Book cover: Transitioning to Strong Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals
Open Access Edited Book

Transitioning to Strong Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals

Published: December 2020
Pages: 206
ISBN 978-3-03897-882-4 (hardback); ISBN 978-3-03897-883-1 (PDF)
This book is part of the book series: Transitioning to Sustainability
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Transitioning to Strong Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals is an edited volume dedicated to current developments regarding SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals”. This goal contains preconditions and systemic issues that will facilitate the success of the SDGs in general. Thus, the volume covers conditions, structures, and means to strengthen the SDGs from both the theoretical and practical perspective.


Transitioning to Strong Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals has three main focal points:

  1. Theoretical approaches to sustainable partnerships, including public–private partnerships.
  2. Different structural aspects for sustainable partnerships, including financial deals with philanthropic initiatives and new financing models as well as new technologies to meet the logistical challenges of development aid.
  3. Systemic issues, especially institutional coherence, multi-stakeholder approaches, and challenges of statistics for development.

The invited academic and practical contributions cover a variety of different fields of research and expertise.

Transitioning to Strong Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals is part of MDPI's new Open Access book series Transitioning to SustainabilityWith this series, MDPI pursues environmentally and socially relevant research that contributes to efforts toward a sustainable world. Transitioning to Sustainability aims to add to the conversation about regional and global sustainable development according to the 17 SDGs. The book series is intended to reach beyond disciplinary, even academic boundaries. 


sustainable partnerships, sustainable development, cooperation


Published with the generous support of the Swiss National Science Foundation.


