How Multistakeholder Partnerships Can Accelerate the UN Sustainable Development Goals



Appendix A. Stakeholder Research Methodology 

To understand stakeholder motivations for partnering, their contributions, and interest in transformation, we conducted stakeholder-specific literature reviews, consultations, and interviews. All are described in this appendix.

Literature reviews


The government literature review was performed using Google Scholar and University E-libraries. The search was limited to articles published between 2016 and 2020. The search was divided into two stages. The first stage was focused on the barriers and the benefits of developing partnerships among government, the private sector, and CSOs; as well as the characteristics of a transformative partnership from the government perspective. The second stage was focused on successful case examples.  

The main search terms for the first stage were government transformations for development, government partnerships to achieve SDGs, barriers for SDG partnerships, examples of sector and government partnerships, innovative government partnerships, cross-sectoral collaboration for SDGs, and unlocking investment through partnerships. Articles from development institutions and consultancy companies were prioritized. The main research points included in the government report were validated and discussed with GGGI experts.

The second phase of research was performed using project database and Google search. GGGI case examples on government and private-sector partnerships were selected based on the project impact achieved and certain project characteristics compatible with the scope of the report. Interviews with project managers and country representatives from GGGI were held to gather project details and feedback on the barriers for developing partnerships between the government and the private sector. 

All other examples were retrieved mostly from development partners’ project databases such as the UN and the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.


Information on businesses as partnership stakeholders was sourced through two literature reviews. The first examined the business case for business participation in the SDGs more broadly, looking at how and why companies engage in sustainable development initiatives. The second more specifically addressed businesses as partnership stakeholders, focusing on business motivation to partner and business contributions to partnerships.

For both lines of inquiry, literature was sourced through searches on Ebsco Discovery Scholar, Google, and Google Scholar. Literature was restricted to work published between 2015 and 2020. Search terms for the first literature review included business, business case, business participation, SDG or Sustainable Development Goal, and sustainable development. Search terms for the second literature search included business, public-private partnership, multistakeholder partnership, SDG or Sustainable Development Goal, participation, stakeholder, offering, and contributor.


The CSO literature search was conducted using Google and performed after the research team settled on a search strategy for the government and business sections. As such, it was limited to one search, which included terms like CSO partnerships, NGO partnership, multistakeholder partnerships, public-private partnerships, CSO/NGO partnerships offerings, CSO/NGO partnership motivations, CSO/NGO coalitions, CSO/NGO collaboration, multistakeholder collaboration, CSO/NGO partnership barriers, CSO/NGO partnership challenges, and CSO/NGO partnership success factors.


We also supplemented our literature reviews with expert knowledge, as we noticed that available literature on stakeholder contributions to partnerships was limited and did not typically address partnerships interested in transformation. For the government expertise, report co-author GGGI consulted in-house government experts to review and validate research and case studies presented in the government stakeholder section. Experts consulted include GGGI’s country representative for Thailand, country representative for Mexico, country representative for Hungary, head of Green Cities Teams, head of the Climate Action and Inclusive Development Unit, and expert within its Investment and Policy Solutions Division. 

For businesses and CSOs, we conducted a few dozen interviews with leaders in both sectors. These leaders had deep experience with sustainability and/or partnerships and were sourced from WRI’s extensive international network as well as WRI’s Corporate Consultative Group. In sum, we spoke to a total of 30 parties. See Box A1 for a complete list of organizations interviewed.

After completing all interviews, we extracted key themes around each stakeholders’ contributions to partnerships and reasons why they were interested in partnering. These are presented in Chapter 3. We supported each theme with an example, often drawing from the in-house expertise of WRI and GGGI, which have both been engaged in or are aware of myriad partnerships across all sectors. To fill in the details of the cases, additional literature searches were conducted, and these are cited as appropriate throughout Chapter 3.  

Box A1 | Organizations Interviewed

Businesses: Canadian Solar, Citigroup Inc., Colgate-Palmolive, Danfoss, Grundfos, FEMSA, The LEGO Group, Mars, Incorporated, State of Green, SUMe, Suzano Papel e Celulose, Temasek

CSOs: BSR, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, CDP, Circle Economy, Clean Cooking Alliance, Climate Policy Initiative, Enterprise Partners, Institute for Sustainable Communities, Mission 2020, Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), Rocky Mountain Institute, UN Global Compact (UNGC), We Mean Business (WMB), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), World Resources Institute (WRI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Source: WRI Authors.

Interview Discussion Guide 

The following document is the discussion guide that we used for businesses and CSOs. The interview questions are at the end of the guide. 

State-of-the-Art Report Discussion Guide  


Report Review

  • This informal, off-the-record discussion is in support of the WRI State-of-the-Art Report, which explores how multistakeholder partnerships with transformation potential maximize their effectiveness toward driving SDG action. 
    • For the purposes of the report, we are interested in partnerships that comprise at least one commercial and one noncommercial partner and are aiming for scalability, looking for commercial viability, and aiming to overcome market barriers.
    • For the purposes of the report, we consider the following four characteristics of transformation: systemic, nonlinear, deviates from the status quo, and long-term or sustained. 

Report Rationale  

  • The global sustainable development community has developed a heightened interest in transformative action, especially as it pertains to the SDGs. 
  • Part of the hope in fulfilling the SDGs hinges on the effectiveness of transformative multistakeholder partnerships in their quest to accelerate SDG action. 
  • While we cannot yet speak to impacts because this type of transformative partnership is relatively new—for the last five or six years—there is great interest in how they are progressing. This is our report focus. 

Discussion purpose and other notes

  • We are interested in discussing three topics today to understand businesses' or CSOs' offerings to partnerships, businesses' or CSOs' shortcomings, and businesses' or CSOs' motivations for partnering. 
  • This is an informal, off-the-record conversation. 
    • We can share a draft of the section so you are comfortable with what is being shared, if you would like. 
    • We would be happy to thank you in our contributor’s section, if you would like. 
    • Please speak from your broader business or CSO experience—that is, any reflections or examples need not be related to your current organization (although if they are, that is perfectly fine). 
    • Your insights will be aggregated into themes, drawn from all of our team’s calls with business or CSO leaders like you. 

Discussion questions  

We are most interested in the first four questions. If time permits, we can discuss the last one. For each query, we would appreciate any examples in support. The examples can be kept confidential if you would prefer, or conversely, we are also happy to share any as examples in the report. 

  1. Why are businesses or CSOs interested in transformation? What does transformation mean to your organization? 
  2. When businesses or CSOs think about transformation, does it change how they approach partnering? 
  3. What do businesses or CSOs offer in partnerships, especially those aiming to drive transformative change? Said another way, what are the assets of businesses in a partnership?  
    • For example, if we were interviewing a different stakeholder—for example, governments—governments might say that they offer an enabling environment and the ability to set policy or send signals in support of various initiatives. Or they may say that they provide infrastructure investments that are necessary backbones to sustainable development. 
  4. What do businesses or CSOs lack when it comes to advancing transformative partnerships? Thought of another way, why are businesses interested in partnerships?
    • For example, governments might say that they have coordination challenges and slow capacity to change, both of which are typical characteristics of a bureaucracy.
  5. What are businesses' or CSOs' motivations for partnering?
    • For example, governments might say that they are fulfilling their mandate to grow economies and increase societal well-being, and partnerships can help them be more effective at doing so.

Appendix B. Partnership Success Factors Review

Partnership success factors have been well-researched, and there is general consensus around which characteristics are most important (Brouwer et al. 2016; Jenkins et al. 2017; BCSD 2017; Oorthuizen et al. 2018; Pattberg and Widerberg 2016; Stibbe et al. 2018). These factors range from establishing a partnership vision and strategy to setting up partnership governance to partnership culture. However, even if partnerships know that certain factors are important, it can be hard to know where to start.

Table B1 summarizes 14 success factors mentioned frequently in existing research and provides concrete examples and recommendations based on what is working for partnerships in our research pool, according to answers provided through two workshops and our partnership survey. (See Appendix C for survey methodology.) Success factors were identified based on a literature review, including publications from two workstreams: literature sourced from P4G partners and other relevant organizations and a systematic literature search using Ebsco Discovery Scholar, Google, and Google Scholar. The literature search was restricted to works published between 2015 and 2019 by CSOs, governments, businesses, and academia. Search terms included multistakeholder partnerships, multi-actor partnership, multistakeholder collaboration, multistakeholder initiative, public-private partnership, SDG or Sustainable Development Goals, success factor, enabling factor, lessons learned, best practice, challenge, barriers, transformation potential, and systems change evaluation.

Analysis of top enabling partnership conditions synthesized information from both workstreams by identifying high-relevance articles, which were selected based on their discussion of transformative partnerships targeting the SDGs, their analysis of multiple partnerships, and their specific relevance to the overall P4G and State-of-the-Art Partnership Awards research universe.

