Why partnership approaches?

Partnerships are proving popular mechanisms for working towards development goals.  Some people are very optimistic that they can ‘break the mould’. Others dismiss them as little more than hype... 


A disjoint is gradually emerging between policymakers that champion (and in many cases, mandate) a partnership approach and practitioners on the ground who find different aspects of working in partnership extremely difficult.  Sceptics note, in particular, the tendency of partnerships to include the already included or to create channels for different groups to abdicate their responsibility.


While the term 'partnership' is as widely used as ever, different relational arrangements are increasingly being acknowledged, thanks to the efforts of BPD and others. Constructs ranging from networks to joint ventures and including partnerships, clearly require differing levels of accountability and risk. 


Donors and policymakers, even as they advocate for more partnerships, struggle to adapt this to their own rules (particularly around procurement) and unwritten norms (particularly around participation) in order to create the necessary space.


The resources below look at some of the background to partnership approaches, their changing context and ways to clarify what we are talking about.  Along with an in-depth look at how each sector is evolving in relation to partnership approaches, these may help dispel some of the frustration created by such a vague, yet widely-used notion.


Key BPD documents on the need for partnership approaches

Current partnership context in water and sanitation

Extracts from BPD’s 2008 business plan that highlight where the sector has been and where it may be going.

The purist's partnership (note) 

A look at how partnership language frames unrealistic expectations and a call to be honest about the challenges of multi-sector partnerships.

Plotting partnerships 

Partners are often torn between various goals. Tensions exist between delivering services and informing policy; between regulating delivery and stimulating innovation. By plotting their course, partners can focus their energies and maintain a sensible balance.

Perceptions of partnership 

Unpacking what public, private and NGO partners may offer, following an early workshop series.

Benefits of partnership to the public sector

Why should the public sector seek help in serving poor customers? A review of what multi-sector partnerships are and the benefits and concerns around such partnerships for the water and sanitation sector.

Benefits of partnership to business

Examining the benefits to business of working in partnership to serve poor customers and asking why private companies should be concerned with serving the poor.

Benefits of partnership to civil society

Looking at the benefits to NGOs and civil society organisations of working in partnership to reach the poor.