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In order to achieve the SDGs, collaboration across sectors needs to take place at a scale not witnessed before. For this to happen requires the development of a ‘partnering support system’ able to influence the policy environment; create mechanisms and platforms that can systematically convene stakeholders and catalyze partnerships; directly support partnerships to be as effective and impactful as possible; help organizations to become institutionally fit for partnering, and build the partnering skills and capacities of individuals.


A Partnering Support System: The set of actors of all kinds (whether organizations, initiatives, platforms, individuals, etc.) that together make accessible the necessary support, catalysis, and capacity building at the appropriate level to drive widespread development of collaborative action.

The key principles of partnership working are, openness, trust, honesty agreed shared goals and values, and regular communication between partners. Partnership working is at the heart of the agenda for improving outcomes and making local services cost-effective. intends to drive the global movement for quality effective partnering for the Sustainable Development Goals.


Back in 2015, in a quiet corner of the UN system, a technical paper emerged arguing thoughtfully that the SDGs represent a breakthrough for integration. They are a new benchmark for development, based on the idea that water (for example) cannot be considered in isolation from energy or education; that development in poor countries cannot be viewed separately from that in rich countries; or that the operations of the private sector cannot meaningfully be understood as a distinct sphere of activity from the activities of the public sector.


In short, the SDGs are universal and indivisible. By providing an interconnected framework, rather than a linear and partial list of targets – as we saw under the MDGs – they reflect the collaboration and interlinkages that are at the heart of human and natural systems. All development activities – and arguably, all areas of human societies and economies – can now be considered in the context of the SDGs.

Partnership is not just the seventeenth Global Goal, but it is explicitly recognized as a key means for implementing the SDGs. The goals are underpinned by a holistic mindset, and a spirit of collaboration and integration. They demand an interdependent response. attempts to follow the lead set by the SDGs. We seek to reflect the open, inquiring approach of the SDGs. This is why we have very deliberately avoided trying to produce a step-by-step ‘Idiot’s guide to partnering’, and instead embraced the complex and iterative nature of the SDGs.


Just as the SDGs should be thought of not as a list but as a network, so partnering knowledge cannot be presented in the form of a list, or an engineering blueprint. All partnering endeavors are context-specific and it is ultimately up to each collaborative venture to find its own solutions.


Like the SDGs, the partnering process is a rapid and steep learning journey. The hard-won experience of others can provide us with many handholds along the way. Tools and guidance and thought leadership produced over the last 20 years or more helps to shine light on many of the most common partnering questions.


Some of this knowledge is hard to access, or available only in technical manuals. And more recently, knowledge can be hard to find through search engines because it only appears in video or audio form. We also see enormous duplication of effort, as the same answers are identified time and time again to solve common partnering problems. Part of the ambition of is to help increase accessibility and reduce duplication of effort by making it easier to identify proven knowledge.



In this regard, the selection of information that appears on is not random. It has been put together based on the decades of experience of its five founding partners: an initial quality filter has been applied. is a self-service resource that is most effective when you are highly specific about the partnering challenge you are facing and open-minded about the kind of solutions that might be available. We are not so much seeking to generate new knowledge, rather we seek to apply more effective knowledge that has already been produced.


Finally, we recognize that there are limits to the amount of knowledge that can be gained from an online platform. There is a real-world support system emerging to inject speed and scale into partnering endeavors, and we would encourage you to seek them out.

What general principles could help organizations to facilitate and create better partnerships?

Identify bespoke solutions:

Different problems require specific local partnerships to find specific local solutions. There is no single type of partnership that fits all solutions.

Structure matters less than purpose:
Getting the structure right can be a never-ending and futile quest. Partnerships need to be flexible and adapt to the issues or tasks.

Focus on outcomes:

One way to make partnerships more successful is to become more outcome-focused and define the purpose or added value of partnerships from the outset. The true value of partnerships value lies in what they can add to a project through shared objectives, aims, and outcomes.

Pool budgets where appropriate:
Pooling budgets may be part of the answer, and already happens, but their potential is often not fully exploited. Key Principles for Partnership Working (Scottish Government)

Clarify responsibilities:

In most partnerships, it’s unclear who’s responsible or accountable for what does and doesn’t happen.

Give partnerships time to yield results: It can take time to see the outcomes from partnerships. This is partly because it takes time to establish trust and joint methods of working.


“Working in partnership is central to reducing health inequalities – one department acting alone cannot tackle an issue that does not respect organizational boundaries

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