Table B1 | Partnering Success Factors and Recommendations to Enhance Transformation Potential

Success Factor





Joint Transformation Vision and Systems Understanding

1. Clear articulation of the system of interest*

One of the main characteristics of transformation is its systemic nature. Change must percolate through a system’s elements and interconnections to move it toward a more sustainable paradigm. Clear articulation of a system of interest means that a partnership is able to identify a system’s boundaries of interest and its overall function or purpose, understand the key elements and interconnections of relevance, identify an underlying problem that is keeping the system from moving toward a more sustainable development pathway, identify the system conditions that are holding the problem in place, and understand historic and current efforts to address the problem. Clearly articulating the system enables a partnership to identify its place in the system to make sure its activities are unique and additive.

In addition, it is important to remember that systems are dynamic, and partnerships should aim to understand their contribution to transformation of that system. This requires establishing a baseline understanding of the system and then tracking changes over time, focusing especially on how system conditions holding the problem of interest in place are changing.


Establish system boundaries. Start small to make your system of interest more manageable (Latham 2014; Hargreaves 2010). Start by looking at the most relevant geography or sector related to your partnership’s activities. As your partnership expands, add system components. Make this process participatory and inclusive. Define the system’s boundaries in coordination with key stakeholders, which include those who have an interest in or are affected by the issue as well as those who have influence over the issue (Hargreaves 2010).

Break it down. You don’t need to understand the whole system all at once. System understanding can be built over time and in line with your partnership’s resources. Systems are dynamic, and this process should be too. Reflecting on how system conditions change over time enables you to identify new windows of opportunity and adjust course as needed (Preskill and Gopal 2014).

Use systems mapping tools. Don’t re-invent the wheel. There are several well-vetted tools available to help you build a systems understanding or conduct systems mapping. These include (but are not limited to) social network analysis, actor mapping, timeline mapping, and appreciative inquiry. Many of these tools are adaptable to your partnership’s resources.

The IIX Women’s Livelihood Bond SeriesTM, a partnership that aims to transform the global financial system by mobilizing capital for women’s empowerment through an innovative financial instrument, recognized the importance of developing a holistic system understanding from the start. It restricted its scope initially, focusing on a specific subset of countries in the Asia-Pacific region. This helped to keep its activities manageable in light of the extreme complexities of the global financial system. The partnership also broke down and distributed the workload by using its network in each target country to gather intelligence from experts on microfinance, securities, law and foreign investments into the country, legal and regulatory frameworks associated with lending to local enterprises, and investor interests. IIX found that overall, the global financial system is lacking in concrete tools that systematically integrate the voices of underserved women and the Global South. To address this, IIX developed “IIX Values” to use mobile technology to collect impact data from end beneficiaries in a scalable, cost-efficient manner and verify impact on the ground to ensure that investors get access to transparent, timely impact reports. This ensures that the end beneficiaries, who are women, are given a voice and a value and are taken into account across the investment process.

Joint Transformation Vision and Systems Understanding

2. Jointly agreed-upon transformation vision and near-term goals*

A clear vision of transformation serves as a strategic guide for stakeholders, specifying the challenge at hand, the ultimate partnership transformation vision or end goal, and the near-term goals that need to be attained to reach the transformation vision. Aligning on a common purpose then enables partnerships to establish the scope of partnership activities, set phased targets, and establish achievable timelines (Stern et al. 2015; KPMG International 2016). Additionally, aligning on a shared vision helps guide day-to-day behavior and allows each stakeholder to see how its specific interests are being met and understand the value it adds to partnership activities.


Articulate the partnership vision and the steps to get there. Define what success looks like for your partnership and set a timeline. Establish goals and concrete actions that link to your partnership’s transformation vision and theory of change.

Maintain a master vision, goals, and activities document. Keep a current document that clearly outlines your partnership’s vision and strategy. This should be a living document. Get feedback from internal and external stakeholders often and update it as your partnership evolves.

Prioritize a participatory approach with open conversations. Consult with other stakeholders and sector actors frequently. To the extent possible, bring actors together to discuss the partnership face-to-face. Don’t be afraid of iteration and debate. Embracing different viewpoints can illuminate new ways of solving a problem and strengthen your partnership’s approach. (Oorthuizen et al. 2018; Collison et al. 2014).

Africa GreenCo keeps stakeholders aligned using a master document that clearly articulates the partnership’s vision and goals. This document has evolved with the partnership, transitioning from a feasibility study to a business plan to an investment memorandum. Throughout this process, Africa GreenCo held workshops and roundtables to gather feedback from sector actors, using these opportunities to build system-wide support and fine-tune its strategy. This document is a valuable tool. It keeps the current team aligned on the overall mission while breaking partnership activities down into manageable steps. It also helps open conversations by quickly getting potential investors or new stakeholders up to speed.

3. Bold and creative approach and activities

Transformative partnerships are always on the lookout for innovative approaches that are different from the norm. This makes them stand apart. They lean into the path untraveled and are not afraid to challenge assumptions, engage new stakeholders, take risks, and experiment (Brouwer et al. 2016).


Set audacious goals. Don’t let concerns about resource constraints or feasibility limit your partnership’s ambition from the start.

Think outside the box. Repeatedly working within the same network of stakeholders on an issue is unlikely to produce a novel solution. Think more broadly about who influences or is affected by the problem at hand, talk to nontraditional actors, and engage diverse perspectives (Bos et al. 2016).

Experiment. Build innovation and risk-taking into partnership culture; don’t be afraid to try something that fails. Work with your more risk- averse partners to understand their risk exposure and come up with mitigation strategies.

ME SOLshare, in collaboration with CDRC-RDA, is using its pioneering solar peer-to-peer microgrids to provide last-mile energy access in Bangladesh. Peer-to-peer microgrids monetize excess solar energy with mobile money in real time, empowering rural communities to earn direct income from solar energy. The partnership is working to install microgrids that provide EV charging, billable Wi-Fi, and other facilities. The increase in energy access will help enable women’s entrepreneurship in agriculture and build awareness and community engagement around energy rights. The partnership aims to provide renewable energy access to 100,000 beneficiaries over the next five years.

4. Confirmation that partnering is the right approach and that partners selected are the best possible option

Partnerships can be incredibly rewarding, but stakeholders need to ensure they are not partnering for the sake of partnering. Sometimes lighter-touch options like single-organization approaches, may be more effective, saving parties time, and producing faster results (Bos et al. 2016; Stern et al. 2015). If a partnership is deemed to be the best approach, however, core members should invite others based on what they can offer, to build a well-rounded collaboration (Oorthuizen et al. 2018; Stibbe et al. 2018; Collison et al. 2014).


Start with a wide net. When initiating a partnership, convene diverse actors who bring different perspectives on the problem at hand. While they may or may not represent the final partners of the partnership, their insights can help determine whether a partnership is necessary to tackle the problem of interest. Insights gained through this process can also help guide additional exploration, such as scans of similar initiatives or interviews with potential beneficiaries.

Be strategic. Don’t rush into partnership agreements. Take your time to identify and engage stakeholders with complementary strengths and common interests (Pattberg and Widerberg 2016). In addition to stakeholder resources and capabilities, consider less tangible qualities like enthusiasm, reputation, and network (Oorthuizen et al. 2018)

Be up front about motivations and value add. Organizations will come into partnerships with their own interests, expectations, priorities, and offerings. Stakeholders that start with similar missions and values may find it easier to align on a partnership strategy. Communicating organizational interests early helps identify risks and mitigate conflict among partners down the road (Bos et al. 2016).

Prior to its launch, the Global Distributors Collective (GDC) conducted an 18-month study to inform partnership strategy and build support. GDC aims to make life-changing products like water filters and solar lights affordable and available to all by supporting last-mile distributors. Its scoping study involved interviews with over 100 sector experts, last-mile distributors, and potential partners, enabling GDC to gain insight into challenges that last-mile distributors face and support currently available mechanisms. Findings informed the partnership’s problem framing, value proposition, and proposed solutions. This scoping process paved the way for a smooth partnership launch by enabling GDC to build support from last-mile distributors—meaning it had a membership of over 100 within the first three months—and key ecosystem actors, including GOGLA, SE4ALL, the Clean Cooking Alliance, and more.

Participatory Performance Tracking with Systems Thinking


5. Strong MELR mechanisms with systems thinking*

Strong MELR mechanisms with systems thinking are essential, not just for understanding a partnership’s contribution to change or impact, but also for allowing partnerships' to more actively adjust course in response to change. Strong MELR also supports partnerships in achieving several other success factors, especially those related to network building as this becomes easier when partnerships can share their progress and demonstrate their business case. (Cabaj 2019; Hargreaves et al. 2010; Larson 2018; Latham 2014; Preskill and Cook 2020; Preskill and Gopal 2014; van Tulder and Keen 2018).


MELR Guidelines:

1. Have designated roles for MELR to ensure accountability.

2. Develop a strategic plan that aligns with your shared vision, targets, and systems understanding.

3. Develop a set of evaluation questions to define your data collection and evaluation approach.

4. Use a mixed methods design for evaluation.

5. Focus on contribution rather than on attribution.

6. Design MELR to be adaptive, flexible, and iterative.

Don’t let this process intimidate you. See Special MERL Section in Chapter 4 for guidance on setting up an MELR system that works for your partnership.

