Skilled management of
collaboration processes

It is more than 20 years since the importance of quality partnership process management in successful multi-stakeholder collaboration (aka ‘partnerships’) was first articulated. This happened in a publication where a whole chapter was dedicated to an exploration of the role of the ‘intermediary’ in effective partnering.[1]

The first definition of this role as a partnership broker happened two years later[2] where it was described as a skilled professional…

“…who supports partners in navigating their collaboration journey by helping them to create a map, plan their route, choose their mode of transport and change direction when necessary. They can both ‘serve’ and ‘lead’ as the situation requires and as needs of the partnership change over time”

Since then, largely as a result of the work of the Partnership Brokers Association (formerly, known as the Partnership Brokers Project), the notion of professional partnership process management has taken hold and both the idea of ‘brokering’ and the term ‘partnership broker’ have become widely used across the globe.

See: Introduction to partnership brokering – leaflet

Many of those who find themselves in partnership brokering / collaboration management roles arrive there by accident rather than design, but increasingly partnership brokers are actively sought and appointed to the role. It is for this reason that we have created guidelines to assist in the appointment, management and performance review process.

See: Appointing a Partnership Broker

Partnership broker’s focus on building and strengthening a partnership over time and throughout its life cycle to ensure it delivers impactful programmes of work as well as significant wider value to those involved and to wider society. Skilled brokering can make all the difference to the effectiveness of complex networks, non-traditional alliances and consortia as well as partnerships. The roles and tasks undertaken by a partnership broker change and evolve over time.

See: Partnership Brokering Roles and Tasks
See: What do Partnership Brokers Do? An Enquiry into Practice.

Those we train as partnership brokers are encouraged to be reflective in their approach to the role. This means taking time to understand what has happened in the partnership and what is needed now. Above all, regular and sincere reflection may help to reveal when the role is one of service and when it has become one of leadership.

See: Being a Partnership Broker: Tools for Self-assessment and Reflection

Over time, and drawing on the rich and diverse experiences of those operating as partnership brokers, our understanding of the role, skills and activities involved in this in this role has deepened considerably. It is, of course, to be expected that the development of a new professional vocation (which we firmly believe partnership brokering to be) requires us to have an open mind, a willingness to be challenged and a flexibility in shaping consistent and coherent approaches.

To this end, we are committed to sharing our emerging thinking and practices as we warmly invite others to sharing their experiences and make their own contributions to partnership brokering as a paradigm.

To share your views / experiences of partnership brokering please contact:


[1] Tennyson, R., Managing Partnerships for Sustainable Development, 1998, published by the International Business Leaders Forum and the World Bank

[2] Tennyson, R. and Wilde, L., The Guiding Hand: Brokering Partnerships for Sustainable Development, 2000, published by the International Business Leaders Forum and the United Nations Staff College