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Why this conference?

Partnerships for development are crucial. Global efforts have focused on the Sustainable Development Goals, as the issues being tackled are increasingly recognised as complex. Collective action is unavoidable as the post-2015 UN development agenda stresses. “Today’s complex and interconnected world clearly needs collaboration and partnerships between interest groups spanning the boundaries of business, government, civil society and science”[1].

Investments in diverse partnerships and partnership platforms are growing apace. Donors have committed over $5.9bn in multi-annual aid to further the aims of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, and $1.5bn in grants and loans to support African growth corridor programmes. Multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) are ‘a form of governance, a way in which groups of people can make decisions and take action for the collective good, be it at local, national or collective scale. They range from short consultation processes to multi-year evolving engagements, with more or less structure or formal organisational arrangements’[2].

However, on what basis is investment in MSPs founded? An Oxfam study cautions: ‘Mega agricultural PPPs are by and large unproven and risky, and appear likely to skew the benefits of investments towards the privileged and the more powerful, while the risks fall to the poorest and most vulnerable’[3]. The enthusiasm for partnerships is not yet matched with solid understanding of when partnerships are needed and what their specific role is in sustainable development efforts. Nor is it clear how to monitor the functioning of partnerships, or evaluate their promised impact in creating value at multiple levels. Partnerships are not always effective, since conflicts arise, powers are abused, downward accountability hardly takes place, and learning and communication are often inadequate.

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can help strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs). M&E can support the learning and decision making processes, holding partners accountable or in assessing the functioning of partnerships and how they can reach more sustainable results. But what makes for effective M&E? How can evaluation professionals measure partnership processes and results, in order to improve them? This conference will synthesise insights from practice and theory as a contribution to the partnerships critical for sustainable development.

What this conference is about:

This two-day conference focuses on how those active in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can contribute better to partnerships in development. Key questions to be explored include:

  1. What do we mean by partnerships?
    • What kinds of partnerships exist? When can we really speak about a partnership?
  2. What is specific about the M&E of partnerships?
    • How do you assess the effectiveness of partnerships (e.g. comprehensive, flexible M&E, across scales) as well as partnership characteristics (e.g. case studies)?
  3. In order to contribute to SDGs, what is needed in terms for M&E to support existing as well as new partnerships?
    • In addition to understanding partnerships and focusing your M&E on the different dimensions of partnerships, what else do you need to do to ensure that M&E strengthen these partnerships for a sustainable future/towards the SDGs?

The conference will connect the realities of those working in practice with ideas from people who are thought leaders on the partnership topic. Workshops, clinics and presentations will ensure a lively and thoughtful opportunity to question one’s own practice and find inspiration for new ideas.

Contributions are being developed for the conference. Please also get in touch with ideas for specific contributions – papers, panels, roundtables or workshops are all welcome.  See 'call for proposals' under 'documents' on the right hand side.

Who this conference is for:

This conference is for people involved in partnerships and wanting to make them work better and deliver more, as well as those working on monitoring and evaluation of such partnerships. As for all the conferences in this series, participants will come from government, international organisations, civil society, private sector, M&E and academia.

Conference products:

Conference products include presentations, background information, videos, and a conference report will be placed on this conference website

Conference organisers:

This conference is the eighth annual ‘M&E on the Cutting Edge’ event organised by the Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen University and Research Centre, and Learning by Design, in collaboration with the PPPLab and Oxfam Novib. Other organisations keen to collaborate with this conference can contact the organisers. Past events typically attract over 150 international participants.


[1] ‘The MSP Guide. How to design and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships’. Herman Brouwer and Jim Woodhill with Minu Hemmatie, Karen Verhoosel and Simone van Vugt. CDI 2015

[2] Ibid

[3] ‘Moral Hazard? ‘Mega public-private partnerships in African agriculture’’. 188 Oxfam briefing paper, 1 September 2014.