The Courtauld Commitment 2025 is a great example of a hybrid MERL system. Courtauld 2025 is a voluntary agreement bringing together organizations across the UK food system to cut food and drink waste. The partnership’s executive management team leads the development of targets, metrics, and the systems-change goals. Courtauld leverages member companies to collect and report annually on data for required metrics, and WRAP, the convening partner, provides companies with data collection and reporting protocols. WRAP has two dedicated part-time analysts focused on data cleaning, validation, aggregation, evaluation, and reporting. To build credibility, WRAP hired an external auditor to verify progress against the partnership’s targets.

6. Culture of trust, inclusivity, and information sharing

With stakeholders coming into partnerships with different backgrounds and experiences, partnerships must encourage information sharing and inclusivity as a foundation for working together (Collison et al. 2014). Partners should look to establish a shared language around the problem—e.g., by developing a set of operating principles, the partnership can address and develop common ways of working, such as scheduling regular meetings or creating a shared document library. These processes make it easier for stakeholders to share information and build rapport with each other. (Bos et a. 2016; Pattberg and Widerberg 2016).


Communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk frequently with other stakeholders and create opportunities for formal and informal communication. Meet in person whenever possible, host video conferences, start a WhatsApp group. Get to know each other!

Transparency counts. Be open about your own progress, ideas, and lessons learned. Ensure that all stakeholders have the same information about the overall state of the partnership, and give everyone the opportunity to be involved in major decisions.

Create space for collaboration. Appoint a neutral and trusted stakeholder to facilitate information sharing among organizations.

2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment (2020 Commitment), a partnership aiming to mobilize fashion industry actors to take bold action on sustainability, has created a trusting culture among commitment signatories by prioritizing inclusivity and establishing a structured information-sharing system. From its founding, 2020 Commitment encouraged brands and retailers from all sizes, backgrounds, or levels of knowledge to start working on circularity and to join 2020 Commitment. The partnership has established several channels of communication to ensure that all members have access to the same information, including a guiding toolbox of 2020 Commitment action points, regular webinars, and a monthly newsletter to keep signatories up to date with deadlines, partnership developments and upcoming policies in the field of fashion and circularity. The partnership has also set up ways for signatories to connect with each other more informally through yearly in-person networking events and a shared signatory database.

Strong Leadership and Operational Capacity

7. Strong management and coordination structure

A partnership’s management structure should encompass administrative functions like staffing, budgeting, and maintaining shared systems (i.e., MERL data collection, contact database, etc.). Partnerships should designate an individual, team, or stakeholder to manage these partnership operations (Pattberg and Widerberg 2016). Key aspects of this role include setting up a formal stakeholder communication system and coordinating roles and responsibilities among stakeholders. Establishing a strong operational backbone facilitates transparency and trust among partners, improves partnership efficiency, and ensures that administrative tasks are completed (Peterson et al. n.d.; Collison et al. 2014).


Find your most organized stakeholder. Management structures don’t need to be complicated, but it’s important to clarify who will facilitate these partnership functions. Depending on the size and structure of your partnership, it may make sense to appoint an individual to this role. Alternatively, your partnership may be able to leverage a partner’s existing administrative structure and resources.

Assign clear roles and responsibilities. Work with other stakeholders to allocate partnership responsibilities. Play to each other’s strengths: Consider resources, unique skillsets, and market positions. Make sure everyone is clear on expectations.


Track communication. Create a structured contact database instead of relying on one-off communication. Doing this at the start of a partnership can help keep track of relationships as the partnership grows. 

Say it 10 times in 10 ways. Get your channels of communication right and present information in multiple ways to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Try out creative ways of communicating with other stakeholders to figure out what works best for your partnership. Visuals, webinars, and regular newsletters are a few suggestions. Keep partners up to date on overall partnership progress, funding status, and major decisions.

The UK Plastics Pact, a coalition focused on creating a circular economy for plastic, established formal channels for member companies to communicate their individual progress and for the core partnership team to convey information clearly and consistently to pact members. One way the partnership does this is by assigning clear roles and responsibilities. Each pact member appoints a business account manager who regularly communicates with the core team. To communicate partnership progress and updates to members, the UK Plastics Pact uses multiple platforms, including regular e-mail, newsletters, and webinars detailing work across the partnership’s network.

Strong Leadership and Operational Capacity

8. Robust governance mechanism

An internal governance structure, such as a steering committee or board of directors, can provide oversight, determine partnership strategy, and mitigate risk. Choosing the right members of this group is critical as they need to effectively manage power dynamics among stakeholders, balance conflicting viewpoints, and make difficult decisions about the partnership, all while maintaining stakeholder buy-in (Pattberg and Widerberg 2016; Beisheim and Simon 2016; Oorthuizen et al. 2018).


Select leadership carefully. Stack your steering committee or board of directors with well-respected, trustworthy individuals. This group should also be inclusive, reflecting partnership diversity and including traditionally underrepresented groups. For instance, if your partnership involves implementing a program locally, its governance structure should involve local stakeholders (Beisheim and Simon 2016; Dahiya and Okitasari 2018).

Match governance structure to capacity and need. This doesn’t have to be resource-intensive. Structure governance to match your partnership’s resources and needs. You may find that a small core team of founders is most effective at the start of your partnership, or you may be able to build off a partner organization’s existing governance mechanism.

Stay agile. A governance process that is rigid or has too many bureaucratic layers can become counterproductive, preventing your partnership from being reactive or pivoting when necessary.

Iterate. While it’s great to have set clearly defined roles for your governance process, don’t be afraid to adjust predefined responsibilities as your partnership grows.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP), hosted by WEF, aims to accelerate action to address plastic pollution at the global and national levels. GPAP’s strong governance mechanism comprises three layers, each fulfilling a different purpose and drawing from a diverse group of decision-makers across the public, private, and civil society sectors. The clear division of roles and the strong engagement of members enable the platform to remain agile and committed to serving its mission. The partnership’s governing council is focused on representation and includes CEOs, ministers, and heads of organizations that can play a decisive role in driving forward plastic pollution action and related environmental initiatives. The steering board is focused on strategy and alignment. It includes GPAP’s founding partners and a balance of government, industry, and international organizations and CSOs. These representatives are selected by their respective organizations to represent their governing council. Finally, the advisory committee, which consists of GPAP’s content and knowledge partners, provides expert advice on GPAP’s publications and initiatives.

9. Stakeholders’ commitment to agreed-upon resources

Stakeholders come into partnerships with many strengths and oftentimes competing priorities as well. Even if stakeholders have the time, capacity, and monetary resources within their organizations, these resources may not always be directed to the partnership. Stakeholder roles thus must be designed in a way that makes it easy and desirable for them to actively participate in and allocate resources to partnership activities (Kuruvilla et al. 2018; Oorthuizen et al. 2018).


Enthusiasm matters! Select partners strategically. Start with those who are excited about the partnership and are eager to collaborate. These partners need to have the capacity and resources needed to contribute to the partnership in the first place, but equally important is their drive to contribute to the partnership’s mission.

Communicate progress. Talking frequently to each other helps clarify the business case for the partnership and keeps everyone engaged.

Find your champions. Don’t risk having a partner who can’t pull its weight. Make sure each stakeholder has internal champions in leadership who care about your partnership’s success and can help direct resources toward your partnership.

Make clear asks. Clarify stakeholder commitments. An MOU or other agreement can help formalize expectations and keep partners accountable (Oorthuizen et al. 2018). Partnerships are dynamic, and no one agreement structure will fit everyone. Leave room for stakeholders to be more or less strongly engaged at different stages of the partnership (Kuruvilla et al. 2018).

TRANSFORM a partnership providing financial and business support to social enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa, maintains stakeholder commitment by keeping senior leadership with stakeholder organizations engaged. After struggling to keep stakeholder leadership committed to the partnership, TRANSFORM updated its membership and mandate to include more senior members of each stakeholder organization in the decision-making process. The partnership also regularly communicates impact stories and results to demonstrate the business value of the partnership and keep stakeholders committed.

Strong Leadership and Operational Capacity

10. Funding security

It’s no surprise that funding is a determinant of partnership success. Sustainable, long-term, and flexible funding enables partnerships to better plan ahead, hire need resources, and experiment with new approaches. But finding this is no easy task. Funding is often offered in short cycles, comes with a significant reporting burden, and may be restricted to one project or program (Stibbe and Prescott 2017).

To better enable transformative partnerships, funders, like partnerships, need to embrace the fact that transformative change is a dynamic and long-term process. Funders should view unrestricted funding support as a necessity rather than a luxury, provide partnerships the autonomy to make budgetary and strategic decisions, and minimize heavy reporting requirements where possible (Brouwer et al. 2016).


