Creating a successful partnership: Introducing our new toolkit

At Nesta we work on tackling some of the biggest challenges of our time, from the changing world of work to financial inclusion, from reducing plastics to ensuring AI is ethical. We know that to truly take on these big challenges we need to form partnerships. Through our work, we partner with organisations such as the UNDP, Google, USAID, the UK Cabinet Office, BEIS, DCMS and the NHS, and we want to ensure all innovators have the tools and resources necessary to form short-term or long-term high impact partnerships for change.

We work with many social innovators, including those who work on their own and others who work in large-scale organisations, and there are a few key questions that we are frequently asked:

  • How do I effectively partner with other organisations?
  • How do I form multi-sector partnerships?
  • What do I need to think about in order to prepare?
  • Do you have a partnership agreement template?

We have therefore put together this partnership toolkit as a starter for 10 to help innovators develop their thinking about partnerships, including a practical checklist of things that need to be done in order to set up strong and effective partnerships.

We have written about our partnership work previously, and nearly all of our programmes and projects include multiple partners, but what has become apparent to us is that not only do you need the right resources to form a partnership, you also need the right tools and mindset to set your partnership up for success.

This toolkit aims to help with the ‘tools’ part of this equation.

This resource will be useful for anyone who needs an off-the-shelf checklist and a draft partnership agreement to work from. It’s by no means exhaustive but it’s been shaped by our learnings over the years, and by the work of others including The Partnering Initiative, WWF, Forum for the Future and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government). We hope it will be a useful jumping off point to help you think about the key things you need to consider, what your partnership agreement should cover, and the key things you need in place to create a strong and successful collaboration.

Getting your partnership off to a good start

Pursuing a partnership can take a lot of time and resources, and it’s always worth taking a step back to make sure you have the right foundations for a successful collaboration.

Are you actually going to be able to work together? Do the people who are going to be working on the partnership feel connected to a common purpose and share common values? Are they committed as individuals to working together?

The toolkit explores some of the key questions to ask before embarking on a new partnership, and shares a go/no go checklist to help you evaluate your potential collaboration before moving forward.

Your go/no go checklist might include:

  • A clear opportunity for both parties to benefit.
  • Parties are able to make equitable contributions to the partnership.
  • Senior buy-in to work together.
  • An acceptable level of risk.

Download the toolkit to read more about each of these areas, and for more tools to help you evaluate and set up a strong partnership, including tips on how to structure a solid partnership agreement and some of the key areas this should cover.

We hope you enjoy using this toolkit and please send us any new ideas, updates or suggestions for how we can improve any future versions to [email protected].


Kate Sutton

Kate Sutton

Kate Sutton

Head of Corporate Social Innovation

Kate was responsible for managing Nesta's Corporate Social Innovation and Inclusive Growth work

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