A multi-stakeholder partnership (MSP) is a type of cooperation with the following four features: Stakeholders from at least three areas (civil society, private sector, public sector, academia) work together on an equal footing through an organized, and long-term engagement in order to contribute to the common good

Stakeholders from at least three different sectors

In a multi-stakeholder partnership, partners from at least three of the following sectors are involved: the public sector, civil society, the private sector and academia. 

Partners have knowledge and experience that can help the partnership further its work. In a partnership, they can share their knowledge, resources, technologies, networks and much more. Partners can thereby achieve their common goal, while also individually benefiting from the collaboration. 

Organized long-term engagement

Multi-stakeholder partnerships go beyond ad hoc consultations or brief, sporadic dialogues. Long-term engagement and a certain degree of institutionalization and independence are required to tackle the complex challenges that a multi-stakeholder partnership is seeking to address. 

Cooperation on an equal footing

All partners are involved on an equal footing in the multi-stakeholder partnership’s work. This covers a broad spectrum of types of participation, from mere consultation to joint decision-making, thereby allowing each group to contribute its positions and viewpoints to the partnership’s goals and results. 

Contribution to the common good

Multi-stakeholder partnerships aim to solve complex societal challenges such as climate change, poverty or migration. As these problems affect complex systems and are beyond the ability of individual actors to tackle, more can be achieved through cooperation than alone. This is why multi-stakeholder partnerships are important for achieving sustainable development. 

This is the definition of Partnerships2030. There is no standardised and universally valid definition that is accepted and used by all relevant stakeholders. Many organisations have their own definitions, which slightly differ in certain regards. The MSP definition of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) can be used as a further example of this.

MSPs explained in two minutes

What distinguishes an MSP from other types of cooperation?

Depending on the intensity of involvement of different actors and the formalization of partnership structures, different types of partnerships can be distinguished and located along a spectrum. There are different names for the categories used and the transitions are fluid.

Informal relationships

Similar interests and concerns

Basis for the formation of communities
Round Table
Loose structure of stakeholders

Recommendations for action
Multi-Stakeholder Initiative
Governance structure

Achieving common goals

Flexible goal-setting
Multi-Stakeholder Partnership
At least three sectors

Shared goals

Transformative change

Governance structure

Memorandum of Understanding

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