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B1.11 Building Partnerships


A well functioning water partnership is an important approach in working toward integrated water resources management. Establishing such partnerships has been one of the GWPs major goals and will remain a key activity during the coming years. Partnerships have been established at regional and country level and area / basin partnerships are a new focus. A partnership is often characterised as a working relationship between stakeholders with mutual and equal participation, joint interest and shared responsibilities. Processes in a partnership are typically transparent and based on an open dialogue.

Starting a partnership involves extensive work on many aspects: stakeholder analysis, gap analysis, development of common goals, planning, program design, social changes accompanied by social capacity building, co-operative inquiry, supporting self-organisation and organisational development and (work) conferencing. These are complex processes, where stakeholders may want to achieve many different goals at the same time. Setting up a partnership has a number of dimensions that need to be addressed simultaneously:

  • Stakeholders need to get to know each other, to understand and interpret concepts in the same manner, and establish a common language in the partnership;
  • Levelling of the playing field between the partners in terms of information, knowledge and expertise; at the beginning there is usually a (large) difference in information levels;
  • The partnership needs to develop its goals, outputs and actions based on the will and motivation and collaboration of the partners.

To support the start of a partnership, the following need to be established: framework conditions (a protocol), in terms of form and working modality (e.g. forum), and the scope of content (aspects of IWRM). The method/protocol allows the stakeholders to interact with each other, and generate an outcome that is owned by all. This is possible because there is intensive horizontal communication and no hierarchy. Further, meetings are facilitated by a neutral outsider. The protocol uses aims to create a space for dialogue and is characterised by:

  • Clearly defined roles, both for the participants and for the facilitating team. By maintaining these roles, the responsibilities will also remain clear: the participants are responsible for finding a response to their own issues and the facilitating team is responsible for maintaining a space for the dialogue;
  • Defining the question / issue, and defining the group that will be involved in answering this question. If the question is too big for the group, because a specific group is missing, then the question should be altered or the group has to be extended.

Resource persons / specialists can be added to the group. They will work in the same role as the other participants, to avoid a hierarchy based on knowledge-status. The method can be applied in various forms, both intensive and more extensive. Groups may vary from 6 to 60 persons.

Lessons learned

Learning and capacity building. Transferring this capacity to others leads to the creation of a community of facilitators who can develop the methods used. The trainees should have some experience in working with groups, as trainer, teacher or manager.

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