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A strong partnership based on trust is important for project implementation


A strong partnership based on trust is important for project implementation

A strong partnership based on trust is important for project implementation

Posted on August 22, 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


A strong partnership based on trust is important for project implementation and sustained success. Fostering local ownership and support for the partnership creates trust amongst project proponents and beneficiaries. A resilient, trust-based partnership can better address any challenges that arise over the course of the project, furthering the project’s long-term success. Though all partners may not be able to contribute the same amount of finance, a strong partnership will value many ways to contribute beyond monetary value.


When all partners trust one another, the partnership will be more likely to overcome any barriers encountered during the project. Building relationships among partners is worth the time and effort because trust is a crucial ingredient for a sustainable partnership. Trust is especially important should one partner leave the partnership. The other partners will be better able to continue implementing the project if they share a history of trust and clear communication.


A strong partnership requires:

  • A clear mandate for action from beneficiaries before project activities commence, whether beneficiaries are local municipalities, communities, or private companies
  • Early and ongoing stakeholder engagement with clear communication and a trusted facilitator
  • Long-term planning. To keep municipalities and public sector agencies committed, partnerships should be longer-term and aligned to their budget and project timescales
  • Local partnership managers to minimize staff turn-over and loss of local trust
  • A local secretariat or project manager coordinating the partnership. A project manager who is in frequent communication with stakeholders will make partners feel included.
  • Transparency and information sharing to build trust amongst partners and ultimately a strong partnership.

Partnership implies reciprocity, but often partners’ contributions to water stewardship initiatives are not equal. A strong partnership structure values financial, technical and in-kind contributions to the partnership. This can be accommodated through documented partner agreements and ongoing discussions.

To secure stakeholder buy-in, it is often necessary to show progress on selected demonstration sites. These early “wins” foster a strong partnership for future implementation.


The uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership in Richard’s Bay, South Africa, is characterized by a large number of private sector partners and the high capacity of local public sector organizations. The partnership appointed a local partnership manager to coordinate the group. The partnership manager has been instrumental in fostering strong relationships among and between the private and public sector partners. The partnership manager’s independence and local familiarity has fostered trust in the partnership. As a result of its strength, the partnership has implemented  many activities in a short period of time, including:

  • Support to the Municipality for non-revenue water issues
  • A study on the economic potential in the area and creation of small and medium enterprises
  • Implementation of projects on circular economy
  • Collaborative and sustainable management of water resources from the dam
  • Building capacity of agriculture small growers in business development

Projects that have validated this Lesson

The uMhlathuze Water Stewardship Partnership (UWASP) is a river basin collaboration of business, government and civil society partners established to address water security challenges in the uMhlathuze region of South Africa. UWASP aims to play a transformative role in the … 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.