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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.

Table of Contents: Transitioning to Strong Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals