Effective partnerships can help address some of our most pressing socialchallenges. Many contemporary problems – local, national and global –extend beyond the capacity of any one sector – public, private or civilsociety – to effectively address alone. Partnerships are particularlyimportant in a global world, where traditional boundaries between what isseen as public versus private responsibilities have become increasinglyblurred, and where problems such as AIDS and climate change extendbeyond national boundaries.This was not always the case. Toward the end of the Cold War, the rolesand responsibilities of governments, the private sector and civil societywere well defined. However, the past decade has witnessed an explosionof civil society organizations worldwide, the globalization of business,changed notions of what governments can and should do, and arevolution in information and communications technologies. This hasresulted in the creation of new networks amongst the public and privatesectors, and the re-defining of previously very clear roles and expectationsof governments, business, and civil society.It is now accepted that governments can no longer manage social issuesalone; the private sector has wider social responsibilities and civil societymust play a role. As a result there has been a rapid growth in partnershipactivity. Today, it would be difficult to find a serious player in any sectorwithout a formal partnership strategy.
Yet, overall, the partnership approach seems to be falling short.
Many partnershipsfail, or fail to live up to their promise. In our view, part of the problem isthe lack of a widely shared understanding about what constitutes a truepartnership; the incentives of the various sectors involved; whenpartnerships make sense (and when they do not); what makes for asuccessful partnership; and how partnerships are best established,operated and evaluated.