Recent scientific reports highlight the urgent need for transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and long-term sustainability. This paper presents a new approach to partnerships that focuses on their role in transformations, the types of partnerships that may be needed and their enabling environment. It introduces transformation effectiveness as a criterion to evaluate a portfolio of partnerships and pathways as a tool to frame discussion of required partnerships. Guided by energy decarbonization and using a simple model of partnership formation, I highlight a (potential) mismatch between the types of partnerships required for transformation and the partnership types arising under the currently dominant voluntary approach. The model suggests the bottom-up approach can deliver some, but not all, of the partnerships needed. Five specific problems are identified—compensation for losers, partnering capacity, short-time horizons, inadequate coordination mechanisms and misaligned incentives. The paper then outlines some policy tools—transfers, regulation, public investment—governments could use to strengthen the bottom-up framework and orchestrate missing partnerships. The conclusion addresses two problems specific to the transformation approach: how to identify more systematically the partnerships needed (identification problem) and how to implement them (implementation problem); and outlines some ways to deal with these—science, deliberation, international leadership coalitions and frameworks/monitoring systems for transition partnerships.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited