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The importance of Partnerships – Programme Director’s message June 2020

Assistant Programme Director Yvonne Freeman
Assistant Programme Director, Yvonne Freeman

The need for governments, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and people from every nation of the world to work together in partnership has never been greater.

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, referring to the Sustainable Development Goals at the end of 2015, said: “The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are our shared vision of humanity and a social contract between the world’s leaders and the people’ and he added “They are a to-do-list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success” with the overall aim of wiping out poverty, fighting inequality and tackling climate change by 2030″.

Sustainable Development Goal 17 – Partnerships – aims to ‘Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development’ and underpins the other 16 goals.  In particular target 17.17 of Goal 17 aims to ‘encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships’.

The importance of partnerships in achieving the goals is explained very clearly in the two-page document ‘Partnerships: Why They Matter’.  This document sets out the aim of Goal 17, the progress made as of 2018, what is required to achieve the goal and how we, as individuals, can work together with governments, civil society, scientists, academia and the private sector to achieve the SDG’s.

We are now facing another challenge where the world’s leaders and the nations’ people need to work together in partnership to tackle the Covid19 pandemic.  We must all learn from the consequences of this worldwide disaster and as the UN leaders stress ‘build back better, together’ .

The UN report “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impact of Covid19” stresses the importance of partnership working to address the impact of the pandemic.  In particular:

  • Section III – Social, Economic and Multidimensional Impacts demonstrates how Covid19 affects all of the SDG’s;
  • Section V – Partnerships to Accelerate the Global Response to Covid19 highlights the vital work of women’s organisations often working at the frontline to help those most economically affected by the crisis, ensuring shelters remain open for domestic violence victims and conveying important public health information. We have seen examples of this within our own Federation’s clubs where members are shopping, running errands for those in isolation, making scrubs and laundry bags and raising funds.

There are other good examples of clubs in the Federation working in partnership with organisations to achieve the SDG’s:

  • SI Pune Metro East, India – ‘Binding Stitches’ working in partnership with The Doctor’s Foundation, Pune. This is an ongoing project where members of the club go and teach underprivileged girls and women basic sewing and stitching as part of a three months’ fashion designing course.  Certificates are awarded at the end of the course.   One beneficiary of the project said “I don’t have to go to the tailor to get my clothes stitched. I can stitch clothes for myself and my family during Eid. So much saving. My husband is proud of me.”  A fine example of educating and empowering women through partnership.
  • SI Stafford, Midland Chase – working with their partners, the Angel Tree Organisation and the Drake Hall women’s prison, members of the club work with the prison chaplains every Christmas to buy, wrap and deliver presents, based on information about the children provided by the mothers. Each gift is dispatched as though it is from the parent in prison and is accompanied by a personal message written by the parent for their child to make the gift extra special. One of the mothers in prison said “I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am very close to my little girl. It has been very hard on us being parted and Angel Tree has made it a bit easier.”
  • SI Canterbury – partnership with Amnesty International Canterbury – this partnership was initially set up in 2016 and includes supporting each other’s events whenever appropriate, joint lobbying on key issues affecting both organisations and sharing of information. In December of last year, Amnesty International supported the club’s Silent March through Canterbury in support of the ‘16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women’.  Later the same day, club members supported Amnesty International’s ‘Write for Rights’ Christmas Campaign sending cards to prisoners of conscience throughout the world.


A review of Programme Reports submitted over the past year revealed that a number of clubs are clearly working with organisations on an ongoing basis, but have not taken the next step of setting up a formal partnership agreement.  There are a number of advantages of a partnership arrangement:

  • It sets out the aims and objectives of the work carried out by the two organisations in partnership.
  • It establishes the level of commitment expected from each organisation.
  • It acknowledges the work carried out by the two organisations.
  • It raises the profile of the Soroptimist club at both local level and Federation level, particularly when the club forms a partnership with the local branch of a national or international organisation.

Clubs looking to establish a partnership agreement with key organisations they work with for ongoing projects should consider some of the following resources:

  • Anti-slavery and human trafficking – in 2017 Nottingham University developed a very comprehensive toolkit for organisations looking to develop partnerships for work in this field. It was developed following research by the University and the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, which demonstrated that whilst multi-agency anti-slavery partnership work was developing across the UK it was inconsistent and lacked resources.  The toolkit addresses this and includes a checklist to enable reviews of partnership arrangements, a governance library to improve accountability and performance, training resources and links to useful information.  It also provides a template for partnership work in other fields of programme action.
  • Sustainable Development Goals – Collaboration for the SDG’s – Exploring the Support System for Effective Partnering – this report was also written in 2017 and provides excellent guidance for organisations looking to establish partnerships at all levels in order to achieve the aims and objectives of the SDG’s. The use of diagrams is particularly helpful in explaining the various concepts involved in establishing successful partnerships.
  • Partnerships for the SDG’s Maximising Value Guidebook – a good source of information on the different types of partnerships, the aims and outcomes of each type and ways in which the goals can be achieved by working together. The three types of partnership identified are:
    1. Leverage/Exchange where two organisations collaborate to share knowledge, service and skills.
    2. Combine/Integrate where two organisations collaborate to share complimentary resources to tackle a common challenge or achieve a strategic goal.
    3. Transform – addressing a more ambitious goal, tackling a system-wide change often in a complex environment.

The types of partnership which clubs are likely to form would fall into categories (1) or (2) with (3) being more appropriate at strategic levels of organisations. Diagrams and tables in this guidebook set out clearly the best way to set up, manage and evaluate partnerships together with some case studies of successful partnerships.

Partnership working is clearly going to be the most effective way in which all organisations can achieve not only the SDG’s, but also tackle the current Covid19 pandemic.  This has been clearly demonstrated in the various ways in which communities have come together to help each other through this crisis.  If we are to be successful in ‘building back better, together’ and making sure we ‘leave no one behind’, then we must all work together in partnership to achieve our goals.

Yvonne Freeman
Assistant Programme Director Partnerships