Effectiveness of Partnerships for Sustainable Development – Behavioral Pathways and Impacts

What are the effectiveness and the impact of public-private partnerships for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals?


Partnerships between public and non-state actors for the provision of collective goods have become important instruments for addressing core issues on the sustainable development agenda such as health, education, humanitarian issues, or clean energy. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize the role of partnerships in the implementation of sustainability. Yet, while the academic literature provides valuable insights on the rise of public-private partnerships (PPPs), we know considerably less about their variable effectiveness and impact. Do PPPs simply repackage existing practices with effect and accountability, or do they contribute new and additional instruments and development outcomes?

This project will draw on political science, economics, management studies and public policy to advance the study of partnerships effectiveness both theoretically and empirically with respect to the SDGs. The main research questions guiding the project are:

  • How can we conceptualize and operationalize the effectiveness for PPPs? Through what mechanisms are PPPs effects likely to materialize?
  • What are the sources and limitations of the effectiveness of PPPs for sustainability?
  • How do PPPs interact with other forms of governance at the international and subnational level to influence results for the SDGs?

The research methodology will proceed to elaborate collaboratively a mixed-methods approach to disentangling different types of effects of PPP activities, as well as limitations of PPP governance. The methods will combine quantitative and qualitative techniques, namely: comparative case studies, new coding indicators, cases and surveys across several SDG issues, economic methods (e.g. randomized control trials) and innovative use of complexity theory.

The project will contribute to scientific and practical progress by providing the first inter-disciplinary, integrated and comparative theoretical approach and data on the effectiveness of partnerships for sustainability.


  • Public-private partnerships
  • SDGs


  • Business
  • Development
  • Economics
  • Environment
  • Political Science


International Organizations

  • World Economic Forum

Relevant Countries

  • All Countries
  • Developing countries


This is an ongoing project, which started in autumn 2017. The information here is updated regularly. If you have any inquiries please don’t hesitate to contact the project team via the form below.

Contact the project team

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Research team

Liliana Andonova
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Axel Michaelowa
Principa Member
University of Zurich

Susan Bissel
Associated Member
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund

Moira Faul
Associated Member
University of Geneva

Tom Hale
Associated Member
University of Oxford

Lea Stadtler
Associated Member
Grenoble Ecole de Management

Gilles Carbonnier
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

Henry Lee
Associated Member
Harvard University

Katharina Michaelowa
Associated Member
University of Zurich

Gilbert Probst
Associated Member
University of Geneva

Amanda Sardonis
Associated Member
Harvard University