Impact in international development requires meaningful partnerships

Partnerships in international development are not a nice-to-have, they are critical to drive impact.

There are currently 15 specialised United Nations (UN) agencies, and 5,451 officially registered NGOs with a consultative status with the UN. Global and regional multilateral development banks and bilateral development agencies and banks, foundations and private sector companies, as well as millions of national and local NGOs add to a complex international development architecture.

How can all of these organisations ensure that they are driving impact for the people and planet that they are mandated to serve? How can they best drive impact at scale, using scarce resources and capacity efficiently, and ensure that their policies and programs do not duplicate or contradict each other?

Working in partnership is a key means to deliver on coherent policy recommendations, funding, and programs – and critical for achieving impact.

Investing in partnerships can increase the impact of an organisation by:

  • Tapping into diverse expertise and information sources
  • Enabling better division of labour
  • Reaping efficiencies
  • Achieving economies of scale
  • Providing support in times of crisis, and
  • Ensuring policy and implementation coherence.

So why do so many organisations struggle with partnerships? Many organisations:

  • Have identified high-profile strategic partners, but struggle to engage and deliver on objectives due to different organisational cultures or cycles
  • Lack the capacity to map, prioritise and engage meaningfully with partners
  • Struggle to identify strategic partnerships
  • Fear competition and lack the expertise and tools to mitigate risks
  • Have incentives that focus leadership and staff attention inwards
  • Do not have partnership criteria, or a partnership process in place, including an exit strategy when needed.

Partners for Impact (PFI) aims to bring together best practices from research and experts working in partnership, and also offers tailored services to organisations that would like to improve their understanding of what working in partnership means in practice, what the benefits and challenges are, and how to practically move forward partnerships to achieve more impact.

The mission of PFI is to ensure that development organisations achieve more impact through their partnerships. Find out more about PFI’s work and focus.

Published by Katri Bertram

Katri has worked in global health, global public policy, and international development for 20 years, and is a mom of four children. She is driven in her work to ensure that all people can live healthy lives, equity becomes a reality, and the power of inclusive partnerships is leveraged for more impact. Katri most recently worked at the German Federal Ministry of Health on global health, focusing in particular on Germany’s G7 Presidency in 2022, G20, and the Ministry’s partnerships with non-state actors. She previously worked at the World Bank, where she was a member of the leadership team, heading External Relations (governance, fundraising, partnerships, and communications) for the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents (GFF) and worked in External Relations at the World Bank’s office for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. She has also worked for Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation that works in 120 countries, where she as a member of the global executive leadership team headed global advocacy, policy, and campaigning. Katri is a graduate of the London School of Economics (Master in International Relations), the Hertie School (Master in Public Policy), and the University of York (Bachelor in Economics and Politics). Katri is fluent in English, German, and Finnish. She has received scholarships from Chevening, the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (FES), Berlin School for Transnational Studies (BTS), the Finnish Government (CIMO), and the Hertie Foundation. Katri lives in Berlin/Germany and is Finnish by nationality. Also follow Katri on LinkedIn, Twitter, and on her personal blog, and follow her initiative on partnerships in international development (PFI) and having children and a career in Germany (KarriereFamilie). The contents of all blogs are personal and do not reflect the positions of any employers.

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