Multi-stakeholder partnerships and the structuring of spaces between fields

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Multi- stakeholder partnerships were given new impetus in 'Agenda 2030' which requires 'bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors' (UN: General Assembly, 2015). Much existing literature treats partnerships as either normatively appropriate or instrumentally useful organisational models. Rather than conceptualising partnerships as a stable model in which differently-located partners may engage, the authors use Eyal's (2011) theorisation of 'spaces between fields', which are co-constructed by partners.

To examine these emerging spaces as they institutionalise, it is vital to examine partnering processes as connecting diverse partners from established fields. Partnership Boards are at the sharp end of partnering activities, bringing together partners representing diverse logics, professional expertise, and values. Therefore, the authors used network analysis (specifically, the Interlocking Directorates approach) to investigate the relationships among partners across several global financing partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (including agriculture, climate change, education, health, and water).

This analysis revealed that Board members from donors (state, private and multilateral) were more connected within the partnership space than other stakeholders. This would indicate the importance of historical relations of power and the privileging of certain types of expertise and knowledge in the emerging institutionalisation of partnerships. This article contributes an innovative theoretical framing to studies of partnerships and extends the insights of Eyal's approach. By focussing on the actual relationships that sustain and structure spaces between fields, the authors demonstrate how initial conditions and power disparities in constituent fields are translated and imprinted into emergent liminal spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAcceptance date - Sept 2017
EventDevelopment Studies Association Annual Conference: Sustainability Interrogated: Societies, Growth, and Social Justice - University of Bradford, Bradford, UK United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Sept 20178 Sept 2017


ConferenceDevelopment Studies Association Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleDSA 2017
Country/TerritoryUK United Kingdom
Internet address


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