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Key Message

There is real power in collaboration, but it is not always easy. Individuals, institutions and sectors need to understand better how to work together to make a difference in the world.


Leslie Paas· Leslie Paas
Pauline Gerrard· Pauline Gerrard
Project Manager

Networks & Partnerships

Bridging the gap between research, policy and action

What's New in Networks & Partnerships?

  • Performance Improvement and Assessment of Collaboration: Starting points for networks and communities of practicePerformance Improvement and Assessment of Collaboration: Starting points for networks and communities of practice
    IISD's Global Connectivity program has worked for over a decade on research and capacity building for performance assessment and improvement of collaboration. At the heart of collaborative undertakings are people and institutions choosing to work together for a greater good. We have taken on the challenge of learning about improving performance and assessing collaboration in order to help partnerships partner, alliances ally, and networks work. The following paper presents approaches to performance improvement and assessment of groups of individuals working together in networks and communities of practice (CoPs).

  • Seeds of Knowledge
    Seeds of Knowledge presents 24 case studies from 17 countries on grassroots solutions to the impacts of climate change.

    These solutions come at a critical time. As never before, the world is in a race against time to act on climate change or else face cataclysmic natural disasters. We have already seen extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts and flooding. While vulnerability to climate change poses risks to all communities, the impacts are likely to be tilted against many of the world's poorest regions, which have the least economic, institutional and technical ability to adapt and cope.

  • The Frontiers of Networked Governance
    The paper suggests that a combination of stakeholder analysis and social network analysis can be useful in assessing the network structures and practices that may facilitate a networked governance process. We explain the efficacy of networked governance as a factor of both problem complexity (network heterogeneity) and social capital. For problems harbouring a given level of complexity, the higher the level of social capital within an identified governance network, the more autonomy and self-organization may be conducive to achieving problem-solving functions, and thus governance goals. To safeguard social capital and help ensure an effective process, it is important to select networked governance strategies based on the level of self-steering or active steering that they imply. Where social capital is incommensurate with problem complexity, it may be necessary to employ governance strategies that are more highly modulated by governance authorities situated within a centralized problem-solving process. We also describe the methods by which network participants may experience the creation of social capital through collaborative visioning and creating shared value, two parallel and intertwined processes that foster shared visions and strategic alignment within the group, and thus enhance the ability of the group to achieve collectively desirable outcomes.

Achieving sustainable development requires collaboration among sectors and institutions and the participation of all stakeholders and individuals. However, there are many different ways people and organizations can work together to share knowledge, to advocate and to take action. In our view, there are three major types of collaboration:

1. Collaborative, horizontal decision-making processes, which are coming to be understood as “networked governance”;

2. Collaborations of institutions for research and implementation (best understood as “partnerships” or “alliances”); and

3. Collaborations of individuals seeking knowledge and support for individual or collective action (also known as communities of practice, social networks, knowledge networks, campaigns, and so forth).

The following sections explore these distinctions in more detail, and provide guidance on strengthening collaboration.



From 2007 to 2012, much of this work was conducted with the support of the International Development Research Centre. The work on social and environmental entrepreneurship has been carried out in partnership with The SEED Initiative, a partnership of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

For more information about IISD's networks, partnerships and communications research and consulting, please contact Heather Creech, Director, Global Connectivity.