Mutual Benefits and Aligned Purpose

Partners should be aligned around a purpose they all explicitly share. Such alignment will underpin and drive the partnering endeavour forward, create energy and engagement, and foster the emergence of collective intelligence. At the same time, partners should be clear and explicit on the benefit to their own organisations of involvement in the partnering endeavour.

Coming to an agreement about what Theory of Change (ToC) the initiative is built on, including understanding the underlying assumptions on what is needed to promote change and about how to continuously respond to an evolving environment, is key to increased partnering effectiveness. This should result in learning and increased understanding of the complexity of the issues that the initiative seeks to address. It is also important the partners share what they each believe it takes for change to happen through their own organisations (their own Theory of Change).

Openness and transparency about what partners would like to achieve is the basis for gaining support from fellow partners. Ensuring mutual benefit is the basis for building enduring commitment from the partner organisations.


  • How do we fully explore and understand our assumptions about each other, about partnering and about each other’s ToC?
  • How do we arrive at an aligned purpose among all key partners?
  • In what way do we jointly develop a ToC that will guide the initiative?
  • How can we improve the ToC throughout the process?
  • How do we fully value (understanding and acknowledging) each other’s contributions?
  • How do we best cultivate win-win and truly inclusive solutions?
  • How can we build strategic alignment in the initiative (either from the start or in the course of the partnering venture)?


  • Case study: Applied examples of Theory of Change.
  • Case study: Co-developing the initiative’s theory of change: a detailed approach with a worked example.
  • Report: Navigating Complex Change: This Collective Leadership Studies volume explores the conceptual background and application of CLI’s core methodological approach, the Collective Leadership Compass that empowers individuals and groups of leaders to navigate complex change in multi-stakeholder collaboration.
  • Tool: To come to a joint understanding of the problem you are working on, use this worksheet.
  • Tool: Tool for visualising each partner’s ToC.
  • Tool: For an easy introduction on what a Theory of Change (ToC) is, please view this video.


  • The jointly developed Theory of Change is robust, based on thorough analysis and it informs operations
  • The partners challenge each other
  • Partners challenge their assumptions to prevent ‘group think’
  • Partners work on fine-tuning their goals and/or on developing more concrete collective visions for the partnership (linked to specific SDG targets)
  • Each partner is able to understand the motivations of other partner