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Periodically reviewing or measuring the “health” of a partnership is essential to maintaining strong relationships with partners and other stakeholders. Measuring partnership health is different than measuring impact or strategy effectiveness – and does not replace those essential functions. Rather, routinely measuring partnership health will help you diagnose partnership problems early and determine their cause, can prevent serious problems from occurring, and tell you where to allocate more (or less) resources. This section can help you build the case for partnership assessment with your team and design an assessment that suits your needs.

These are some key elements of implementing joint work within a partnership:

Why measure partnership health?

Measuring key aspects of a partnership is like getting a “check-up” at the doctor. Such assessments help diagnose partnership problems early and determine their cause before they become more serious and undermine the productivity of a partnership. Doing periodic partnership assessments will invariably increase dialogue across partners about what is working and what is not, thereby improving communication effectiveness, transparency and trust - all of which are critical factors for collaboration success. For a minimal investment of time and funds, partnership reviews typically yield significant dividends.

Bear in mind that building partnerships can be part of a strategy, or partnering might be a strategy unto itself. For instance, when your goal is to change policy at a national level, you might create a stand-alone strategy for partnering with a national resource management agency. In this case, you should include partnership as an objective in your logic model or results chain and measure progress as you do with all of your other objectives (for more information on impact evaluation see Conservation Measures Partnership).

A partnership assessment or “health check” is different – its intention is to help improve the functionality and effectiveness of the collaborative team that you have already built. It can help answer (or measure progress towards) questions like these:

  • Is decision-making in our partnership transparent?
  • Are partners accountable for their agreed upon tasks?
  • Are roles and relationships clearly agreed and stated?
  • Are partners working to a set of shared values?

Partnership assessments should be conducted on an annual basis if not more often, but they are also useful to undertake when a project reaches important benchmarks or milestones or as the partnership project is winding down. Consider including partnership assessment as an activity in the joint work plan, MOU or agreement. If it’s not formally built in and agreed upon – it probably won’t get done.

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Conducting a Partnership Assessment

Measuring your partnership does not have to be expensive or complex. But buy-in across all partners regarding the uses and benefits of the evaluation will help avoid skepticism and concern that the evaluation process is taking time away from the “real” work of the partnership. Gaining this buy-in requires that the partners spend the time necessary to determine as a group 1) the purpose of the assessment, and 2) how the results will be used. These two aspects will underpin how you plan and design the assessment, and how you communicate and use the end results.

The purpose of the assessment. The purpose of a partnership assessment will influence the selection of specific questions or indicators, how you gather data and the timing of evaluation activities. Potential purposes can include:

  • To monitor the health and quality of the partnership over time, and make appropriate adjustments to the people involved, their roles, the tools and processes being used, and the assumptions being made. An assessment can also trigger the closure of a partnership (see Section 6).

  • Become aware of, and able to manage, perceptions about roles, relative contributions, styles, etc.

  • Learn of the unintended impacts of your actions on your partner and address them.

Who will use the results: The intended audience of a partnership assessment will influence how you prioritize evaluation questions and how you communicate the evaluation results. Typically, users of a partnership evaluation are internal to the partnership itself, and include organizational leadership, partnership members and potentially funders.

Once you have a clear sense of the purpose and use of a partnership assessment, there are a number of tools that can help you conduct the review:

WWF Partnership Tool-box (pages 22-24): Application of WWF’s Partnership Monitoring Tool can help assess progress in the development of a partnership using eight criteria. The degree to which the partnership meets these criteria is plotted using a ‘spider diagram’ with eight axes giving a visual representation of the ‘shape of the partnership’ and allows for easy comparisons between different perceptions.

Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory: This on-line tool can help assess how any collaboration or partnership is doing based on 20 research-tested factors shown to influence success. Groups that are considering working together can even use it to see if they have what they need to succeed. Established collaborations or partnerships can use the inventory to troubleshoot problems, demonstrate successes to funders, and uncover differences in how participating organizations perceive the collaboration. Here is an example of a report that was generated using the Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory.

You can deepen a partnership assessment by using multiple sources of quantitative and qualitative data. Using a range of approaches, while more time consuming, could also help you justify your conclusions and offer a deeper understanding of the way the partnership is working. Click here for an example of a partnership measures plan, and here for full partnership evaluation guidance.

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Implementing the Findings

You and your partners determined how you intended to use your assessment results at the start of the process, and undoubtedly you revisited these intended uses repeatedly throughout. In order to help improve uptake and use of the assessment, you should review assessment findings with your partners to ensure that your conclusions make sense for the partnership. Involving all partners will help ensure that the findings are valid and will increase the use of those findings. Early in the process, partners should discuss what their approach should be if there are disagreements about the findings. There may be occasions when one or more of the partners disagree with the findings, in which case it is the responsibility of the person in charge of the measures process to facilitate a discussion between the partners around how the findings are interpreted (Caplan et al., 2007).

To improve the likelihood of the evaluation findings being used:

  • Share information regularly with partnership leaders and coordinators during the course of the evaluation. Providing periodic feedback will help ensure that your evaluation is on track and will limit the chances of your stakeholders being surprised.
  • Incorporate findings into an improvement plan.
  • Present information in a timely manner.
  • Avoid jargon; present data in a clear and understandable way.

Think about how best to share recommendations for improving the partnership with the leadership and management staff of the partnership. Will it work best as an oral presentation? An informal discussion? You can incorporate the findings into an improvement plan, and can share with the rest of the partners in that same format. While the assessment may tell you what needs to be improved, further inquiry may be necessary to determine how to make those improvements.

What do you do if the results of your partnership evaluation are unfavorable? What if the results shed a negative light on a member? In these circumstances, be sensitive and positive in presenting data. Bear in mind that negative findings are very normal, and an unfavorable evaluation doesn’t mean that the partnership is not working. Instead, negative findings can shed light on where the partnership needs to focus energy, and can provide the basis for developing an improvement plan. When presenting negative results of an evaluation, include a discussion of challenges such as contextual factors, political climate, budgetary realities and competing priorities so that your audience understands those mitigating circumstances. When findings reflect negatively on one partner, present them in general terms publicly; and privately with that partner. In a report, negative findings can be presented without using names, but instead using statements such as “in general” or “in one case.”

The table below lists some of the learning possibilities that may be derived at different levels and the action that maybe result from these.


Identification of skills and knowledge gaps Reinforcement of representational goals

Seek skills training/capacity-building Seek role / responsibility changes

Identification of new or different role(s) Greater awareness about partnership Greater recognition of other partners’ incentives and contributions Justification for involvement in partnership

Take on new / different responsibilities Seek further resources to contribute Promote internal capacity-building initiatives Renegotiate role/contribution

Clearer vision and sense of purpose Need for improved accountability Identification of key gaps and challenges

Develop improved structures and systems Promote greater accountability (transparency, compliance, and response) Develop more innovative plans Use information as baseline for future evaluations Renegotiate partnership agreements Create information and marketing tools

Deeper understanding and knowledge of partnerships Identification of key challenges

Generate improved knowledge sharing about partnerships Create greater institutionalization Generate more funding for partnerships Generate policy impacts with new legislation Promote greater support for partnership approaches Allows comparative analysis with other programs

Partnership Evaluation - Learning and Action Opportunities

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