Forming Partnerships

I come from an agricultural research and development background and am convinced that the complex problems we deal cannot be addressed by one organization alone. It should be a collective action, involving different stakeholders, working towards common objectives. But it is easier said than done!

I found a very interesting article (ICRA Learning Resources – The ARD Learning Cycle, produced by ICRA) about forming partnerships with very relevant questions we should ask ourselves, when forming partnerships:



  • What goal do the partners want to achieve together?
  • What are the desirable medium-term outcomes, which will contribute to the goal?
  • What are the more concrete outputs the different partners will produce to achieve the outcome?
  • What are the main assumptions made in constructing this series of causal linkages between objectives?
  • What activities are necessary to achieve the outputs identified?


  • Which stakeholders are most interested in addressing the development challenge identified?
  • Which organizations have the mandate, the competencies (disciplinary expertise) and resources to address the challenge?
  • Who should be included in the partnership?
  • Who is responsible for the different outputs or activities planned?


  • How can the partners organize to address the challenge?
  • How will the activities of the different partners be coordinated?
  • What teams are needed to steer and implement the process of working together?
  • Who can best represent each partner in these teams?
  • What is the optimum size for these teams?
  • Is a formal agreement between partners necessary?


  • How will the teams established by the partnership be managed?
  • What sort of leadership is most appropriate for the teams?
  • What is the role of each team member?
  • Are the time allocations for joint activities and logistical arrangements acceptable to all?
  • What measures will be taken if institutional partners or team members do not live up to the expectations of others?


  • What resources (human, financial, material) are necessary to implement the proposed activities of the partnership?
  • If additional funding (above that included in the “regular” institutional budgets) is necessary, what the potential sources of such funding?
  • What information do these potential funding sources need to be able to approve such funding? What activities are necessary to provide this funding?

Reflection and learning

  • What activities will the partners carry out to monitor and evaluate the achievement of the agreed activities and objectives (outputs and outcomes)?
  • What activities will the partners carry out to monitor and evaluate the process of working together?
  • How will these lessons learned be used to adjust future activities of the specific partnership and the management and organization of the individual institutions involved?

In relation to these questions, the interview with Prof. Robert Chambers, emphasizing key considerations for successful partnerships, provides some useful reflections on personalities and relationships:

There are many things, and I am sure others will have mentioned them, which make for successful partnerships and which also lead to failures of partnerships. There is one which tends to be neglected and which is, to my mind, fundamental and really deserves attention and this is individual personality and interpersonal relationships. So much in a partnership depends on what sorts of people are involved, how they relate to one another, how participatory they are, whether they dominate or whether they facilitate, how they make other people feel, whether they feel comfortable whether they feel they can be open or whether they feel they are vulnerable to criticism and linked with this power-relations which are inevitable, particularly when funding is involved. (first audio file)

Do you have examples of successful partnerships to share with us? We would like to hear from you.


ICRA (n.d.) ICRA Learning Resources – The ARD Learning Cycle. [Learning resource - PDF]

This learning resource forms part of the ICRA learning resources, written for use in capacity building programmes in “Agricultural Research for Development” offered by ICRA ( It was prepared by ICRA staff, and edited by Richard Hawkins.