The Project

“The objective of this project is to develop a new research agenda, which is both of theoretical importance for understanding complex governance systems and of pressing policy significance for sustainability.” – Liliana B. Andonova

The project on ‘Effectiveness of Partnerships for Advancing the SDGs: Behavioural Pathways and Impacts‘ is a 2-year research project coordinated by the Centre for International Environmental Studies (CIES) at the Graduate Institute, Geneva and supported by a grant of the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) under its call for projects 2017.

The project is carried out in partnership with the University of Geneva’s Public-Private Partnership Centre, the University of Zurich, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University and the Grenoble Ècole de Management. It started its activities in Fall 2017 and is expected to last until Fall 2019. Its objective is to bridge the gap between the growing role played by transnational partnerships as mechanisms of governance in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in September 2015 and the limited systematic assessment of their actual effects on overcoming collective action failures, contributing to innovation, and achieving sustainable development. The project seeks to develop a new research agenda, which is both of theoretical importance for understanding complex governance systems and of pressing policy significance for sustainable development

Several core questions guide the research:

  • How can we conceptualise and operationalise effectiveness for partnerships?
  • Through what mechanisms are partnerships’ effects likely to materialize?
  • What are the sources and limitations of the effectiveness of partnerships for sustainability?
  • What outcomes have partnerships contributed in advancing objectives related to specific SDGs?
  • How do partnerships interact with other forms of governance at the international and sub-national level to influence results for the SDGs

While cross-sector partnerships are touted as a promising mechanism to meaningfully address complex problems and meet sustainable development goals, no established framework exists for their evaluation. There is no agreed-upon list of performance indicators for partnerships and no consensus on how to determine if partnerships are effective. This project is currently addressing these research gaps in three ways. First, it presents an inter-disciplinary conceptualisation of partnership effectiveness that should be broadly applicable. Second, it seeks to theorise the plausible pathways and conditions for the variable effectiveness of partnerships. Third, it employs multi-disciplinary methods to present new data and case studies on partnership effectiveness with respect to the multiple objectives advanced by the SDGs. 

The project is coordinated by Prof Liliana Andonova, co-director of the CIES and Professor of International Relations/Political Science at the Graduate Institute of Geneva.