Build relationships withlong-term funders. Don’t underestimate the value of networking and personal relationships. Attend conferences, meet with people in person, and leverage your own network. Funding may come from unlikely sources. Never turn down an opportunity to connect with a possible investor.

Appoint a funding guru. This internal resource should set aside time to raise funds and write grants. Ideally, this is a person who has worked in development or with foundations in the past. If no one in your partnership has this skillset already, start building this capacity now! Part of this role should be considering the pros and cons of different funding strategies. Diverse funding sources may insulate you from risk but weigh you down with divergent reporting requirements (Stern 2015).

Show off to your funders. Don’t be shy. Demonstrate the great progress you’ve made by setting thoughtful goals and intermediate actions up front and tracking your progress along them. (See MELR section for more details on how to do this.)

It is rare to find a partnership that is fully secure in its funding and Energise Africa is no exception. However, the partnership stands out because of its nearly self-sustaining funding mechanism and commitment to securing long-term funding. Energise Africa aims to accelerate progress toward universal access to affordable clean electricity by development of a financial asset. The partnership crowdsources investments for solar panel providers in sub-Saharan Africa, who pay interest off the loan, which is then returned to the initial investors. Once fully built out, a model like this can graduate from funder dollars and operate on its own.

Supporting Network of Actors

11. Capacity to engage stakeholders external to the partnership*

Partnerships maximize their potential when they are able to build on existing networks, such as industry associations, national platforms, or informal local networks, and when they identify key local actors to engage. These resources serve multiple purposes: They connect partnerships with key supporters within the ecosystem, enable partnerships to coordinate with and learn from other initiatives, and allow partnerships to access needed resources or expertise. Networks can also accelerate partnership formation by bringing together complementary resources and establishing a foundation of personal trust and shared knowledge (Treichel et al. 2017).


Map relevant initiatives and actors. Be aware of and engage with other initiatives that align with your mission and activities. Know when you need to reach outside of your immediate partnership network for additional subject-matter expertise, technical assistance, or implementation support.

Leverage existing partner networks. Use your existing resources. Well-connected stakeholder organizations can open doors to contacts, expertise, and resources that may not otherwise be accessible.

Prioritize networking. Become a master connector. Invest time in going to events and meeting with people in person. Follow up with contacts and never turn down an opportunity to promote your partnership. Seek out formal networks like national platforms that can aid your partnership’s development and connect you with new resources.

Crowdfunding platform Energise Africa found that the most effective way to reach new investors is to connect with them in person. To do this, it leveraged the stakeholder networks of UK Aid and Virgin Unite to build partnership name recognition and credibility. The partnership has also collaborated with CSOs aligned with Energise Africa’s mission on events where the partnership can speak with new investors to explain its approach. This first contact with investors is critical. Once people have invested initially, the partnership’s reinvestment rate is over 90%.

12. Supportive environment enabled by government

Governments enable partnerships through strong rule of law and fair regulations (USCIB 2015). But governments can also more actively facilitate partnerships by limiting the bureaucracy required to work across ministries, aligning budget priorities to the SDGs, and incentivizing private-sector participation in sustainable development initiatives (GGGI 2018a; GGGI 2018b; Moreddu 2016; Neely et al. 2017; Nelson et al. 2015; Stibbe and Prescott 2017).


Make government support a precursor to implementation. If you have the flexibility to select which country your partnership operates in, make supportive government conditions a requirement.

Engage champions. Having advocates throughout the government can help you navigate bureaucracy, secure government support, and mitigate the risk of political leadership or priority changes. Getting government leaders on board is critical, but you also want lower level staff on your team.

Be proactive. You may not have much control over a country’s political or regulatory conditions, but you can better navigate barriers by actively identifying potential challenges. Once you are aware of factors that might negatively affect your activities, like high import tariffs or lack of infrastructure, you can work on strategies to mitigate risk.

Government regulations pose a significant challenge to NextWave Plastics, a coalition aiming to reduce ocean-bound plastics, but the partnership has learned to mitigate risk by planning ahead. Shipping recycled material internationally can be prohibitive to the use of ocean-bound plastic because this resource is often designated as waste and not accepted at ports, even if it’s an input material into new products. NextWave Plastic member companies using ocean-bound plastics in their supply chains have learned to allot additional time for material shipments. This measure helps companies minimize supply- disruptions and manage around regulatory barriers.

Supporting Network of Actors

13. Strong champions at multiple levels

Champions at multiple levels—from senior leadership to on-the-ground staff—are essential for a partnership to successfully scale. These individuals can be within or outside of the partnership and are critical for securing the partnership support necessary to drive progress (Brouwer et al. 2016; Collison et al. 2014; Nelson et al. 2015; Oorthuizen et al. 2018; Stern et al. 2015; Stibbe and Prescott 2017).


Cast a wide net. Creating a network of champions at various levels helps increase your partnership’s name recognition, legitimacy, and resilience to external challenges.

Communicate partnership progress. Designate an individual or team to liaise between the partnership and the stakeholder organization. This structure can help strengthen buy-in from stakeholder organizations.

By securing support from partnership champions at multiple levels Africa GreenCo has been able to advance its agenda despite political leadership changes. By establishing a creditworthy intermediary, the partnership aims to accelerate renewable energy investment and development, starting in Africa. In its pilot country, Zambia, the partnership actively worked with stakeholders throughout the government, with the goal of securing cabinet approval in August 2019. However, following the removal of a top government minister, this timeline was delayed. Due to its strategic engagement of government champions who were able to advocate for the partnership, Africa GreenCo. received cabinet approval in late 2019. This was a critical step to operationalizing the partnership and led to discussions with key private-sector stakeholders.

14. Ability to navigate the local context in which the partnership operates

Successfully navigating the local environment means that the partnership approach fits the local context and accounts for factors like language, ways of working, and cultural nuances. (Biesheim and Simon 2016; Treichel et al. 2017).


Scope out local support early. Engage with a national platform, a strong local stakeholder, or hire local staff that can help guide partnership strategy to ensure that it fits the local context. These supporters can also help drive on-the-ground operations (Okitasari et al. 2018). When possible, make the availability of this support a precursor to partnership engagement in a region.

Listen. Communities know what they need. Consult local stakeholders and beneficiaries early in the partnership process and incorporate these perspectives into your partnership’s problem definition and strategy to ensure that your partnership meets the needs of targeted beneficiaries (Dalberg 2020).

Build trust with beneficiary groups. Accurately measuring partnership impact and understanding unintended partnership consequences requires ongoing engagement with beneficiary groups and local stakeholders. In particular, establish trust with underrepresented groups like women, indigenous communities and low-income populations. Understanding how your partnership affects these groups is critical to understanding system dynamics and identifying when your approach needs to be adjusted.

Engaging local staff is one of the first steps the Sustainable Sourcing at Scale Partnership takes whenever it enters a new region. The partnership implements verified sourcing areas for commodity crops in India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Vietnam. When scoping a new location, the partnership typically recruits two people: a senior staff member who has extensive experience in the sector and region as well as a more junior consultant. The senior staff member acts as a convener, speaking to international buyers and opening doors to local government departments and businesses. The junior-level staff member understands local ways of working and guides the partnership’s implementation strategy to ensure that it is culturally appropriate. For example, the timing of when and how formally to engage different actors varies. In some countries, for instance, pursuing government and then private-sector support makes the most sense. In other contexts the opposite is true. Understanding how different sectors operate is also critical. While sustainability is broadly accepted as a necessity in the palm oil sector, for instance, stakeholders in the spice industry require more engagement effort.a

Notes: *Success factor identified as highly relevant to partnerships with transformation objectives. See Chapter 4.a Rutten and Guido. 2020. Interview with WRI Authors and Guido Rutten, Senior Manager, Verified Sourcing Areas, IDH Trade, The Hague, Netherlands, March 6, 2020.

Sources: Ayala-Orozco et al. 2018; BCSD 2017; Beisheim and Simon 2016; Bos et al. 2016; Brouwer et al. 2016; Caboj 2019; Chakrabari et al. 2018; Collison et al. 2014; Dahiya and Okitasari 2018; Enright et al. 2018; GGGI 2018a, 2018b; Hargreaves 2010; Hazelwood 2015; Jenkins et al. 2017; Kania et al. 2018; Kramer and Pfizer 2016; KPMG International 2016; Kuruvilla et al. 2018; Larson 2018; Latham 2014; Maassen and Galvin 2019; Moreddu 2016; Neely et al. 2017; Nelson et al. 2015; Oorthuizen et al. 2018; Pattberg and Widerberg 2016; Peterson et al. n.d.; Pinz et al. 2018; Preskill and Cook 2020; Preskill and Gopal 2014; Preskill et al. 2015; Stern 2017; Stibbe and Prescott 2017; Stibbe et al. 2018; Treichel et al. 2017; van Tulder and Keen 2018.

Appendix C. Survey Methodology and Instrument

The findings in this report supporting partnership success factors are largely based on a survey conducted with multistakeholder partnerships between November and December 2019. The objectives of the survey were to gather lessons learned on commonly reported partnership success factors and to determine if any partnership characteristics or success factors may lead to having a higher transformation potential. This necessitated having a methodology in place for scoring a partnership’s transformational potential.

