What is a Partnership Broker?



The answer to this question is worthy of deeper exploration!

This is no doubt a topic we will come back to on a regular basis as experiences of the role emerge over time. What is clear, is that this is a complex role and one that manifests itself rather differently according to the culture and context in which the partnership broker is operating.

We asked our group of international Associates to describe how they understood the term ‘partnership broker’ using a metaphor from their own experiences of operating in the role. This proved to be a very interesting exercise since the metaphors they chose gave considerable diversity and personality to the concept of a partnership broker. Here are some of the metaphors that were suggested:




















Partnership brokers can either come from within one of the partner organisations (an ‘internal’ partnership broker) or operate as an independent specialist called into undertake specific tasks (an ‘external’ partnership broker). Whilst they may need many of the same skills / competencies, what they do and, most importantly, their relationship to the partnership will be significantly different.

The differences are summarised below.

INTERNAL Partnership Brokers

what to wearIndividuals (operating formally or informally) to:

  • Support their organisation in being effective partners
  • Represent their organisation in a partnership
  • Work with partners to shape/ build the partnership and manage the partnering process
  • Coach partners to build partnering capacity
  • Help partners decide when an external PB may be necessary/ useful

Internal Partnership Brokers invariably have to wear several different ‘hats’ – it is important to know which hat you are wearing in different situations and important to make this explicit to others (colleagues, partners).


EXTERNAL Partnership Brokers

A qualified, independent specialist, contracted to undertake specific roles and tasks when needed.
This can include:

  • Scoping the early stages of a partnership
  • Facilitating partnering agreement negotiations
  • Problem solving/ facilitating difficult conversations
  • Coaching/ mentoring key individuals
  • Assisting or undertaking a review
  • Writing a learning case study and/ or
  • Helping partners to explore moving on options

External Partnership Brokers can play a particularly useful role when they assist and support internal brokers to bring about change within their organisations or partnerships. Typically a ‘light touch’ and time-limited relationship in which the external broker actively works to make themselves unnecessary.

Download: What do Partnership Brokers Do? An Enquiry into Practice.