How Multistakeholder Partnerships Can Accelerate the UN Sustainable Development Goals


Concluding Comments: Looking to 2030

We have just under a decade remaining to meet the SDGs. Transformation-seeking multistakeholder partnerships and those thinking about forming such partnerships can benefit from up-to-date knowledge to help them understand when and where partnerships are needed and how to tap into critical moments of opportunity. While this report aimed to set the stage by presenting the rich and multidisciplinary literature and knowledge available to address common knowledge gaps, more investigation is needed into the role of finance, external stakeholders, and technology, and the impacts of partnerships.

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A Call to Action

Multistakeholder partnerships among governments, businesses, and CSOs are increasingly thought of as an essential element to drive transformative change and accelerate progress on achieving the SDGs and addressing climate change. Despite the growing number of transformation-focused partnerships that have emerged to address the SDGs, most are still early in their partnership journeys where there is little empirical analysis of actual impacts. Additionally, these partnerships are operating in complex and dynamic systems where the research landscape is constantly evolving across multiple fields of study and investigative angles. Yet we have just under a decade remaining to meet the SDGs. Partnerships and those thinking about engaging in partnerships need support and resources.

This report aimed to synthesize the rich and multi-disciplinary literature and knowledge available to address knowledge gaps around transformative partnerships. These knowledge gaps include lack of a common framing and clear definitions for transformation and systems change as it pertains to partnerships, lack of clear information on when partnering is the right approach and how to maximize the motivations and offerings each sector has to offer, and lack of empirical evidence of partnership success factors and how they should be implemented.

Chapter 2 described three key characteristics of transformation identified in the literature to help clarify partnerships’ understanding of transformation, how it relates to the concepts of systems and systems change, and a typology of transformative partnerships. A greater understanding of all these factors can help partnerships think about and be more deliberate in how they plan for their transformation journeys. Chapter 3 provided readers with detailed information on offerings of each major sector in partnership and a better understanding of why these sectors seek to partner. This is useful because we heard that partners don’t always fully understand each other, and we know from our research that partnership roles and responsibilities are an essential ingredient to the success of partnerships. Chapter 4 identified 14 common success factors related to partnership operations and relationship management and took a deep dive into four that may have a greater bearing on reaching transformation objectives, based on an analysis of 41 partnerships in the P4G ecosystem, most of which are still in operation. Using guidance from leading literature and high transformation-potential partnerships from the P4G community, partnerships can learn how to better embody these 14 success factors to improve their effectiveness. We also provided guidelines to help partnerships better track their contribution to systems transformation, with the hope that this will help improve the empirical evidence base needed to help researchers better understand partnerships. Integrating systems thinking concepts into performance tracking is integral for transformation-seeking partnerships. Chapter 4 also took a glance at the 4IR, providing evidence of how partnerships are harnessing the power of new technologies to advance change.

Looking Forward

With the stage set, we must continue to learn from partnerships on their transformation journeys to better understand when and where partnerships are needed and how to tap into critical moments of opportunity.

More investigation is also needed to further explore the role of advanced technologies, as well as the role of finance and frontline communities as partnership stakeholders. We must also learn how external networks can better support partnerships. Recommendations and insights from this report have largely been focused on what partnerships can do to maximize their effectiveness. But what can others—the national platforms, the partnership accelerators, the investors and grantees, and national governments—do in practice to better enable transformation? Additionally, more investigation is needed into partnership impacts related to the SDGs, to better understand when partnerships are most needed, and which types are best suited in different contexts.

Future WRI research will continue to target and explore the information gaps like those identified as most critical by partnerships and track lessons learned from the P4G and wider partnership community.

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