Selection Approach

Our team had unique access to the P4G ecosystem of partnerships. These partnerships had already been prescreened as having transformation potential, and we further screened partnerships to ensure they met our criteria:

  1. Must include at least one commercial and one noncommercial partner.
  2. Must have a transformation goal and address one or more of the following SDG areas: food and agriculture (SDG 2), clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities (SDG 11), and circular economy (SDG 12).
  3. Must not be a partnership platform.

P4G supports three types of partnerships that represent different stages of maturity (see Table C1 for a description): start-up, scale-up, and state-of-the-art. Of the start-up and scale-up partnerships, we selected only those that had been awarded funding. For State-of-the-Art Atward partnerships, we included the winners for each SDG category as well as short-listed finalists.

Response Rates

Our questionnaire was sent to a total of 69 partnerships, out of which 47 partnerships responded. Out of those 47, only 41 were ultimately eligible for inclusion in our analysis. Table C1 provides an overview of our participant sample and response rates by partnership type.

Table C1 | Overview of Survey Participant Sample


Partnership Type



Eligible & Completed Survey

Response Rate



Partnerships that are eligible to receive up to $100,000 of funding from P4G for a 12–24 month period. Must be entering their implementation period.










Partnerships that are eligible to receive up to $1 million in funding from P4G for scale-up activities over a 12–24 month period.









State-of-the-Art Awardees

Partnerships that have demonstrated impact for green growth and action on climate change. These partnerships receive P4G recognition but not funding.









State-of-the-Art Applicants

Partnerships that applied and were eligible for the P4G State-of-the-Art Award and were short-listed but who did not receive P4G recognition.












Source: WRI Authors.

Data Collection Strategy

Survey Format

We used a self-administered web-based survey. We also provided partnerships with a PDF and Word version of the survey and offered to complete the survey via a phone interview, to address instances of poor Internet connectivity. Overall, all but one partnership used the web version. For each partnership, we requested that the survey be completed only once by a designated representative to avoid creating too much additional time burden as these partnerships also have other reporting requirements. We also suggested that these leads collect recommended reporting materials and speak with other partners as they deemed necessary. The survey design included multiple reminders and deadline extensions to accommodate as many respondents as possible.

Incentive Structure 

Participants were provided with an option for their partnership to be featured in this report as a contributor or as a potential case study.

Questionnaire Development and Testing

The survey was informed by several rounds of feedback from internal experts from WRI, including those from the Sustainable Business Center and the Ross Center Prize for transformative urban initiatives. The survey was also tested with external partnership and systems change evaluation experts from the Geneva Graduate Institute, FSG, TPI, and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative. Finally, the survey was piloted in two rounds with the following partnerships: Courtauld Commitment 2025, the Sustainable Food Platform, and Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE).

2020 State-of-the-Art Report Survey Instrument

Thank you for participating in the State-of-the-Art Report survey. Through this survey, we aim to understand your partnership’s path to accelerating action toward the Sustainable Development Goals. There will be many opportunities in this survey to share your insights, and we encourage you to provide as much detail as possible in the spaces provided. Your reflections on your partnership goals, progress, and characteristics will contribute to a deeper understanding of multistakeholder collaboration, from which we hope partnership practitioners and researchers can learn.

Recommended approach for filling out the survey: For each partnership, we request that the survey be completed only once by a designated representative. It may be useful to collect reporting materials and any other documentation that reflects partnership goals, milestones, or progress experienced by your partnership. The survey comprises seven sections. Please see the attached PDF to view the survey in its entirety. We estimate that the survey will take about 60 minutes to complete.

Instructions for navigating this survey:

  1. If you hover your mouse over the blue underlined text, definitions and examples of the text will appear.
  2. You may complete this survey in more than one sitting by clicking the Save and Continue Later button in the top right corner.
  3. Please be sure to navigate between survey pages using the “next” and “back” buttons at the bottom of the survey page, NOT the “back” arrow in your browser as this will erase unsaved progress.

    Privacy and confidentiality: Survey responses will be kept confidential and will not be made publicly available or attributable to the respondent or partnership. We will collect identifying information for each partnership so that we can categorize lessons learned on what is working and what is not by different partnership characteristics.

    As this is an online survey, your confidentiality will be kept to the degree permitted by the technology being used. We cannot guarantee against interception of data sent via the Internet by third parties.

    Taking part is voluntary. Your participation in this survey is voluntary. You may refuse to participate before the study begins, discontinue at any time, or skip questions that may make you feel uncomfortable with no penalty to you or your partnership.

    If you have questions or feedback on this survey, please feel free to contact Erin Gray, economist, World Resources Institute: erin.gray@wri.org


    Section A: Respondent Information

    1. Name:
    2. E-mail:
    3. Phone Number:
    4. Position and organization:
    5. Briefly describe your role and responsibilities in the context of the partnership:

Section B: About the partnership

  1. Partnership name:
  2. In what year was your partnership established?
  3. Partnership country focus:
  4. Please list the names of all key partners involved in the partnership and their relevant sector:


    SECTOR (government, business, civil society organization)









    Please list additional key partners and sectors here:

  5. Which statement best applies to your partnership?
    1. MARKET-DRIVEN: Our partnership is driven by the commercial business case; that is, we aim to deliver commercially viable solutions that contribute to profitable sustainable development.
    2. MARKET-GENERATING: Our partnership is not driven by immediate commercial prospects, but we aim to enable commercially viable sustainable solutions in the future by tackling some essential market barrier (e.g., by altering incentives or addressing drivers of unsustainable trends).
    3. DEVELOPMENT-FOCUSED: Our partnership is not driven by immediate commercial prospects; rather we focus more squarely on development objectives to which a commercial partner can contribute as part of its corporate sustainability policy.

Section C: Partnership Goals and Activities

  1. What are your partnership’s near-term goals (e.g., your one- to five-year goals related to building a strong foundation for your partnership)?
  2. What are your partnership’s systems change goals (e.g., your 2030 goals related to the SDGs. That is, progress on shifting conditions of the system and removing barriers that are blocking a change to a more sustainable system)?
  3. How would you describe your partnership? Please select more than one if applicable.
    1. We aim to transform an entire sector, industry, or supply chain.
    2. We aim to address a specific problem (e.g., reduce nutrient pollution; improve food security, etc.).
    3. We aim to create a pioneering innovation, such as a new technology or improved distribution of products or services or showcase and support innovative approaches in a marketplace.
    4. We aim to remove a barrier or barriers that are blocking systems change, such as creating or modifying policies, improving the regulatory environment, or improving networks of actors.
    5. Other type of collaborative effort (please describe):

Section D: Tracking Partnership Progress

  1. Does your partnership have a performance-management system to track progress against your goals? [Yes/No/Don’t know] If no, skip to Section E.
  2. Is your performance-management system managed internally (that is, owned and operated by partnership members), or do you use an external evaluator?
    1. Internal
    2. External
    3. Hybrid (internal and external)
  3. Do you believe that your partnership is able to track success beyond near-term goals to understand progress against systems change goals? [Y/N/Don’t Know]
    1. If yes, describe how your partnership does this.
    2. If no, why not?
  4. What key metrics (qualitative and/or quantitative) have you set that are the most important in tracking your partnership’s success toward achieving your near-term goals and systems change goals?
    1. Near-term


      Near-Term Goal

      Key Metrics for Tracking Success

    2. Systems change


      Systems change

      Key Metrics for Tracking Success


Section E: Progress on Systems Change Goals

This section aims to assess your partnership’s progress on your near-term and systems change goals.

As a reminder, survey responses have no bearing on P4G funding or State-of-the-Art Award consideration, and answers will not be attributable to your partnership. We recognize that many partnerships are still in the start-up or scale-up phase of maturity and thus may have limited evidence of scaling or impacts to date. We encourage you to select the answer that best reflects your partnership’s current stage of development.

Directions: Please rate your partnership for each evaluation question on a scale of 0–5, where:

  1. I do not know or cannot answer
  2. Not at all
  3. To a small extent
  4. To a moderate extent
  5. To a great extent
  6. To a very great extent

Please provide any additional information on your ratings as you see fit using the comments box in question E5.


Evaluation Question

Rating Scale







E1. Innovation: To what extent are systems change barriers being addressed in a new way?


To what extent has your partnership developed a new concept? The concept could be a new approach or application to an existing idea.







E2. Impact: To what extent has your partnership contributed to a model of change that will advance green growth?


Strategic Plan

To what extent has your partnership done ALL of the following:

Established a clear understanding of the system it is trying to shift (e.g., key stakeholders, important relationships and power dynamics, market barriers, previously attempted solutions to tackle the problem, and underlying causes of the problem)?

Established a clear vision for how your partnership will solve the problem(s) and shift system conditions to drive progress on the SDGs?

