Working in partnership with others

For IIED, collaborating with partners is critical to achieving lasting policy change for a more sustainable world.

This Guatemala-Peru exchange visit was part of a project that promoted partnerships and networking for forestry-dependent communities

Partnerships are at the heart of the way we work: our stated mission is "to build a fairer, more sustainable world, using evidence, action and influence in partnership with others".

Our partners span the globe and range from multilateral institutions to local citizen's groups. We have more than 350 partnerships working in more than 60 countries. Nearly half of our partnerships are with civil society organisations, but we also work with governments, research bodies, the private sector and the media.

The relationships we build with our partners and collaborators allow us to leverage resources and extend our reach, to nurture the capacity of marginalised groups and to widen the impact of our policy work.

The quality of our research relies on a deep understanding of complex issues; partnerships are critical to developing a full appreciation of local circumstances and making links between local realities and global debates.

The capital residing within IIED's partnerships is one of the most important assets we have. This capital includes our partners' knowledge, skills and capacities; organisational and personal connections; geographic and thematic diversity; access to policy arenas; links to marginalised groups; legitimacy and synergy.

Working together, supporting each other and developing long-term relationships allows us to achieve far more than we could achieve alone.

The core principles of partnership

The following characteristics are evident in most of IIED’s partnerships: 

  • Shared objectives: the added value of working together is clear and recognised by all partners
  • Complementary attributes: each partner brings different capacities and resources to an interdependent relationship
  • Values in common: while they recognise and respect differences, partnerships are partly defined by common ground in terms of shared values and beliefs. Partners share a desire to work towards a common position on important issues. In addition, differences in broader worldview and perspective can often be beneficial in testing and improving our joint work
  • Transparency and accountability: those involved in partnership recognise the need to be mutually accountable, as well as to be accountable to others with a stake in the relationship
  • Significance of personal relationships: IIED views partnerships as relationships between organisations, which come alive through relations between individuals. These personal connections are significant as sources of new ideas, mutual support, learning and advice, and
  • Commitment to learn, monitor and develop the partnership as appropriate: IIED and our partners will agree relevant measures to assess the value generated from our collaboration, ways in which it could develop or change, and options to scale back or terminate.
Our partnership statement (PDF) outlines IIED’s approach to working with partners across the world. It sets out some core principles and shows how, why and with whom IIED seeks partnership.

It also presents a set of commitments and areas for future attention which are intended to translate these principles into more tangible actions, and to show what IIED’s partners can expect from their interactions with us.

A strategic commitment

Our five-year strategy sets out a commitment to strengthen our partnerships for change across all our programmes. We will do this at three levels:

  1. Working from the bottom up to enhance sustainability and inclusion in partnerships that mobilise action: we will amplify voices and represent realities that would otherwise be missing
  2. Shaping innovative ideas for tackling global challenges: working together with experts and influencers who bring diverse perspectives to policy debates, and
  3. Pursuing yet greater excellence in our research through enhanced collaboration with outstanding institutions in the countries where we work.

Long-term commitments

Our long-term partnerships have enabled us to develop approaches that deliver influence and impact on a global scale. Here are some examples:

IIED has a long and deep partnership with the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group at the UN climate change negotiations. We provide legal, technical and strategic advice to the LDC Group in the UNFCCC process.

We are also supporting the LDC Group's Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR). This aims to develop an over-arching LDC vision for adapting towards a climate resilient future by 2050. We are supporting the process and are undertaking a review and analysis of evidence on effective adaptation and resilience interventions.

We have also developed a long-term strategic partnership with the development organisation Hivos. We have worked together since 2008, and in 2016 agreed a five-year partnership to promote sustainable food systems. Working with local partners in five countries, we are supporting evidence-based advocacy that challenges unsustainable food production and promotes sustainable diets for all.

Both IIED and Hivos recognise that this long-term relationship has been productive, enabling both organisations to widen their impact. Hivos director Edwin Huizing says: "Both organisations complement each other very well. We cannot influence the global green agenda on our own; together we can touch new areas, look forward and experiment to develop unexpected things."

We have a 20-year partnership with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), a network of community-based organisations of the urban poor in 32 countries. SDI helps local residents to map their settlements, prioritise their needs and advocate effectively for improvements in housing and sanitation.

IIED’s support for SDI and other urban social groups has helped to amplify the voices of low-income citizens normally excluded from decision making and resulted in observable changes in practice in city governance.

The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) is a partnership of FAO, IIED, IUCN and AgriCord. It supports forest and farm producer organisations to improve livelihoods, influence policy and secure a sustainable future. FFF helps producer groups assist with business development and technical support, organise into federations and generate cross-sector dialogue on government support.

FFF is very diverse: the steering committee includes members representing forest producers, community forestry, indigenous peoples' organisations, the research community, the private sector, government and donors. IIED leads on knowledge generation, monitoring and learning.

FFF's vision is transformation at scale; millions of small-scale forest and farm producers worldwide can have immense transformative power. This partnership's proven, cost-effective delivery mechanism has already channelled finance directly to more than 900 producer organisations, representing 30 million people.

IIED also develops relationships with grassroots practitioners working to improve the lives of their communities. In Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania our local partners are leading work to strengthen women's land rights in the face of large-scale agricultural investments.

The Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA) trains paralegals to support women to claim their rights to access and own land, and delivers training for local government, community leaders and land tribunals.

As an 'enabling organisation', we aim to provide opportunities for our grassroots partners to interact with international and national policymakers. We invited TAWLA to participate in a webinar on women's land rights and published a report about their work drafting model by-laws that promote meaningful participation by women in village-level decision making.

Partnerships in action

Our Annual Report 2015/16 focused on how we work with partners. The report documents our partnerships around the world and to coincide with its publication we released a short animation entitled 'Powering change through partnership' also available to view below and on our YouTube channel, illustrating how IIED works with partners on issues ranging from sustainable climate change to land rights.