  • One for All—SDG 17 as a Driver to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
    One for all! The first part of the famous musketeer motto seems to fit perfectly with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”. While the sixteen goals before are directed towards concrete areas of action, SDG 17 serves as a convener and facilitator for all the other goals. This article offers a short introduction to SDG 17. In particular, it opens up a discussion on how different combinations of partnerships should be embedded in order to achieve the targets of SDG 17. Based on a literature review and the following chapter of this volume, we formulate implications for research and practice on the diversity of multi-stakeholder partnerships, the necessity of overarching norms, the importance of evaluation, and the value of trust and willingness to make partnerships work.
  • Collectively Addressing SDGs to Change an Industry: The Case of the Water Revolution Foundation
    Sustainable Development Goal 17 (Partnerships) concerns collaborative efforts between companies and societal actors. One potential collaborative effort that is often overlooked involves companies that join together to form a civil society organization, based on a common goal of creating positive social change through a non-commercial strategy. Such forms of collaboration for the purpose of creating positive social change are needed, as traditional ways of addressing grand challenges have proven insufficient. In this chapter, we draw on a single case study to discuss a particular form of partnership among companies within a specific industry. The partnership is formalized as an industry foundation aimed at creating positive social change. Hence, we examine the specific dynamics of such an industry foundation. This industry foundation uses collective power to leverage resources from the market sector and invest them across sectors in NGOs and social enterprises that can help to transform the entire industry. Such foundations can play an important role in helping companies align themselves to the Sustainable Development Goals. Based on this case, we draw three main conclusions. First, industry foundations can be differentiated from other non-commercial structures emerging from companies (e.g., corporate foundations, collective corporate foundations, industry associations, and multi-stakeholder initiatives) by shifting toward a collective of stakeholders within a particular industry, instead of around a particular social issue. Second, industry foundations face challenges with regard to legitimizing their public benefit, as they are vulnerable to questions concerning whether they are truly operating to the public benefit or whether they are actually private interests in disguise. Third, one major potential of industry foundations is that those involved in them are part of the industry—they know the possibilities and limitations of the industry, and they are trusted by others within that industry. This type of foundation can thus serve as a “coalition of the willing”, by bringing together front-runners who can actually accelerate change within an industry.
  • Building Strong Partnership for SDGs: Analyzing Participation of Nigerian Stakeholders
    The concept of multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) is promoted as one of the key tools for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 17 emphasizes the critical importance of partnerships for sustainable development, based on the assumption that partnerships will mobilize a wide range of stakeholders in the sharing of knowledge, expertise, technology, and additional resources towards achieving the global development agenda. However, studies have shown that global multi-stakeholder partnerships are challenged by unbalanced participation, particularly the limited participation of stakeholders from sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This lack of inclusiveness and participation often leads to incoherence in agenda-setting, contested decision-making processes, and suboptimal outcomes of partnerships. Yet, developing strong partnerships for the SDGs requires increased participation, inclusiveness, and diversity that enhances the role and influence of partnerships towards achieving the SDGs. Consequently, research needs to urgently explore how multi-stakeholder partnerships can achieve increased participation and inclusiveness by mobilizing underrepresented stakeholders. Against this challenge, this chapter analyzes inclusiveness and representation in MSPs related to stakeholders from the SSA region. Using Nigeria as a case study, we explore the participation of Nigerian stakeholders in MSPs, focusing on obstacles for increased participation and inclusiveness. The chapter is organized as follows: first, we review the Partnerships for SDGs online platform (hosted by the United Nations), focusing on multi-stakeholder partnerships’ self-reported implementation in Nigeria. Second, using survey data on SSA partnerships, we analyze the factors hindering participation in partnerships. Finally, this chapter discusses the impacts of limited participation and inclusiveness on partnerships concerning agenda-setting, decision-making process, and outcomes. The chapter concludes that an improved understanding of participation in multi-stakeholder partnerships will offer an opportunity for reflection, in the SSA context, required for building strong and effective partnerships for the SDGs.
  • Institutional and Policy Framework in the Governance of Capture Fisheries and Its Bearing on Co-Management: Experiences from Zambia
    Recent scientific reports highlight the urgent need for transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and long-term sustainability. The purpose of this study was to analyze the influence that institutional and policy frameworks have on co-management partnerships in poor communities like Lake Bangweulu open fisheries in Zambia. This chapter is based on field research that aims to generate information for sustainable fisheries management, through strong partnerships in the form of co-management. The research took a qualitative and quantitative approach to explore the institutional frameworks and the appropriateness of the fisheries policy for co-management. Data were obtained through observation, surveys, and documentation. The findings show that the involvement of fishing communities in the management of the fisheries at all levels, from policymaking to implementation, would lead to greater awareness and management compliance by resource users. However, policy and management strategies should focus on community development rather than just conservation. A policy based on conservation is seen as not designed to improve on local livelihood, but conserves resources for the benefit of facilitating institutions. Strong partnerships that take a holistic approach in the governance and management of fisheries are critical in achieving the SDG 17. The study suggests how institutional and policy frameworks can both facilitate and constrain fisheries co-management. Presented here are the normative criteria from which to evaluate and improve partnerships in co-management.
  • Reflecting on the Role of Academia–Private Sector Partnerships in Moving Forward with the SDGs