Developed a clear theory of change that articulates how your partnership activities will shift the system and address one or more barriers, including outlining causal assumptions and what other actors also need to do?







Near-Term Goals

To what extent has your partnership been able to build a strong foundation to implement its approach or model of change? This includes, for example:

  • Securing stakeholder commitments
  • Increasing awareness of and building credibility with stakeholders
  • Pilot or product testing its approach
  • Securing funding
  • Collecting needed data







Systems Change Goals

To what extent has your partnership made progress on shifting the system and removing barriers that are holding the problem in place (i.e., meeting its long-term or SDG goals)? Example shifts may include changes to:

  • Government, institutional, and organizational rules, regulations, policies, and priorities.
  • Practices and activities of institutions, coalitions, networks, and others targeted to improving social progress.
  • Resource flow allocations (e.g., money, people, knowledge, infrastructure)
  • Distribution of decision-making power
  • Quality of relationships between stakeholders
  • Behaviors and daily life or cultural mind-sets







E3. Scaling: To what extent is your partnership scaling up to new areas, or are others advancing due to the partnership’s progress?


Scale Up

To what extent has your partnership scaled up its activities to other networks, markets, or economies?







Scale Out

To what extent have other entities replicated the partnership’s approach OR

To what extent have other entities been able to create commercially viable business models because your partnership has reduced or removed system barriers?







E4. Implementation Viability: To what extent is your partnership capable of achieving its future systems change goals?



To what extent is your partnership able to positively respond and adapt to challenges such as new policies, changes in administrations, natural disasters, stakeholder changes, etc.?







Financial sustainability

To what extent has your partnership been able to find a self-sustaining financial model?







E5. Comments (Optional)














Section F: Partnership Characteristics

This section aims to understand what factors or partnership characteristics have influenced your partnership’s success or hampered your progress. Learning about what has worked and what has not worked for other partnerships can help speed the learning journey for both new and existing partnerships, so it may be useful to reflect on what advice you would give to other partnerships based on your experience.

Directions: Please consider the below statements and rate how well each applies to your partnership. Rating scale is as follows:

  1. Not at all
  2. To a small extent
  3. To a moderate extent
  4. To a great extent
  5. To a very great extent

Where relevant, elaborate on how each characteristic has or has not applied to your partnership in the columns to the right under each heading (see following table). Describe challenges that your partnership has faced related to relevant factors and how you were able to or are working to overcome them. If possible, describe the impact the factor had on achieving your partnership goals (near-term or systems change). Elaborating on all characteristics listed is not necessary. You may find it useful to think about your partnership’s top three to four strengths and challenges and answer these questions, keeping those factors in mind. Please see examples below:


Rating (1–5)

Please explain your rating

Did you experience any challenges in this area? If so, how did you overcome them? What lessons can you share with other partnerships facing a similar challenge?

To what extent does your partnership have a culture of trust, communication, and information sharing?


We faced a “free rider” problem where some initial partners wanted their names tied to the partnership but did little to contribute. This resulted in increased time spent on coordination and having to remove some partners from the partnership.

Yes. We decided to differentiate between formal partners and informal stakeholders. Formal partners were required to sign a formal MOU while informal stakeholders signed an informal agreement. Both documents specified expectations for each partner or stakeholder, but the degree of their commitment is different. Aligning on expectations helped us overcome the free-rider problem.

To what extent are you secure in your funding?


Our partnership received a pot of start-up funding which allowed us to make significant progress.

Following our initial funding, we faced a funding cliff, and it took us longer than expected to build a strong foundation in our targeted country, delaying progress on our near-term goals. We began seeking more diversified funding that did not place restrictions on how it could be spent and worked with an accelerator to connect with investors. We also began producing communication materials to showcase our initial successes and the business case to gain investor buy-in.

We have found that a key success factor for our financial sustainability is having a small group of diverse funds. We also now work with funders to ensure that reporting requirements are similar and provide us with the data we need to practice adaptive management.


Rating (1–5)


Please explain your rating

Did you experience any challenges in this area? If so, how did you overcome them? What lessons can you share with other partnerships facing a similar challenge?


To what extent does your government provide a supportive environment?

Description: A supportive government has strong rule of law, fair regulations, and low corruption. It also supports partnerships through its policies (e.g., financial incentives for the private sector, risk mitigation instruments, commitment to the SDGs)


To what extent are you secure in your funding?

Description: Funding security means that your partnership has a stable funding source(s), has diversified funding, or is on a good path to financial sustainability. Funding is unrestricted or flexible and/or has a low reporting burden.


To what extent do you have access to a support system external to your partnership (outside of P4G)?

Description: A support system is a business alliance, coalition, industry association, or informal network that is useful to your partnership.


To what extent can you effectively navigate at the local level in which your partnership operates?

Description: Effectively navigating means that you have the support of a national platform, on-the-ground staff or other support to help you manage through the local context of your partnership.




Before you commenced your partnership, to what extent did you confirm that working in partnership was the best approach and that you had engaged the right stakeholders for the problem at hand?

Description: Confirmation means that your team thought about the alternatives to a partnership and decided that they were not sufficient to address the market barrier. It also means that you were very purposeful to include the right stakeholders.


To what extent can your partnership articulate the system in which you operate and are trying to influence?

Description: Articulation means that each stakeholder can describe the same understanding of the partnership’s problem system, encompassing the broader social context, political context, existing actors, and governance architecture. Everyone can also describe the conditions that are holding in place the social problem that your partnership is trying to address.


To what extent have partnership stakeholders agreed to a shared vision and goals?

Description: Agreement means that stakeholders have a shared understanding of the problem, and are following the same vision to address it. Stakeholders understand each other’s interests or incentives for participating in the partnership.


To what extent have you established a robust system for tracking progress toward your partnership’s objectives?

Description: Establishing a robust system means that you’ve set forth a joint tracking system or framework at the beginning of your partnership, and it includes mutually agreed-upon metrics and governance mechanisms. The system is adaptive and iterative and enforces accountability between partners.



To what extent does your partnership have a culture of trust, communication, and information sharing?

Description: Trust means that you have faith in each other to make the right decisions. Communication means that there is transparency among your stakeholders, which supports problem-solving and enables decision-making. Sometimes this is established by having a positive history of working together.


To what extent is your partnership agile in your ability to learn, adapt, and respond to changes?

Description: Agility means that your partnership embraces and effectively manages changing circumstances (e.g., new stakeholders, policies, understanding of the social problem). Agile partnerships continuously evaluate and learn from their approach.


To what extent is your partnership bold and creative?

Description: Bold and creative means that your partnership isn’t afraid to take risks and deviate from the status quo.



To what extent is there at least one point person whose role is to coordinate and communicate across the partnership?

Description: A point person is a designated administrative staff member whose sole function is to coordinate and communicate across project partners.


To what extent do your stakeholders have the resources, expertise, and commitment to fulfill their agreed-upon roles?

Description: Possessing these elements means that each stakeholder has the operational and financial resources to support the partnership in its goals.


To what extent does your partnership have strong governance?

Description: Strong governance means that your partnership is managed by a steering group, secretariat, or broker that provides stability and objectivity, and gives confidence to all partners involved (e.g., through transparency).

Additionally, your leadership structure accounts for and manages power dynamics and divergent interests of stakeholder organizations.


To what extent does your partnership have strong champions at multiple levels?

Description: A strong champion is someone who feels responsible for driving the partnership forward by making the business case for the partnership and securing necessary support.

The champion should be at the senior level but also potentially the operational level to increase stakeholder buy-in and drive day-to-day work.









Section G: Concluding Questions and Contact Information

  1. What are the top three key lessons you have learned from your partnership experience so far?
  2. Is there anything else you’d like to mention about your partnership that would be useful for others aiming to improve the effectiveness of their partnership or to initiate a partnership aiming to address the SDGs?
  3. Did you consult other key partners from your partnership in filling out this survey? [Y/N/I don’t know].
  4. May we contact you if we have additional questions about your partnership? [Y/N].
  5. We may include your comments in our final report, and to provide more context, we may be interested in attributing them. Please indicate if you are comfortable with being identified [Yes/No/Contact Me First].
  6. Would you like to be featured in the report as a contributor or as a case study? We would like to thank all partnerships that have contributed to our study by listing their partnership names in a “Contributions” section at the end of the report. [Yes/No].

Appendix D. Transformation Potential Evaluation Methodology

An objective of our survey and research was to determine if we could provide any insights into which partnership success factors may be more important for transformative partnerships or more difficult to address than other factors. As a result, we needed a way to rate partnerships in terms of their transformation potential—that is, the success to date in achieving its intermediate and transformation objectives and/or the likelihood that the partnership would achieve its transformation objective so that we could differentiate survey responses based on whether a partnership’s potential was high, medium, or low. We focus on transformation potential as opposed to transformation impacts as our partnerships are still largely early in their maturity.

Our transformation potential evaluation methodology is described below. It is adapted based on Maassen and Galvin (2019), and it is important to note that, in terms of transformation potential, partnerships were scored against their own transformation or systems change goals. At this stage, we are not able to definitively state whether each partnership’s transformation objective is ultimately the right one needed to achieve the SDGs.

