Partner – Issue Fit (strategic alignment)

Partnerships full of good intentions can be ineffective because the collaborating parties have different intentions about (a) what they would like to achieve with the partnership, and (b) how it relates to the value proposition of their own organisation.

This can take a number of forms. Sometimes there are differences in strategic ambition for the partnership (see box, right). In other cases a partnership may include those who, for whatever reason, are at odds with the partnering endeavour’s goals and key objectives.

It is important for partners to consider which organisations or what expertise or contributions may be missing, and to make a plan to fill this gap. Sometimes partners may seem to be ‘freeriding’ and partners will need to respond, including asking the partner concerned to leave. In other cases, unwilling partners may be joining forces due to funding requirements or political considerations.

Whatever the causes or manifestation of poor alignment between partners and the partnership’s objectives, wherever it occurs it should be discussed openly and worked through at the outset. This could be a useful way not just of ensuring that the ‘right’ people are at the table (allowing for organisations to come and go at different points), but also by providing an early experience of handling difficult conversations and arriving at collective decisions.


  • What is the partnering activity’s goal? What partner configuration is needed to achieve this goal effectively?
  • How do we ensure affected people are involved and that their voices are being heard?
  • How can we ensure that we have the appropriate set of partners needed to address the issue?
  • How can we fill the gap of potentially crucial contributors?
  • To what extent is the partnering endeavour’s goal related to core activities of each stakeholder (partnership portfolio management)?



  • Partner expertise and preferred ways of working are understood and incorporated consciously and constructively
  • Wickedness of the issue is linked with the expertise of each partner
  • Appropriate expertise and capacities are available to the partnership