Partnering Challenges

Albert Einstein’s famous statement Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts” suggests that there are many forms of value in human endeavor and that it really matters to understand ‘what counts’.
The conviction that it is not just money that counts in partnerships and other collaborative approaches, but that other types of resourcing matter too, is what underpins, informs and drives the Funders as Partners project.

The Funders as Partners project is about understanding better how those providing money (donors, funders) and those receiving money can and do affect the impact and performance of multi-sector partnerships. If non-financial resourcing is also essential for effective partnering, what might a fit-for-purpose resourcing model that combines financial and non-financial resources look like?

“Money plays a critical role in advancing partnership practice for greater effectiveness and impact. But the key lesson from partnering practice is that although money is essential, other types of resources are no less critical.  Money can help build stronger partnerships and more effective partnering processes but it can also stifle the innovation and transformation so urgently needed. Businesses, for example, should be seen as opportunities for bringing more than just money to a multi-stakeholder partnership. See the different skills, diverse experience and embrace the possibilities.”
Kwasi Amponsah Boateng, PB Associate

Funders seeking to operate as partners in multi-stakeholder partnerships report the following challenges:

  • Lack of internal alignment within their own organisations
  • Lack of coherence of approach between partners
  • Inter-sector unhelpful assumptions (about each other)
  • Intra-sector competition (especially for funds, media exposure, reputation)
  • Paper partnerships (thrown together just to access funds)
  • Wearing two hats (e.g. being both partner and funder)
  • Failure to build on diversity and genuinely innovate to generate added value
  • Unwillingness to let go of a level of sole control
  • Failure to value / leverage non-financial contributions
  • Held back by a disabling external context or environment for partnering
  • Reluctance / inability to share risks and costs, despite rhetoric to the contrary
  • Emphasis on experts rather than empowerment in capacity-building
  • Focus on compliance rather than co-creation involving those engaged and affected
  • Limited staffing to move beyond core business of fund management/disbursement
  • Inability to account for non-financial resources in reporting progress & results
  • Using ‘due diligence’ to protect status quo, failing to explore mutual accountability

Challenges notwithstanding, in our view, all funders can support more transformative partnering in their ongoing operations by:

  • Promoting partnering as a delivery mechanism
  • Providing funding for partnership-generated projects
  • Investing in building partnering capacity and processes
  • Developing new ways of fully valuing non-cash contributions
  • Brokering new partnerships and collaborative models
  • Engaging as real partners
  • Modeling high standards in partnering practice
  • Assessing the added value of partnering
  • Building constituencies for partnership action
  • Influencing policy and decision-makers
  • Sharing learning about partnering challenges
  • Bringing a longer-term perspective to the table
  • Convening parties across sectors to facilitate relationship among “unusual suspects”
  • Supporting systems-wide stakeholder mapping to identify strategic partnership prospects
  • Funding partnership health checks
  • Helping to document how partnerships have improved outcomes.

(The list was initially developed as part of PBA’s work with the Global Alliance on Community Philanthropy. PBA Associates and collaborating funders have added to the list).