Albert Einstein’s famous statement “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted countssuggests that there are many forms of value in human endeavor and that it really matters to understand ‘what counts’. The conviction that it is essential to understand better what counts in partnerships and other collaborative approaches to sustainable development underpins, informs and drives our Working with Donors project.

Donors play a critical role in promoting and supporting partnering not just as a tool or method but also as a value, whether to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals or in any number of other initiatives across the globe. However, experience suggests that donors struggle to understand partnering and how best to support it as a design and delivery mechanism. This means that they can (unintentionally) hinder rather than assist partners in their attempts to optimize multi-stakeholder collaboration and its impacts.

The Working with Donors project seeks to understand better and increase the impact of donor partnering efforts and investments by:

“Donors are often seen as signatories of a cheque, who remain in the background with little involvement in how the funding is being utilised. That is not our expectation… we want to be seen as a partner in the process along that journey…”
Lisa Doherty, Irish Aid
(Footnote 1)

  • Exchanging knowledge, insights and experiences of partnering and funding partnerships;
  • Collating such evidence as there is about the impact of donors on effective partnering;
  • Undertaking action research into examples of innovative or successful funding / resourcing practices;
  • Developing practical information materials and on-line learning / capacity building workshops to share findings and shape donor approaches going forwards;
  • Exploring and testing new approaches to donor / partner relationships that will achieve more substantive outcomes.


The Working with Donors project is a joint venture designed to generate mutual benefit, mutual learning and collaborative working. In this way, we can ensure partnerships work optimally and achieve ambitious and transformational goals.


Original art work by Maria Hayes, PBA’s Artist in Residence