Raising the bar of partnership performance

By Rob van Tulder, Partnerships Resource Centre

With the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, partnering has been acknowledged as one of the 5 founding principles for increased impact. Partnering serves as the linking pin between the four other founding principles (Peace, Prosperity, People, Planet) and the 17 ultimate aims of the SDGs.

The PEP Facility asserts that the SDGs cannot be addressed by organisations working in silos; they require collaborative approaches between a multitude of organisations and sectors to energise and generate new thinking and practices. The term ‘partnering’ refers to the range of processes, methodologies and structures through which organisations come together to achieve a shared goal.

Working in such partnerships can be highly challenging. Many partnering arrangements fall short of meeting needs, expectations and hoped-for goals. It is therefore vitally important to learn from what has not worked and to focus on working together more effectively in order to improve performance. Knowledge about the current quality, practices and impact of partnering tends to be fragmented, relatively superficial and often not easily accessible to practitioners. There are few ‘safe spaces’ offering opportunities to learn from experiences or to seek support. As a result, partnering mistakes might be repeated. Achieving the SDGs requires a better understanding of how multi-stakeholder initiatives can best foster innovation and drive change.

PEP’s five founding partners have pooled their knowledge and experience to identify what it takes to raise the bar of partnership performance. We fully recognise that there are no quick fixes and that one collaboration model does not fit all. At the same time, we firmly believe that there are core success factors to effective partnering.


Effective partnering requires us to:

1.     Break through our assumptions and preconceptions about each other

2.     Recognise and relish diversity as an asset rather than a problem

3.     Properly value the many kinds of different contributions each partner brings

4.     Develop new skills in partnership-building, collaboration brokering and collective leadership

5.     Understand the systems and contexts in which our partnerships operate

6.     Apply the highest standards to all our partnering endeavours

7.     Invest in the partnering process in order to optimise engagement

8.     Learn and be prepared to change course on the basis of growing insights

9.     Be modest in understanding our own limitations and abilities

10.  Keep our eye on the ball: partnering is a means to an end


Suggested tools and approaches for promoting effective partnering are built on these ten foundations. They are offered for adoption and adaptation by practitioners and policymakers. We invite partners to question our approaches as well as their own, in response to their experiences.

Through this website, we aim to create a vibrant alliance that can drive the partnership movement and improve the quality and quantity of partnering worldwide.

We welcome your feedback and additional inputs that promote effective partnering.

Leave a comment