Who’s in? Who’s not? What do people and organizations get and give for belonging? How well do they do when they are tasked to work together? These items and more are often lumped together as “governance” in a partnership and can take many forms from unwritten traditions to structured bylaws. Whatever their form, the backbone organization helps leadership within multi-stakeholder partnerships create them, maintain them, and ensure they provide enough structure without inhibiting collaboration. They also provide one of the fundamental prerequisites for fundraising and maintaining alignment as the partnership scales.

We’ve typically seen the backbone organization take on varying levels of coordination when helping partnerships craft governance outlining specific roles and responsibilities for the members within the multi-stakeholder partnership.

  • Agreement management: Helping partners not only make, but also keep their various commitments to each other. “Agreements” may take the form of written agreement (e.g., contract or memorandum of understanding) or something more informal (although we recommend written agreements).
  • Partnership operations: Backbone organizations provide the “glue” that holds together contractual or agreement-based partnerships on a day-to-day basis.
  • Partnership engagement: Keeping the broader/voluntary partners (e.g. those in a Community of Interest and not part of the formal contract) engaged and feeling like they have an active role to play in advancing the common objectives.