Evaluation Challenges

Partnerships, even SOTA partnerships, are still quite new, which makes evaluating their transformation impacts challenging. In addition, the exercise for rating partnerships according to their transformation potential faces multiple challenges:  

  • Evaluator selection and bias: It is common to use multiple evaluators in an exercise like this to avoid bias. However, anyone attempting to score a partnership for transformation potential will likely not have complete knowledge of the partnership nor the entirety of the system in which it is operating. Evaluators may also have their own biases, depending on their relationship to the partnership.
  • Methodological: There are no generally accepted methodologies for evaluating transformation potential for partnerships. 
  • Managing consistency and comparability among partnership types: Partnerships in our sample differ in terms of their phase of maturity, partnership composition, objectives and SDG-focus, governance structure, and activities. Additionally, partnerships vary in terms of their reporting requirements and data collection and reporting capacities. Reporting documentation provided by partnerships to P4G is self-reported and not consistent across partnerships in terms of the use of targets and metrics, use of baseline data, etc. 

Transformation Potential Evaluation Criteria and Scoring

We determined that partnerships would be evaluated based on their score against a set of transformation potential criteria. To identify these criteria we conducted a desk review of existing recognition and funding awards programs for transformative and systems change initiatives and partnerships where criteria were developed for selection, as well as a literature review of studies covering systems change or transformation evaluation and indicators of partnership success. (This literature review is the same as that described in Appendix B.) A summary of the recognition and award programs is provided in Table D1.

Table D1 | Recognition and Award Programs for Transformative Partnerships and Initiatives




Evaluation Criteria

Harvard’s Roy Award for Environmental Partnerships

Presented every two years to outstanding cross-sector partnerships that enhance environmental quality through novel and creative approaches

Partnership between two or more separate organizations

Partnership must focus on improving quality of the environment

Innovation—Demonstrates a leap in creativity

Effectiveness—Achieves tangible results

Significance—Successfully addresses a challenging environmental problem

Transferability—Shows promise of inspiring successful replication by others

WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities

(Maassen and Galvin 2019)

Global award of $250,000 for an outstanding initiative or project focused on transformative urban change, where transformation is defined as “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance”

May be a single organization or group of organizations

Initiative may be focused on built projects, changes in legislation, policies, programs, or initiatives

Must demonstrate evidence of transformative change in a city

Triple bottom line—To what extent does the project achieve a positive balance among economic, environmental, and social impacts?

Outsized impact—What is the extent of the positive impacts relative to the project’s own size and resources?

Problem-solving—To what extent has the project solved a problem that the city was facing?

Replication—To what extent has the project demonstrated a replicable approach?

Spatial extent of impact—What is the spatial extent of the project’s impact?

Duration of impact—To what extent did the positive impacts of the project (as described above) outlast the duration of the project?

P4G Start-Up and Scale-Up Funding Awards

Annual award to partnerships with systems change potential of up to $100,000 for start-up partnerships and up to $1 million for scale-up partnerships focused on 5 SDG areas: food and agriculture (SDG 2), clean water (SDG 6), clean energy (SDG 7), sustainable cities (SDG 11), and circular economy (SDG 12)

Must be a partnership among civil society, private, and public-sector organizations

Must be working to advance innovative and commercially viable project(s) in at least one of the five SDG sectors

Must target green growth in developing countries, with an emphasis on P4G partner countries

Innovation and growth—Addresses barriers that must be overcome to accelerate commercially viable means of accomplishing the SDGs.

Implementation viability—Has the capacity to succeed.

Impact potential—Contributes to systems change that will advance overall green economic growth with commercially viable and replicable business models

Value add—Brings together innovative constellations of businesses, government, and civil society organizations tackling global challenges through market-driven approaches

Relevance—Promotes market-based solutions to one or more of the five SDG sector areas

P4G State-of-the-Art Partnership Award

Presented annually to public-private partnerships that have achieved measurable success toward driving the SDGs 

Must be a public-private partnership that addresses one or more of P4G’s five targeted SDGs

Partnership must include a combination of civil society, government, and business organizations

Eligibility—Address one or more of P4G’s five targeted SDGs; partnership includes combination of civil society, government, and business organizations

Impact—Partnership has demonstrated measurable and verifiable outcomes

Innovation—Partnership has developed innovative solutions to address its target SDG

Scalability—Partnership has grown since its launch and has demonstrated the ability to be replicated in other markets

Financial sustainability—Partnership has market-based solutions that have or can attract a level of commercial investment and/or support

Sources: Belfer Center 2020; Maassen and Galvin 2019; P4G 2020c; P4G 2020a).

Based on this review, we identified seven evaluation criteria shown in Table D2 (matrix structure based on Maassen and Galvin 2019). We also developed a scoring system using a rating scale of 0–5, and provided a description of what each rating number means for each criterion to support scoring consistency by evaluators. To address the issue that our survey participant pool includes partnerships at different phases of maturity, we also devised the criteria rating scale to range from no potential for impact to having achieved impact. Partnerships with a longer history of implementation that were successful in achieving near to intermediate goals, such as the non-P4G SOTA partnerships, would be expected to score higher on impacts and overall across the criteria compared to start-up and scale-up partnerships that are only a few months to a couple years into their operations.

Evaluators scored partnerships against each of the seven criteria using the matrix provided in Table D2. Because some criteria had more subcriteria than others (e.g., Impacts has three subcriteria while Vision and Planning only has two), they had a greater weight toward the overall assessment of transformation potential. This was by design. For each partnership, an average score was taken across all evaluators for each criterion, and then a final average was taken across all criteria to arrive at a final score between 0 and 5. To finalize each partnership’s score, we gathered data on the scoring variance across the evaluators to determine if there were major scoring discrepancies between evaluators. In instances where the variance was greater than 1 point, we held a discussion to assess the evidence considered in the evaluator’s decision to determine if scores should be adjusted.

After the final scores were determined, we divided partnerships into terciles: high, medium, and low transformation potential partnerships. Partnerships with an average score equal to or over 3.24 were rated as high potential; partnerships with a score greater than 2.50 and less than 3.24 were rated as medium potential; and partnerships with a score equal to or less than 2.50 were rated as low potential. This scoring distribution aligned nicely with our rating scale, where a score of three for any criteria generally equated with having strong potential and a five is equated with ability to demonstrate success in that area. It is important to note that low potential, for our purposes, can mean that the partnership either has demonstrated low transformation potential or is early in its partnership journey and thus has not been able to demonstrate outputs, outcomes, or impacts.

We note that we tested this evaluation and scoring approach with several reputable non-P4G multistakeholder partnerships and compared their scores to those in our sample pool, including the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the Clean Cooking Alliance, and AGRA. Evaluators agreed with how these partnerships ranked compared to our 41 partnerships.

Table D2 | Transformation Potential Evaluation Matrix


Evaluation Question

Rating Scale








Vision and Planning


To what extent has the partnership developed a new concept? The concept could be a new approach or application to an existing idea.

Not able to answer.


The concept behind the partnership is traditional or well-known given the geographic context.

The concept behind the partnership is traditional or well-known given the geographic context but has been slightly adapted.

The concept behind the partnership involves a moderate degree of innovation, given the geographic context.

The concept behind the partnership is highly innovative, given the geographic context.

The concept behind the partnership is highly innovative, regardless of the geographic context.

Strategic Plan

To what extent has the partnership done ALL of the following:

1. Established a clear understanding of the system it is trying to shift (e.g., stakeholders, relationships and power dynamics, market and institutional barriers, attempted solutions to tackle the problem at hand).

2. Established a clear vision for how the partnership will solve the problem(s) and shift system conditions to drive progress on the SDGs.

3. Developed a clear strategic plan or theory of change that articulates how the partnership’s activities will help to change a system, including causal assumptions and stakeholder roles.

Not able to answer.


There is not a clear and shared understanding of the system nor a clear rationale for selection of the problem it will address.There is no evidence of a clear theory of change that displays causal assumptions and systems thinking (does not discuss common conditions of systems change such as: policies, practices, resource flow allocations, distribution of decision-making power, quality of relationships among stakeholders, behaviors and daily life.

The partnership is able to articulate a low-level understanding of the system and rationale for selecting the problem it will address. The theory of change is not well-developed and does not display systems change thinking.

The partnership has undertaken research to understand the system but still has a limited understanding of how its efforts fit into the wider landscape.The theory of change is moderately well-developed.

The partnership has undertaken research to understand the system and has a good idea of how its efforts are unique and add value. The theory of change is well-developed and connected to systems change thinking.

The partnership has undertaken detailed research to understand the system and how its efforts are unique and add value. The partnership has developed a clear theory of change with clear causal assumptions and systems change thinking.


Near-Term Goals

To what extent has the partnership been able to build a strong foundation to implement its approach or model of change? This includes, for example: 

  • Securing stakeholder commitments 
  • Increasing awareness of and building credibility with stakeholders 
  • Pilot/product testing its approach 
  • Securing funding 
  • Data collecting, research, and knowledge sharing

Not able to answer.


