Special Issue "Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2020).

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. David F. Murphy
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Business, Industry and Leadership, University of Cumbria, Ambleside, LA22 9BB, UK
Interests: strategic collaboration on sustainability; UN–business relations on sustainable development; partnering capacity building; evaluation of partnering processes and outcomes; leadership and learning in multi-stakeholder partnerships
Dr. Leda Stott
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Innovation and Technology for Development Centre, Technical University of Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: multi-stakeholder collaboration and partnership; sustainable development; community development; citizen engagement; co-production; action research; systems change

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Partnerships and other forms of collaboration between diverse actors in the public, private, and civil society sectors are regarded as essential for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This Special Issue aims to offer appreciative and critical perspectives on the different ways in which a wide range of partnering and collaborative arrangements are working to support the SDGs with analysis of the following aspects, inter alia:

  • Rationale and purpose;
  • Forms and structures;
  • Co-creation, engagement, and participation processes;
  • Role and contribution of intermediaries and partnership brokers;
  • Challenges encountered and how these have been addressed;
  • Nature of their impact to date and how this has been measured;
  • Potential to scale up and/or institutionalize SDG partnerships .

Papers that explore some of these aspects of multi-stakeholder collaborative arrangements, including case studies, comparative studies, and industry/sector reviews/updates, as well other methods and perspectives, are invited from different geographical regions and from global to local levels (including place-based approaches). In addition to consideration of process issues, we are particularly interested in receiving contributions that look at partnership in relation to synergies and interlinkages across SDGs and those that focus on transversal issues such as gender, inequality, leadership, innovation, technology, and advocacy for sustainable development. As the SDGs have a special focus on transformation, papers that explore the potential of partnerships to contribute to systems change and how this dimension might be assessed are particularly welcome.

Dr. David F. Murphy
Dr. Leda Stott
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Deadline for preliminary abstracts: 29 February 2020. Authors are advised to submit a preliminary abstract, in order to receive guidance on the suitability of their paper for the Special Issue.

Keywords

  • partnerships
  • stakeholder engagement
  • collaboration
  • sustainable development goals
  • global governance
  • transformation
  • systems change
  • sustainability

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Sustainability 2021, 13(2), 658; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13020658 - 12 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 872
Abstract
In her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood gives voice to the importance of both context and experience in making sense of thought and action: “Context is all; or is it ripeness [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))

