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Partnering for Sustainable Development: Challenges and Pathways for Building Cross-Sector Partnerships

UN Global Compact Network Australia | October 18, 2016

The Global Compact Network Australia has released an issues paper, Partnering for Sustainable Development: Challenges and Pathways for Building Cross-Sector Partnerships, ahead of partnership workshops being convened in November 2016.

There has been growing momentum, both globally and within Australia, around cross-sector partnership as well as engaging the private sector as a development actor.

Goal 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) specifically calls for a new global partnership – embedding the importance of collaborative working to achieve a sustainable future. In Australia, the Hon. Julie Bishop MP, Australia’s Foreign Minister, launched the Ministerial Statement on engaging the private sector in aid and development – Creating shared value through partnership – the Australian Government’s invitation to the private sector to collaborate with the aid program to tackle development challenges.

Despite these developments, and energetic discourse among stakeholders about the need for collaboration, to date there has been an emphasis on the opportunities of partnering but less acknowledgement of the potential difficulties in building and maintaining effective partnerships. There has also not been a focus on the ‘how to’ of good partnering practice, and the need to build our collective capability to partner.

To better understand current practices and challenges in cross-sector partnering, the GCNA conducted discussions with business and NGOs, which informed the issues paper. In turn, the issues paper has informed the design of workshops being convened by the GCNA to build cross-sector partnering capacity.

In terms of current practice, the issues paper identified that:

  • There is a variable understanding of the definition of partnership.
  • Transformative partnerships are rare but highly valued.
  • There are positive examples of partnership among all sectors.

Key challenges to cross-sector partnering include:

  • Different worldviews, different frames of reference, different timelines.
  • Lack of trust between business and NGOs.
  • Conflicting perceptions of value and relevance.
  • Lack of common partnering process and framework.
  • Limited capability to partner.
  • Internal or structural barriers for NGOs.
  • The need for impact measurement.

The issues paper also identifies potential pathways for building cross-sector partnering, including:

  • Building empathy across-sectors.
  • Identifying areas of common impact using the SDGs.
  • Agreeing ‘rules of engagement’ and a common process.
  • Building our collective capability to partner.
  • Impact-led metrics and design.

Download the Issues Paper

More information about our Cross-Sector Partnering Workshops


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UN Global Compact Network Australia