high-poverty region. The research context is an Australian Research Council Linkage project, Redesigning Pedagogies in the North (RPiN). The collaborating partners are (1) a research team from the University of South Australia's Centre for Studies of Literacy, Policy and Learning Cultures; (2) the Northern Adelaide Secondary School Principals Network, comprising principals of all ten secondary schools in this region; and (3) the SA branch of the Australian Education Union. We begin by situating RPiN's methodological approach in current literatures and debates about action research partnerships. In this, we highlight how RPiN enlists the agency of teachers, students and university researchers in designing and implementing curriculum units that function as research, eliciting 'funds of knowledge' in students' lifeworlds beyond school that can contribute to more vitally 'relevant' school curriculum and pedagogy. We then evaluate each partner's historical and current investments in action research, as associated with commitments to social-educational justice. From this, we analyse tensions, challenges and emergent possibilities across the collaboration, drawing on RPiN project data and policy documents from the partnership organizations.