… i.e. oriented towards brokering long-standing partnerships
Putting a strong focus on both the specificities of a given policy (policy orientation) and the inner dynamics of the dialogue process (process orientation) is arguably the most effective way of building solid and long-standing partnerships. In most cases, policy decisions are the result of the interplay amongst the many different actors that conform to what is known as “policy networks”, which bring together more or less powerful players belonging to different working areas that remain, nonetheless, strongly interconnected. Government officials, policy analysts, lobbyists, activists, private companies, think-tankers, scholars, and entrepreneurs may all have different mandates and respond to different incentives, but all tend to know each other and share a common basic understanding of how that given policy works. Actually, many of them may switch positions along with their professional careers, moving from civil society to government, or from government to the private sector, sometimes abusing their position and giving way to the phenomenon known as “revolving doors”.
However outrageous this change of sides may appear to external observers, it actually showcases the many communicating vessels that underlie any given policy field and bind together the different policy actors. Managed through open dialogue, these relationships can be mobilised into a force for positive change and broadened to include usually side-lined players. When information is shared on a regular basis – which is what dialogue is about – and the resulting knowledge stems from a collective endeavour, those who partake in it are keener to identify with each other and attain a better understanding of the policy as a whole.
This shared vision is essential for the sustainability of policy reform and the creation of long-standing policy partnerships based on a rational and fair division of labour towards the achievement of a collective goal. Once aware of being in the same boat, the different stakeholders will be less inclined to row in different directions and may proceed to a better distribution of the necessary tasks to achieve policy reform, avoiding overlaps and fostering the kind of synergies that are necessary when resources are limited. More importantly, after working together in the dialogue process and getting to know their respective strengths and constraints, the key stakeholders will have progressively developed the kind of operational partnership that is sought in most development actions but seldom sees the light for lack of mutual understanding.
Ever since the preparatory works of the Agenda 2030, multi-stakeholder partnerships have emerged as a crucial instrument for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as they are likely the only means to align the efforts of a wide and often disparate array of actors towards the attainment of such complex objectives.