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Partnerships for Sustainability: Examining the Evidence, A Symposium


Book CoverEnhancing the Effectiveness of Sustainability Partnerships: Summary of a Workshop (2009)
Sustainable development--meeting human needs while nurturing and restoring the planet's life support systems--requires a continuous process of scientific innovation, new knowledge and learning, and collaborative approaches to implementing technologies and policies. To address these challenges, different stakeholder groups are increasingly seeking to ally themselves through partnership, in order to implement projects, deliver services, establish secure funding mechanisms, and achieve on the ground results. Advocates of this collaborative approach point to the failure of governmental regulations, international commitments, or business as usual. However, skeptics often question the effectiveness of partnerships at achieving sustainable development goals and, in the absence of demonstrated results, wonder where partnerships are adding value. A symposium held in June 2008 and summarized in this volume, attempted to advance the dialogue on partnerships for sustainability in order to catalyze existing knowledge and inform future efforts. Ideas that came out of discussions at the symposium will help leaders in government, the private sector, foundations and NGOs, and universities, both in the United States and internationally, as they develop and participate in new partnerships for sustainability.


  Project Information  

Project Scope
Meetings and Events
Committee Membership

Contact Information:
Science and Technology for Sustainabillity Program
The National Academies
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Tel: (202) 334-2694




Project Scope

The U.S. National Academies' Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability convened a symposium to examine the multi-stakeholder partnership record in addressing issues associated with sustainability. The symposium focused on the challenges that the partnerships have addressed, including: involvement of several sectors, action at varying scales, from local to global, a combination of public and private financing, and a complex set of science questions.

The experience of eleven partnerships shaped the analysis and discussion. In-depth case studies of these partnerships have been conducted by experts with experience in analyzing partnerships involving science and technology issues. The case studies used a common framework and set of questions to describe and analyze each of the partnerships. A steering group of Roundtable members organized the symposium program based on its review of preliminary drafts of the review papers, in order to encourage discussion among all participants of issues that cross-cut the review papers.

The following partnerships were examined as case studies:

  • Agua Para Todos (Bolivia)
  • Common Code for the Coffee Community (Africa/Asia/ L. America)
  • East Coast Fever Vaccine Development (East/Central Africa)
  • Farm to Fork Initiative (U.S.)
  • Global Water Challenge (Africa/Central America/Asia)
  • Green Chemistry Institute (U.S.)
  • Green Power Market Development Group (U.S./Europe)  
  • Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (Tanzania)   
  • Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (Worldwide)   
  • Sustainable Forest Products Global Alliance (Africa/Asia/ L. America)    
  • Sustainable Silicon Valley (California)

The symposium was open to the public and included members of the Roundtable, authors of the review papers, representatives from the featured partnerships, and other invited guests.

The symposium attempted to advance the dialogue on partnership experiences with a view to informing future efforts. It is anticipated that the results of the symposium will help leaders in government, private sector, foundations/NGOs, and universities, both in the United States and internationally, as they develop and participate in new partnerships for sustainability. Recognizing the trend toward partnering, and the anecdotal evidence that it can aid in a transition to sustainability, this event and publication will provide another important tool in helping would-be practitioners navigate the when, where, why, and how to of partnering.


Meetings and events

Partnerships for Sustainability: Examining the Evidence, A Symposium

The National Academy of Sciences
2100 C Street NW, Lecture Room
Washington, DC
June 18-19, 2008

Meeting Agenda:

Final Agenda [PDF 83 KB]

Symposium Presentations:

Partnerships for Sustainability: Some Musings and Observations [PDF 44 KB]
Charles M. Vest, National Academy of Engineering

Examining the Evidence: The Case Study Approach and Preliminary Analysis [PDF 851 KB]
Derek Vollmer, The National Academies


Committee Membership Information

The committee listed below was established by the U.S. National Academies. The project's steering committee reviews all proposals and oversees the organization of the workshops.

  • Emmy Simmons (Chair)
    Former Assistant Administrator for
    Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade, U.S. Agency 
    for International Development (USAID)
  • William Clark (NAS)
    Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development, Harvard University
  • Sam Dryden
    Chief Executive Officer, Emergent Genetics and Managing Director, Wolfensohn & Company
  • Kathryn Fuller
    Chair of the Board of Trustees, Ford Foundation and Former President and CEO, WWF
  • Hank Habicht
    Vice Chairman, Global Environment and Technology Foundation (GETF)
  • Gerald Keusch (IOM)
    Assistant Provost of the Medical Campus and Associate Dean, School of Public Health, Boston University
  • Robert Stephens
    International Chair, Multi-State Working Group on Environmental Performance 


  • Derek Vollmer
    Associate Program Officer, Policy and Global Affairs (
  • Kathleen McAllister
    Senior Program Assistant, Policy and Global Affairs



Partnerships for Sustainability: Examining the Evidence was supported by the George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability Science, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the United Nations Foundation and MARS, Inc.