It is hard to pinpoint the birth of ‘partnership brokering’ as a new idea… but it feels important to try – especially to be able to acknowledge with gratitude the many that have helped to make the idea a reality over many years.
From 1992, the International Business Leaders Forum had made cross-sector partnering the heart of its work to position the business sector as partners in development. IBLF became widely recognised as a pioneer in the global partnering landscape.
The Learning from Experience Programme (1996-7) saw 100 sector leaders from 6 countries in Central and Eastern Europe complete an intensive skills training as ‘partnership intermediaries’ followed by a secondment in a UK organisation where they could experience partnerships in practice.
In 1998, IBLF published Managing Partnerships, as far as we know the first ‘primer’ or tool book on the topic to be produced. Written by Ros Tennyson, it included a chapter on the critical role of ‘partnership intermediaries’ in helping to shape and build successful cross-sector collaboration.
In 2000, as part of a collaborative capacity-building programme run by the IBLF and the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) a further book was published. Entitled The Guiding Hand – Brokering Partnerships for Sustainable Development. This publication – co-authored by Ros Tennyson and Luke Wilde – was the first to coin the term ‘partnership broker’ which has subsequently been widely adopted by a number of international agencies.
IBLF’s central involvement in the World Bank BPD project – Business Partners for Development – lead to the auspicious meeting between Ros Tennyson and Michael Warner (who was then acting as Coordinator of the Natural Resources Cluster of the project and undertaking pioneering training and partnership development work with the extractives sector).
Some years later, in 2003, Ros and Michael persuaded their respective organisations (IBLF and the ODI) to join together to create the Partnership Brokers Project and the Partnership Brokers Accreditation Scheme dedicated to promoting ‘professionalism and integrity in brokering multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development’.
To provide core materials for the course The Brokering Guidebook – Tools for Navigating Cross Sector Partnerships was published by IBLF. It is now in its 4th edition and has been used by many hundred’s of people as they work out their role as brokers.
In 2008, when Michael left ODI to go into the private sector, The Partnering Initiative (the specialist partnership programme of IBLF) provided an administrative home for the Partnership Brokers project and the Partnership Brokers Accreditation Scheme.
In 2012, the project scaled up and became the independent Partnership Brokers Association incorporating the Partnership Brokers Accreditation Scheme.
For many years, the Overseas Development Institute and the International Business Leaders Forum provided the ‘safe space’ in which the partnership brokering work could develop. Warm thanks are due to the CEOs of both organisations – Simon Maxwell (ODI) and Robert Davies (IBLF) – for their vision, leadership and willingness to support the experiment.
Most of all, acknowledgement and fulsome thanks must go to Michael Warner without whom this whole programme would probably not exist and whose generosity in handing over his IP and training materials (that still form a key part of our Partnership Brokers Training) has set the bar high for all those who have worked with PBA ever since.