Partnerships between services are critical to the success of working in health promoting ways; the importance of this is recognised by practitioners across all levels. Successful partnerships strengthen the capacity of projects and services to broaden their reach, engage more stakeholders and achieve shared objectives.

Working in partnership may be beneficial at an organisational and an individual level. Partnerships may be either strategic and concerned with the broad program concept, scope, direction or planning; or operational and concerned with resources, incentives, engagement and communication.

A partnership is usually a voluntary agreement but it may also include formal written agreements and contracts between two or more partners.

Partnerships can achieve greater outcomes than individuals or organisations acting alone. Partnerships achieve increased benefits because they share expertise, skills and resources. These benefits can include:

  • more effective service delivery
  • more efficient resourcing
  • policy development at organisational or community levels
  • systems development as a result of changed relations between organisations
  • social and community development aimed at strengthening community action.

To achieve their potential, partnerships should be transparent and accountable, and be based on agreed ethical principles, mutual understanding, commitment and respect for the capacity of all partners. Where the capacity of each partner is different, these principles need to be clearly understood. In short-term partnerships these principles may not be as apparent as they might be in longer-term or more involved partnerships.

Some partnerships may need formal agreements, such as a contract or a memorandum of understanding. Others may only need simple records of commitments and agreements made. It is essential to identify the most appropriate documentation to support the partnership early. Partnerships can operate at different levels – this is determined by how much resources and information are shared, and the willingness to change activities and increase capacity for a common purpose, or for mutual benefit.

The public, private and community sectors need to explore opportunities to collaborate on health promotion. There are many ways they can work together on this, including networks and coordinated, cooperative and collaborative partnerships.

Partnerships between individuals also play an important role in service delivery. Partnerships between health service organisations, health professionals, patients, families, carers and consumers lead to significant benefits in clinical care and outcomes. For more information on partnering with health consumers, see the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards, and specifically Standard 2: Partnering with Consumers.

For further information and to apply these principles in your work, view this checklist