Work packages

Project structure

Transformative Partnerships 2030 consists of four work packages using a mixed-methods research design that combines qualitative and quantitative research. The project follows a four-step sequence: 1.) identifying the interactions between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) and evaluating and explaining if and how the interactions generate synergies or conflicts through studies of the UN partnership registry combined with expert interviews and document analysis; 2.) selecting MSPs across environmental, social, and economic SDGs; 3.) assessing performance, effectiveness, and legitimacy of these MSPs through qualitative studies, structured comparisons, and process tracing; and 4.) proposing design and meta-governance of MSPs so they can be harnessed to enhance implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the social transformation to sustainability.

Work package 1: Mapping synergies of MSPs addressing multiple SDGs

WP1 quantitatively maps which MSPs address multiple SDGs in the Partnerships for SDGs online platform, which contains more than 5,000 partnerships and commitments. The mapping will provide an overview of the landscape of MSPs and their policy functions. It will evaluate and explain if and how interactions between partnerships generate synergies, trade-offs, or conflict. The first step is to identify those commitments that constitute MSPs according to our project definition. Then we will explore how MSPs translate their commitments to multiple SDGs in practice and examine whether the interactions actually generate synergies or conflicts that catalyze or impede implementation of the 2030 Agenda. We will also assess the determinants for creating synergies between SDGs in the MSPs.

Work package 2: Effectiveness of partnerships

In WP2, we study the effectiveness of MSPs employing comparative case studies. To assess effectiveness, we will focus on up to 60 different projects initiated or led by 30 MSPs selected from the mapping exercise in WP1, which will operate in different parts of the world and across different subject areas. We approach effectiveness using the established distinctions between output, outcomes, and impacts. These three measures of policy effects operate in a linear fashion: output conditions outcome, which together shape the impact of a policy or regulation in collective problem-solving. Because impacts measurements may suffer from multi-causality, this study aims to arrive at a better understanding of the specific conditions under which MSPs can contribute to solving problems and fostering sustainability.

Work package 3: Legitimacy and accountability of partnerships

In WP3, MSPs will be examined from perspectives of both empirical (sociological) and normative legitimacy. The former is based on the perceived legitimacy of actors themselves (sociological legitimacy), while the latter is grounded in predefined criteria for democratic legitimacy, such as inclusion, accountability, transparency, and performance (normative legitimacy). WP3 will evaluate the procedural legitimacy of MSPs, stemming from norms, values, and principles of liberal democracy.

Work package 4: Meta-governance of MSPs for transformation to sustainability

In WP4, we will provide policy advice and recommendations of what the national international community could do to support MSPs to generate synergies and coherence between SDGs, improve performance, and strengthen legitimacy. In close dialogue with our Practitioner's Advisory Council, we will focus on "meta-governance" at the UN and governmental level. Meta-governance means enabling support and intergovernmental oversight of partnerships, embedding them in the broader governance landscape of multilateral institutions, national, regional, and local governments. If partnerships are decoupled and exist in isolation in an institutionally complex and fragmented governance arrangement, they are less likely to scale up, be transformative, and have an impact.