The partnership lacks clear near-term goals and targets that would set a strong foundation, and near-term goals are not well-linked to its systems change goals.

Goals are not thought to be achievable or are unrealistic.

The partnership has established near-term goals and targets, but they are not well-linked to their systems change goals and may not be achievable within their targeted time frame.

The partnership has established near-term goals and targets that are thought to be achievable and are linked to its systems change goals.

The partnership is on track to achieve its near-term goals.

The partnership has met its near-term goals, and its near-term goals are well-linked to its systems change goals.

The partnership has excelled at meeting its goals (achieved beyond what was expected), and its goals are well-linked to its systems change goals.


Since the partnership’s initiation, to what extent has the partnership scaled up its activities to capture a greater market share or scale to other networks, markets, or economies?

To what extent have other partnerships or businesses or other entities replicated the partnership’s approach or created commercially viable business models because the partnership has reduced system barriers?

Not able to answer.


The partnership has no potential for expansion or replication and lacks a strategy or targets for scaling up or out.

The partnership has some potential for growth and may have set targets for future expansion or replication.

The partnership has strong potential to expand its activities or to be replicated and has set tangible and measurable targets for future expansion but has not yet expanded elsewhere or been replicated to date.

The partnership has expanded its activities to one other network, market, or economy or has captured a good degree of market share, and/or the partnership is a model for others that are working to emulate the approach.

The partnership has expanded its activities to multiple networks, markets, or economies. It may also have captured a significant market share or feature a partnership approach that has been replicated by others.


Transformation Objectives

To what extent has the partnership made progress on shifting the system it is trying to change (e.g., meeting its long-term or SDG goals)? Example shifts may include changes to 

  • policies
  • practices  
  • resource flow allocations
  • distribution of decision-making power 
  • quality of relationships between stakeholders 
  • behaviors and daily life

Not able to answer.


The partnership has little potential for systems change as indicated by its long-term or systems change goals, which are not aligned with the example shifts.

The partnership has some potential for shifting systems conditions but has not yet demonstrated evidence of impact.

The partnership has strong potential for shifting systems conditions but has not yet demonstrated evidence of impact.

The partnership has evidence of shifting systems conditions with evidence of impact.

The partnership has had substantial positive impact on people’s lives as a result of changing policies, practices, and/or resource flows.


Operational Resilience

To what extent is the partnership able to respond to challenges or barriers, such as new policies, changes in administrations, natural disasters, stakeholder changes, etc.?

Not able to answer.


The partnership has not identified potential challenges and thus lacks a strategy for overcoming these challenges and/or the partnership has experienced challenges that have resulted in severe setbacks to achieving the partnership’s goals or partnership failure.

The partnership has identified some challenges but it has not discussed how it will address these challenges and/or the partnership has experienced challenges that have resulted in moderate setbacks to achieving the partnership’s goals.

The partnership has identified potential challenges and has a strategy for addressing these challenges and/or the partnership has experienced some challenges and has had had some minor to major setbacks in achieving its goals as a result, indicating only a moderate resiliency level.

The partnership has identified potential challenges and has a strategy for addressing these challenges and the partnership has experienced challenges and has been able to respond and adapt to challenges. The partnership may have faced minor setbacks but it seems to have a good level of resiliency.

The partnership has identified potential challenges and has a strategy for addressing these challenges and the partnership has experienced these challenges and has been able to quickly and collectively respond and adapt to challenges, indicating a high resiliency level.

Financial Sustainability

To what extent has the partnership been able to find a self-sustaining financial model?

Not able to answer.


The partnership has high funding uncertainty and has low potential for leveraging funding.

The partnership has moderate funding uncertainty and has moderate potential for attracting new funding.

The partnership has some funding uncertainty but has potential to attract new funding.

The partnership has a good degree of financial sustainability with a good degree of investor interest.

The partnership has developed a self-sustaining financial model or has a high degree of investor interest.

Source: WRI Authors.

Evaluator Selection

To address the evaluator bias, we identified two teams of evaluators. Although each team would have inherent bias based on its personal relationship to the partnership, the evaluation design is based on taking an average score for each criteria on across the two teams of evaluators.

  • Research team: This team includes the three primary researchers behind this report. This team has expertise in economics and social science research methods, as well as monitoring and evaluation best practices. This team is responsible for reviewing in depth the reporting documentation of each partnership, previous scoring reviews of each partnership for earlier P4G selection of start-up and scale-up winners and SOTA award finalists, survey results, and additional web research.
  • P4G team: This team includes the three primary P4G staff responsible for partnership selection and communication. This team worked with external consultants to define P4G’s own criteria for partnership selection, and is familiar with each partnership’s progress. As such, they are viewed as being more in touch with the challenges and successes of each partnership at least at a quarterly reporting level. We asked this team to score using a best-judgment approach. As they have previously reviewed all application, reporting, and scoring information, we asked that they judge to the best of their ability and refer back to partnership documentation when they deemed necessary to make a proper judgment call. This was designed as a time-saving measure.

We initially considered having the partnership itself be a third category of evaluator and had asked partnerships to rate themselves in the survey according to our seven transformation potential criteria. However, we were not able to provide the full evaluation matrix in the survey, and an assessment of partnerships’ scores revealed that partnerships seem to overestimate how well they do against each criterion; so this was ultimately excluded from the scoring.

Comparison of Transformation Potential Groups

As stated earlier, partnerships were divided into different groupings, based on their transformation potential, to compare their average self-evaluation scores for our 14 success factors. The success factors that demonstrated the greatest scoring differential between high and low transformation-potential groups would be indicative of where high-performing partnerships are doing better at implementation, compared to low-performing partnerships. Partnerships scored themselves against success factors on a scale of 1–5, based on the extent to which they embodied each success factor (where 1 = not at all and 5 = to a great extent).

We grouped partnerships into terciles representing low, medium, and high transformation potential. The tercile distribution corresponded roughly with the evaluation criteria score scale, which is on a scale of 0–5, where for each criteria, a score above 3 indicates a high performance. The top tercile partnerships had an average transformation potential score of 3.24 or greater, medium tercile partnerships had a score between 2.50 and 3.24, and bottom tercile partnerships had a score of 2.50 or below.

Table D3 provides a summary of the average scoring differential between all high (top tercile) transformation-potential partnerships and all low (bottom tercile) transformation-potential partnerships. As the success factor “bold and creative approach and activities” was considered to overlap significantly with “Jointly agreed-upon overarching vision and goals," we integrated the two into our final definition of “Jointly agreed-upon overarching vision and goals” in Chapter 4. To determine which success factors should be included in the report, we selected those where the scoring differential was >0.5.

Table D3 | Average Success Factor Scoring Differential between High and Low Transformation-Potential Partnerships Summary of Partnership Scores by Tercile

Success Factor

High vs. Low (Or Top vs. Bottom Tercile Grouping)


1. Clear articulation of the system of interest



2. Jointly agreed-upon transformation vision and near-term goals



3. Bold and creative approach and activities



4. Confirmation that partnering is the right approach and that partners selected are the best possible option



5. Strong monitoring, evaluation, learning, and reporting mechanism



6. Culture of trust, inclusivity, and information-sharing



7. Strong management and coordination structure



8. Robust governance mechanisms



9. Stakeholder commitment to agreed-upon resources



10. Funding security



11. Capacity to engage stakeholders external to the partnership



12. Supportive environment enabled by government



13. Strong champions at multiple levels



14. Ability to navigate the local context in which the partnership operates



Source: WRI Authors.

Appendix E. Partnerships Referenced thoughout Report



Chapter 1

Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA)

Chapter 2

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE)

Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

Zero Emission Rapid Bus-deployment Accelerator (ZEBRA)

Africa GreenCo

Chapter 3

City Support Programme (CSP)

Alianza por la Sostenibilidad (AxS)

EIT Climate-KIC

Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF)

Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA)

Green Climate Fund (GCF)

The Global Fund, Google Cloud, and the Indian Government

Last Mile Project

Latin-American Water Funds Partnership

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Sustainable Apparel Coalition

NextGen Consortium

Marine Stewardship Council

Clean Energy Investment Accelerator (CEIA)

Sustainable Food Partnership

We Mean Business (WMB)

Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA)

Clean Cargo Working Group (CCWG)

Chapter 4

IIX Women’s Livelihood Bond SeriesTM

Africa GreenCo

NextWave Plastics


Courtauld Commitment 2025

Friends for Ocean Action

2030 Vision

Energise Africa

Appendix B

IIX Women’s Livelihood Bond SeriesTM

Africa GreenCo

ME SOLshare

Global Distributors Collective (GDC)

Courtauld Commitment 2025

2020 Circular Fashion Commitment

UK Plastics Pact

Global Plastics Acton Partnership (GPAP)


Energise Africa

NextWave Plastics

Sustainable Sourcing at Scale Partnership

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