Quotes on Partnerships

Enjoyed being on the Lasting Change panel chaired by Jo Confino at the Guardian Sustainable Business event (25 November 2014) on creating better partnerships for sustainability. Here are some of the things I said that were tweeted by the Guardian:

Partnership quotes

Many partnerships are not healthy; they’re often hugely imbalanced in terms of power.

What each partner brings to the table has to be different but equivalent.

NGOs enter partnerships to change firms, but most corporates don’t want to change. Sounds like marriage!

Hidden agendas such as fundraising (NGO) or PR (corporate) may impact on the success of the partnership.

You can’t get to solutions quick enough and to big enough scale without partners.

The partnerships that last are those which have been committed to strategically. Everyone has to buy-in to it.

I suspect we’ll see more sociologists/psychologists helping partners to address resistance/challenges.

Companies often think they have solution for a community. Yet they don’t always work in that environment/culture.

Partnerships should be aimed at policy change – start with the coalition of the willing.

Half of the partners we researched hadn’t done consultation with beneficiaries.

The majority of partnerships are stuck in project mindset; we need more innovation laboratory mindsets.




Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Partnerships for Sustainable Development:

An Inclusive, Cross-Sector Approach

Paper by Ruth Findlay-Brooks, Wayne Visser and Thurstan Wright


Cross-sector partnerships are increasingly being seen as a key development approach for the 21st Century, with many governments and international agencies viewing them as the most effective way to deal with complex and intractable development problems that have defeated single-sector interventions.

However, partnerships are not a straightforward option. Some see them as merely a “phase of policy experimentation” (Geddes, 2000, p797) – a short-term response to rapid global change. There can also be issues of accountability and power imbalance, when un-elected corporations and NGOs have influence in states where governments are weak or failing.  Even where they are the best solution, there can be real obstacles in both the development and management of partnerships which are too easily ignored.

This research draws on the University of Cambridge Programme for Industry’s (CPI’s) many years’ experience of partnership work – and in particular on the experiences of those running and participating in the Postgraduate Certificate in Cross-sector Partnership (PCCP) course.

Through exploring the experiences of these partnership practitioners, together with current thinking on the topic, the paper concludes that, if we are relying on partnerships to bring about structural change and long-term development impacts, then they need to be firmly tied into genuinely inclusive consultation processes, operate within accountability frameworks, be properly supported and evaluated, and where appropriate lead ultimately to policy change.


Following the perceived shortcomings of the 1980s Structural Adjustment Programmes in developing countries, public/private partnerships or tri-sector partnerships are perceived as a more sustainable option, with donor agencies giving direct budget support to governments, along with the encouragement of partnership between development agencies, national governments and business. Tennyson asserts (2004, p3) that “only with comprehensive and widespread cross-sector collaboration can we ensure that sustainable development initiatives are imaginative, coherent and integrated enough to tackle the most intractable problems.”

The increasing popularity of partnership as a development solution, however, makes it all the more important to take a realistic view and to test the assumptions made about it. Two common pitfalls need to be avoided:

  1. that the act of setting up a partnership is seen in itself as having taken action on a problem, irrespective of its appropriateness or outcomes; and
  2. that cross-sector partnership is seen as a friendly, straightforward solution to development issues, resisting efforts to problematise, question or test its effectiveness.

Unless a more robust and realistic approach is taken to partnering as a development approach, then it risks suffering a backlash from unmet, unrealistic expectations which could result in its positive potential being lost. For this reason, we have endeavoured to take a critical approach to the findings of this study and look at ways in which partnership can, if it is to offer a successful way of aiding inclusive development, be supported through planning and policy …

Continue reading

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”download” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/paper_partnerships_sustainability_wvisser.pdf”]Pdf[/button] Partnerships for Sustainable Development (paper)

Related pages

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”info” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.waynevisser.com/books/the-age-of-responsibility”]Page[/button] The Age of Responsibility (book)

[button size=”small” color=”blue” style=”tick” new_window=”false” link=”http://www.cpsl.cam.ac.uk”]Link[/button] Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (website)

Cite this article

Findlay-Brooks, R., Visser, W. & Wright, T. (2007) Partnerships for Sustainable Development: An Inclusive, Cross-Sector Approach Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership Paper Series, No. 4.

Share this page