Plan International commissioned this report to enhance their understanding of partnerships and alliances in the development context. Through a better clarification of the definition, diagnosis of current practice, analysis of possible models and discussion of main lessons learnt, the hope is that Plan International will be better equiped to define their future strategy towards partnership. The paper is divided in four main parts: Part 1 reviews the literature on partnership and alliances and demonstrates the complexity and interrelated nature of these terms.
It then examines the evolution of partnership discourse in development through a study from business, public and civil society perspectives. Part 2 is a comparative study of a selection of major international non-governmental organisations – highlighting definitions of partnership, how added value of partnerships is ascertained along with policy on monitoring, evaluating and the ending of partnerships. It illustrates that frequently the concept is loosely defined and not used in a systematic way.
Part 3 includes a more detailed analysis of one set of models of partnership approaches exploring their advantages, disadvantages and typical application. However, it also emphasises that there are many possible models that can be applied to delineate partnership relationships. Part 4 discusses the research literature on effective partnership, indicating the best practice in their preparation, construction and management. It highlights that partnership is a complex and fluid process, vulnerable to outside influences and that INGOs like Plan International should approach partnership as an ongoing process towards an ‘ideal type’.
International development institutions, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), states and governments, donors and recipients, are increasingly recognising the growing importance of partnerships and alliances as a key mechanism for translating political commitments into action and in achieving sustainable development at the grassroots level. For this reason it is important to examine the theoretical framework in which partnerships and alliances operate. Interestingly, the terms ‘alliance’ and ‘partnership’ originate not from international development, but from international relations and business respectively.
Hence, it is useful here to examine how these terms are used in the private, public and civil society sectors. In international relations literature alliance is frequently used to refer to a formal agreement between two or more states collaborating on national security issues (Holsti et. al, 1982). The most important determinant of these alignments is viewed to be the compatibility of goals, not imbalances of power or threat (Schweller, 1998).
The Oxford English Dictionary also describes alliances as ‘combinations for a common object …[e]specially between sovereign states'(see Box 1). Business sector alliances between firms and organisations are formed to maximize their competitiveness on a particular market, as each party alone lacks resources or competency to achieve the maximum desirable outcome. They also identify the potential obstacles to successful alliances, such as: unrealistic expectations regarding alliance synergies, clash of corporate/organisational cultures and lack of interest/commitment by one or more partners.
Normally, the actors involved are seen as equal, uniting their efforts and interests in three types of alliances: 1. Strategic Alliances: relationships that work together to attain some strategic objective; or as part of the marketing of a product as a stream of value-chain activities where alliances enable each value chain activity to be accomplished with the help of a partner; or inter-firm cooperative arrangements aimed at achieving the strategic objectives of the partners (Hoffman & Shaper, 2001; Gulati, 1998;
Kale et.al, 2000; Stafford, 1994; Sankar et. al, 1995). 2. Transaction cost alliances: collaborations between firms involving contractual relationships between two or more companies, in which they agree to jointly carry out one or several tasks, or specific projects, which are difficult or too costly to carry out alone. For each participant, one major activity reflects its value chain, and the activity is clearly defined and limited to its objectives (Hoffman & Shaper, 2001; Gulati, 1998; Kale et. al, 2000; Stafford, 1994; Sankar et. al, 1995). 3.
Learning alliances: co-alignments between two or more firms in which the participants hope to learn and acquire from each other the technologies, products, skills and knowledge that are not otherwise available to their competitors (Kogut, 1988; Hammel et. al, 1989; Khanna et. al, 1994; Lane & Lubatkin, 1998). In the development context alliances are described as a number of organisational structures in which two or more members cooperate based on mutual goals. These are aimed at bolstering the developmental effort by reducing resource duplication, increasing efficiency and doing more with less (Williamson, 1995).