    Partnerships are enshrined as an integral mechanism for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, despite the apparent prominence of partnerships in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is interesting to note that, in SDG 17, only two sub-targets correspond to the interaction between partners. Furthermore, while partnerships between academia and other sectors are on the rise, there is a lack of relevant conceptual framework to practice and support impactful partnership development. In the present essay, we advocate a process perspective and describe how higher education institutions (HEIs) can engage in partnerships for sustainable development in which knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources are mobilized and shared. Using examples from the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Champion schools, this essay addresses the lack of conceptual framework by offering a two-dimensional framework, described as the partnership sweet spot (PSS), as a guideline to enable HEIs to locate and position their current or desired partnership activities. By gaining a greater understanding of the status quo of the partnerships, we suggest that HEIs can use this information to work towards the PSS located at the center of the proposed model. This PSS is where faculties are engaged and drive partnerships that align with their teaching and research interests, but are supported, enabled and equipped by management to do so. Furthermore, we identify that, while the individual school agenda must be served, this should be done in a manner that meaningfully addresses the SDG-related challenges of the wider society, and that the school provides a framework to measure or reflect on the impact of their partnership activities.
  • Achieving the Global 2030 Agenda: What Role for Voluntary Sustainability Standards?
    Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 calls for strengthening implementation means and revitalizing global partnerships for these goals. In this sense, the 2030 Agenda explicitly recognises the importance of the private sector to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Among private actors, Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) can potentially play an important role in governing sustainable development. With regard to SDG 17, VSS are relevant implementation means for the SDGs, as they share similar objectives. They also contribute to revitalising partnerships for these goals by linking the Global South to the Global North through global value chains. The objective of this chapter is to present the potential contribution that VSS can make in achieving the SDGs. We first introduce VSS and how they operate, and provide some leading examples of VSS. We then discuss how VSS are linked to the SDGs. Next, key developments in the landscape of VSS are identified. Lastly, we show that, despite their growing number and increasing complementarity to public governance instruments, VSS face challenges in terms of credibility, effectiveness, and cooperation.
  • Working Together: A Logical Thing?
    Cross-sector social partnerships (CSSPs) are quite broadly viewed as important mechanism to successfully address pressing societal challenges, as the combined efforts of actors from different sectors can lead to innovative solutions and leveraging capacities and reach. However, the varying institutional logics of different actors may also make such partnerships challenging and prone to conflict and failure. In this chapter, we ask how the existence of different institutional logics can encourage and challenge the emergence and functioning of CSSPs. We address this question by discussing drivers, opportunities and challenges related to CSSPs. Based on a literature review and a literature-based case study of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), we suggest that different institutional logics should not be seen as insurmountable obstacles for the implementation of successful CSSPs. Rather, they are important drivers of such endeavors and an important prerequisite for value-creation within these cross-sectoral efforts. However, caution with respect to over-optimistic calls for such partnerships is advised. Even the FSC with its comprehensive governance-mechanisms has experienced significant challenges, and has only been able to meet its objectives to a limited degree.
  • A Conceptual Overview of How and Why to Evaluate Partnership
    Partnerships have a great potential to positively contribute to policymaking and policy implementation when they are properly implemented. The current practice shows, that in Sustainability Development Goal No. 17 (SDG17), monitoring over evaluation prevails, and evaluations are rare. The existence of monitoring indicators under the SDG17 neither says anything about the quality of partnerships established and implemented, nor about their achievements. This chapter is based on literature review to add to the knowledge on why and how to evaluate SDG17, and partnerships generally. For that reason, we take the EU cohesion policy and public-private partnerships, as examples of policies in which partnership is a standard tool, to provide insights from project evaluation research and challenges of implementing SDG17. The novelty of the contribution is in the building of an evaluation framework. The evaluation framework approach is based on seven evaluation criteria: (1) accountability and legitimacy; (2) improving quality and performance; (3) planning improvements; (4) building capacity; (5) learning; (6) ownership among program participants; and (7) empowerment—together with defining characteristics of functioning partnerships—(1) common goals; (2) mutual benefits; (3) long-term relationship; (4) acceptance of cooperation; (5) the contribution of each partner; (6) synergistic effects; and (7) joint decision-making. Moreover, the framework also applies general evaluation criteria—relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impacts, and sustainability.
  • Cross-Sector Partnerships for Implementing Community Climate Action Plans: Implementation Structures, Partner Outcomes and Plan Outcomes
    Abstract: Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17, target 17.17 aims to “encourage and promote effective public, public-private, and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.” This research on collaborative strategic management and cross-sector partnerships studies structural features and outcomes in the context of climate action plans in Canadian cities. Its purpose is to assess the structural features of a partnership during plan implementation, and the related plan- and partner-centric outcomes. Four Partners for Climate Protection member municipalities were studied and their implementation structures, plan outcomes, and partner outcomes qualitatively assessed. Findings confirm that five implementation structural features are crucial for enabling the achievement of climate mitigation targets, and that partnership design affects partner outcomes, including a new outcome of ‘moral support’. This study fills theoretical gaps on the structural features of cross-sector partnerships that are aiming to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy usage in cities, and allows for additional insight into partner outcomes by participating in cross-sector partnerships.

Review Mode

Each chapter in this edited book has been reviewed by the editor/s as well as an external expert who reviewed each chapter of the book and provided an overall review. The opinions expressed in the chapters do not reflect the view of the publisher.

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