Research

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Article
Navigating Governance Tensions to Enhance the Impact of Partnerships with the Private Sector for the SDGs
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010111 - 24 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 884
Abstract
Partnering with the private sector is a key modality in development cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite their increasing importance, such Public-Private Partnerships for Development (PPPD) experience major challenges in defining, assessing and reporting on their actual impact. This paper [...] Read more.
Partnering with the private sector is a key modality in development cooperation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite their increasing importance, such Public-Private Partnerships for Development (PPPD) experience major challenges in defining, assessing and reporting on their actual impact. This paper explores why, and how this can be improved. We engage in a qualitative synthesis review of academic, gray literature and evaluation reports of public-private programs of development agencies. We identify challenges, tensions and contradictions that affect a proper understanding and assessment of the impacts of such partnerships. The analysis shows that the main challenge in understanding and assessing impacts is the double governance logic that emerges in PPPD monitoring and evaluation (M&E). While M&E functions as an accountability and risk mitigation approach, it should also support collaborative characteristics of PPPDs such as trust and power-sharing, in order to enhance impactful PPPDs. Enhancing the impact of PPPDs for the SDGs requires bridging the divide between (a) result-based, upward accountability monitoring and evaluation approaches and (b) emerging learning, participatory and complexity-based approaches. The paper provides suggestions on how to navigate these governance tensions by using a paradoxical lens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
Article
The Effects of Organizational Traits on NGO–Business Engagement in Mexico
Sustainability 2020, 12(23), 10108; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122310108 - 03 Dec 2020
Viewed by 554
Abstract
This paper explores the organizational traits that increase the likelihood of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to engage with businesses in order to enhance their mutual economic, environmental and social goals, consistent with UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17, Targets 17.16 and 17.17. The research [...] Read more.
This paper explores the organizational traits that increase the likelihood of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to engage with businesses in order to enhance their mutual economic, environmental and social goals, consistent with UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17, Targets 17.16 and 17.17. The research is based on a survey of 364 randomly selected environmental and social NGOs in Mexico. A probit model is used to analyze the data and generate insights whereby an NGO’s proclivity to engage with the private sector is associated with a number of fundamental organizational characteristics that make them distinct from other NGOs active in their field. The main findings show that likelihood of NGO engagement with firms is correlated with making corporate donations deductible for businesses, NGO size and scope, activities and level of professionalization, sustaining broader stakeholder relations, and showing transparency about the mission and goals of the NGO. The paper includes an analysis of the determinants of specific forms of engagement and discusses some implications for NGO–business engagement and its support of the SDG targets. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
Article
Perceptions of Multistakeholder Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals: A Case Study of Irish Non-State Actors
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 8872; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12218872 - 26 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 833
Abstract
The United Nations 2030 Agenda emphasizes the importance of multistakeholder partnerships for achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, Goal 17 includes a target for national governments to promote multistakeholder partnerships between state and non-state actors. In this paper, we explore [...] Read more.
The United Nations 2030 Agenda emphasizes the importance of multistakeholder partnerships for achieving the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, Goal 17 includes a target for national governments to promote multistakeholder partnerships between state and non-state actors. In this paper, we explore how members of civil society organizations and the private sector perceive both the possibilities and challenges of multistakeholder partnerships evolving in Ireland for achieving the SDGs. The research uses data gathered during 2018 and includes documentary research, participant observations of stakeholder forums in Ireland and the United Nations, and semi-structured interviews to address related questions. The results demonstrate that numerous challenges exist for forming multistakeholder partnerships for the SDGs, including a fragmented understanding of the Goals. They also note previous examples of successful multistakeholder partnership models, the need for more leadership from government, and an overly goal-based focus on SDG implementation by organizations as major impediments to following a multistakeholder partnership approach in the country. These findings suggest that although Goal 17 identifies multistakeholder partnerships as essential for the SDGs, they are challenging to form and require concerted actions from all state and non-state actors for SDG implementation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
Article
An Inclusive Approach to Partnerships for the SDGs: Using a Relationship Lens to Explore the Potential for Transformational Collaboration
Sustainability 2020, 12(19), 7905; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12197905 - 24 Sep 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2565
Abstract
Partnerships are positioned as critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations transformational agenda for 2030. The widespread use of terms such as ‘collaboration’, ‘partnership’ and ‘cooperation’ has, however, led to debates about the expectations of such relationships [...] Read more.
Partnerships are positioned as critical for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations transformational agenda for 2030. The widespread use of terms such as ‘collaboration’, ‘partnership’ and ‘cooperation’ has, however, led to debates about the expectations of such relationships and calls have been made for more rigorous clarification and classification of these related concepts. Drawing upon a comprehensive literature review, we argue in this conceptual paper that the broad spectrum of personal and organizational interactions within, between and across different sectors, domains, disciplines and contexts makes the quest to delineate and categorize these diverse forms of collaboration a seemingly impossible task. We further suggest that such efforts advance a narrow view of partnership as little more than a means to an end, thus limiting understanding of the integrative and intrinsic value of working in this way. We believe that a more inclusive understanding of partnerships may be achieved by exploring them through a relationship lens that acknowledges the importance of inter-personal connections in partnerships more deeply. In doing so, the capacity of partnerships to generate the systemic change that is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development may be enhanced and ultimately realized. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
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Article
Corporate Foundations as Partnership Brokers in Supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7820; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187820 - 22 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1171
Abstract
Rather than limiting themselves to acting as mere financial intermediaries of corporate philanthropic funds, corporate foundations (CFs) may contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as partnership brokers. Based on the literature on the SDGs, cross-sector partnerships, the influence of [...] Read more.
Rather than limiting themselves to acting as mere financial intermediaries of corporate philanthropic funds, corporate foundations (CFs) may contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as partnership brokers. Based on the literature on the SDGs, cross-sector partnerships, the influence of the private sector on the SDGs, and institutional philanthropic involvement in the SDGs, this paper shows how the unique characteristics of CFs and their position between the business sector and civil society make them ideal partnership brokers in cross-sector collaborations. Furthermore, this study examines how CFs approach the Agenda 2030 with respect to their activities and strategies. Following an explorative research approach, data were collected through an online survey among CF managers in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Germany. The findings suggest that, in order to contribute more effectively to the SDGs, CFs should make more and better use of their capacities in bridging institutional logics, pooling resources, and initiating partnerships between different sectors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
