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Clearly define roles and responsibilities for all partners


Clearly define roles and responsibilities for all partners

Clearly define roles and responsibilities for all partners

Posted on August 13, 2019 by Karina de Souza

Authoring Organizations: Pacific Institute
Consulting Organizations: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Universal: No
Applicable Phases: Assess
Last Updated May 22, 2024


Clearly define roles for each member of the partnership to ensure stakeholders and partners do not get confused regarding the partnership process. Roles are best defined through both verbal confirmation during stakeholder workshops and the written partnership memorandum of understanding.


Clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the partnership helps to increase efficiency and avoid redundant work. When a partner lacks clarity regarding their role and responsibilities, the longer-term legacy of a project could be undermined. Partners may not commit to maintaining work. If partners do not understand the responsibility for future funding, work may cease. Lack of clarity may also cause misunderstanding and tension among partners.


  • To clarify roles and responsibilities, begin the partnership scoping phase by identifying all roles that need to be filled and the potential for current  partners to fulfill these roles.     
  • Build on existing governance structures where appropriate. There may already be an institution within the partnership, such as a local water user association or catchment management authority, that could act as a secretariat to chair the partnership process and make suggestions on how roles could be resourced through public mandates.
  • Once a secretariat is in place, the secretariat should document the responsibilities of various partners and track their work. This documentation is accomplished by reporting at every partnership meeting in addition to sharing written workshop notes among partners.


In the Partnership for Sustainable Water Management (SUWAMA) on the Usa River in Tanzania, the partnership took care to make each partner’s roles and responsibilities explicit from the start. The Water User Association (WUA) chairperson worked with the catchment management authority to coordinate and chair meetings. The WUA and catchment management authority used their local knowledge to suggest how activities should be resourced and how this could help support the local government public mandate.  Because these local institutions chaired the partnership process, the partnership was able to clearly show support for the public sector mandate of achieving water security in the local catchment for businesses and communities. By supporting the public mandate, the Water User Association cemented their purpose in the community.           

Projects that have validated this Lesson

The Usa River in northern Tanzania is central to the livelihoods of the majority of the region’s companies, communities and individuals. From big business to small-scale farming, from wildlife reserves and lodges to village leaders and community groups, people in … Learn More

This lesson learned reflects the beliefs and experiences of the author, not necessarily the Pacific Institute, CEO Water Mandate, or UN Global Compact.