Skip to main content

How do partnerships create value?

Given the time and challenges involved in partnering, the primary driver for working through MSPs must be that, by combining our resources, we can deliver far more than we could alone: ie the partnership must be able to deliver more than the sum of its constituent parts. Additionally, every partnership must create net value for each partner – otherwise there is no incentive for their continued involvement. 

While this may seem obvious, too many partnerships have formed where insufficient consideration has been given to these basic premises, resulting in partnership designs that fail to create enough value to be worth the effort. 

In order for partnerships to be a success, it is essential that all partners focus on: 

  1. Added value of the partnership as a whole – how by working together they can create significant added value towards the partnership’s objectives;  
  2. Benefits / value created for each individual partners – how each individual partner can gain the most from the partnership – not at the expense of other partners, but through win-win, mutual benefit (ie the more one partner benefits, the more the others benefit). 

1. Added value of a partnership as a whole

We define two concepts for partners to consider in their partnership design: 

  • Collaborative Advantage is the extra power, alchemy or ‘magic’ – that allows a group of actors to collectively deliver more than the sum of their input parts i.e. 1+1>>2. It is the intrinsic reason why a partnership approach can deliver solutions and impact beyond that of a single actor, or actors working independently.

Or: How is it that by working together we’ll be able to deliver significantly more? 

  • The Partnership Delta or Partnership Difference (ΔP) is the additional impact a partnership delivers compared with single actor approaches, as a result of the Collaborative Advantage. 

Or: What specific extra impact will be able to achieve? 

Partnerships that focus on doing traditional development better 

There is a whole series of different Collaborative Advantages from innovation to standard setting, delivering at scale to exploiting synergies (see next page). Often partnership will deliver on several Collaborative Advantages at any one 

time. The Partnership Delta is the differential impact that results from those Collaborative Advantages. 

Partnerships that focus on system transformation 

The Collaborative Advantage is that the partnership facilitates the combining or aligning of multiple different resources from different sectors into levers that together have the power to transform a system.

The Partnership Delta is the ongoing value generated by the new system in comparison with the old (for example, the transformation from an unsustainable to a sustainable palm oil value chain results in the saving of millions of acres of virgin forest which would otherwise have been destroyed over time). 

It is important to appreciate that many of the Collaborative Advantages that can be used in better development partnerships can also provide levers for system transformation (eg critical mass of organisations can lead to effective advocacy and hence policy shift, a key lever in system change). 

2. Benefits / value created for an individual partner

Benefits to each partner might be of two types:

1. Mission value

Direct or indirect achievement of strategic objectives. 

For an NGO this could include delivery of specific programmatic or advocacy objectives, with direct or indirect impact on intended beneficiaries. For a company it might be gaining commercial value through new business opportunities, or to ensure the sustainability of a supply chain.

2. Organisational gain

Resource gains can include financial gains in the form of funding or cost savings that can be made (for example through sharing services). Organisations might also receive non-financial material gains such as in-kind contributions of goods, services or volunteers. 

3. Indirect and intangible gains 

Organisations may also enter partnerships to achieve a number of non- tangible benefits. These might include, for example, social or political capital; networking and connections; increased legitimacy; reputational benefits; influence and positioning; knowledge and capacity building; innovation in thinking and employee morale and retention. 

In order to ensure NET benefit, each partner must also assess the cost of their involvement, including the full cost of staff time, in-kind contributions etc. and financial contributions. 

TPI’s value assessment tool can be used at the inception of a partnership to explore the forms of value that can be created by the partnership, and at what cost, and can allow partners to ensure together that the partnership is set up to deliver maximum value, in terms of its own mission, and for each partner.  

For more on system transformation, including the powerful set of levers multi-stakeholder partnerships can use to transform systems, see Annex 3, page 69 of the SDG Partnership Guidebook. 

For 10 forms of Collaborative Advantage and Partnership Difference (ΔP) for traditional development partnerships, see page 35 of the SDG Partnership Guidebook.

In depth: More than the sum of its parts

Our webinar, More than the Sum of its Parts, took an in-depth look at our framework for understanding and maximising value creation in partnerships. The framework was developed in collaboration with World Vision, and forms the basis for our guidebook with UNDESA: Maximising the Impact of the SDGs: A Practical Guide to Partnership Value Creation.

Panelists from World Vision, Pearson, UNDESA and Unicef discussed the framework and guidebook, which allow systematic examination and maximisation of partnership value creation, with its three interlinked constituents: 1) the extra power intrinsic to partnership; 2) the additional impact partnerships can deliver (hinging on the ‘collaborative advantage’); and 3) the value generated for all partners. Panelists also shared key examples from their own work, highlighting the different forms of ‘collaborative advantage’ that generated value well beyond what partners could achieve alone.

Close Menu