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Article
Catalyzing Transformational Partnerships for the SDGs: Effectiveness and Impact of the Multi-Stakeholder Initiative El día después
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 7189; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12177189 - 03 Sep 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1602
Abstract
Partnerships are essential to delivering the transformational change demanded by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and essential to achieving Agenda 2030. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the partnering capacity of different types of organizations so they can collaborate in multi-stakeholder partnerships. However, [...] Read more.
Partnerships are essential to delivering the transformational change demanded by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and essential to achieving Agenda 2030. It is therefore necessary to strengthen the partnering capacity of different types of organizations so they can collaborate in multi-stakeholder partnerships. However, partnership working can be costly in terms of time and other resources and is complex. Given the urgency and importance of sustainable development, illustrated by the recent pandemic and social unrest around inequity, we focused on the creation of a partnership that became effective quickly and was able to deliver societal impact at scale. Using a case study approach, the transformational potential and the early stages of “El día después” (in English, “The day after”) were analyzed as it represents a multi-stakeholder partnership forged to frame an SDG-oriented collaborative response to the COVID-19 crisis in Spain. El día después is defined as a partnership incubator, a space where public administrations interact under conditions of equivalence with all the other stakeholders, where private companies can link their innovation processes to other SDG-committed actors and social needs and where the academic sector can participate in a sustained dialogue oriented to the action. Our findings reveal that in order to catalyze the co-creation process and achieve systemic change through a set of connected multi-stakeholder initiatives, a very flexible collaborative arrangement is required, with all partners acting as facilitators. In this way, a solid interdisciplinary team is created, united around a shared vision, with trust-based relationships and a common identity fueling impact-oriented projects targeted to advance the SDGs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
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Article
Mapping and Analysis of Sustainability-Oriented Partnerships in Non-Profit Organizations: The Case of Saudi Arabia
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 7178; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12177178 - 02 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 853
Abstract
The growing alignment between Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) and cooperation development actors has contributed to creating new partnerships to be harnessed in addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., SDG 17). This study aimed to map the key characteristics of engagements between NPOs and [...] Read more.
The growing alignment between Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) and cooperation development actors has contributed to creating new partnerships to be harnessed in addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., SDG 17). This study aimed to map the key characteristics of engagements between NPOs and other actors. An analytical framework was designed to map the partnerships in terms of four main areas, namely, drivers, motivations, the partnership’s characteristics, and outcomes. Charitable associations were selected as a representative type of NPO. The study analyzed 459 partnerships established by charities in the Riyadh region during 2016–2018. The findings showed that the associations engaged in partnerships mainly to enhance their financial stability. Cross-sector partnerships were observed in 63.4% of the cases, principally with the private sector. The results also indicated that 89.7% of the partnerships could be called “transactional partnerships” in cases of both philanthropic and social investment partnerships. It could be concluded that the mapping framework provides useful information for policy-makers concerned with how charitable associations engaged with the other actors, as well as the existing policy gaps to be implemented for sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
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Article
Can Differing Opinions Hinder Partnerships for the Localization of the Sustainable Development Goals? Evidence from Marginalized Urban Areas in Andalusia
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5797; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145797 - 18 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 854
Abstract
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were set up under the idea that no one—and no place—be left behind. Today, the tendency for population growth concentrates in cities, causing social segregation and the proliferation of marginalized urban [...] Read more.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were set up under the idea that no one—and no place—be left behind. Today, the tendency for population growth concentrates in cities, causing social segregation and the proliferation of marginalized urban areas. In this global context, SDG 11, which addresses the urban dimension of the 2030 Agenda, is becoming crucial. To achieve inclusive and sustainable development, especially in disadvantaged urban areas, collaborative partnerships have been suggested as essential to building habitable spaces where life is worth living. However, the literature reveals how the commitment to multistakeholder partnerships depends on many factors, such as the perceptions the participants have about their reality and the problems they face. In this study, we rely on the information collected from 118 surveys conducted among the leaders of private, public, and civil society organizations already collaborating in six disadvantaged neighborhoods in Andalusia. The results show how and where their perceptions about their own neighborhoods differ and the intersectional reasons behind these differing opinions. This is a critical starting point to elucidate how to enable and sustain local collective actions to start the process of fighting for human dignity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
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Article
Cross-Sector Partnerships for Sustainability: How Mission-Driven Conveners Drive Change in National Coffee Platforms
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2846; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072846 - 03 Apr 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1431
Abstract
Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have deployed various strategies in motivating businesses to source sustainably, such as the co-development and promotion of sustainability certification and direct collaboration in cross-sector partnerships (CSPs). This is an important current-day priority, given the ambitions set out in the Sustainable [...] Read more.
Nonprofit organizations (NPOs) have deployed various strategies in motivating businesses to source sustainably, such as the co-development and promotion of sustainability certification and direct collaboration in cross-sector partnerships (CSPs). This is an important current-day priority, given the ambitions set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and SDG 17 in particular. Increasingly, NPOs have taken up a role as conveners of such CSPs. Research on CSPs has, to date, often considered conveners as a ‘resource’ to the CSP, contributing to its effectiveness. In this study, we shift the focus towards the convener by considering a case of a ‘mission-driven convener’, an NPO that initiates CSPs as a strategy to realize its own sustainability objectives. Our explorative case study—comparing the NPO’s efforts across six countries in setting up national coffee platforms—reviews the concept of a mission-driven convener vis-à-vis established notions on convening and identifies which strategies it applies to realize a CSP. These strategies comprise productively combining certification-driven efforts with CSPs, combining process and outcomes of CSPs, and drawing on cross-level dynamics derived from outsourcing of convening work to local actors. With our study, we contribute to research on CSP conveners by offering an alternative interpretation to the relation between the CSP and the convener, attributing more agency to the convener as a mission-driven organization. Strengthening our understanding of CSPs and conveners is an important means to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))

Review

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Review
A Literature Review of Inter-Organizational Sustainability Learning
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 4876; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12124876 - 15 Jun 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 1872
Abstract
Sustainable development goals (SDGs) have become increasingly important for today’s firms as they build sustainability strategies that integrate SDGs into their core activities. Addressing these goals collaboratively, in line with SDG 17—partnerships for the goals, has gained momentum, hence the growing literature on [...] Read more.
Sustainable development goals (SDGs) have become increasingly important for today’s firms as they build sustainability strategies that integrate SDGs into their core activities. Addressing these goals collaboratively, in line with SDG 17—partnerships for the goals, has gained momentum, hence the growing literature on sustainability-oriented partnerships. However, addressing SDGs through partnerships is not straightforward. For firms, contributing to SDGs through alliances and partnerships requires building environmental capabilities and embracing new value frames; in other words, going through the complex process of inter-organizational learning. This paper reviews the literature on sustainability-oriented partnerships with a focus on the inter-organizational learning process. As a result of the review, a model of inter-organizational sustainability learning is presented. This model captures the different levels and types of the inter-organizational learning process; partner and partnership characteristics that impact learning; the environmental conditions that set the conditions for learning to take place; the catalyst and inhibitors of learning; and finally outcomes of learning. This model expands and re-organizes the existing scholarly conversation about inter-organizational learning in the context of sustainability-oriented alliances and partnerships and offers a learning-based understanding of sustainability partnerships to practitioners. Based on the review, the paper proposes ideas for future research and contributes to the development of a future research agenda in the area of sustainability-oriented alliances and partnerships. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs))
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