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Rationale - Why Do We Need MSP's?

In the wider sense, the rationale for multi-stakeholder collaboration is simple. Today, the world is faced with a set of very difficult issues: the over-use of natural resources; climate change; continuing poverty; and the psychological and health-related ‘downsides’ of modern living. Quite simply, our existing ways of making decisions, along with our mechanisms of governance – from the local to the global level – are failing to cope with today’s challenges.

At the most basic level the reason for an MSP is that a group of actors realise that they are unable to achieve their own objectives and ambitions without working with others. Sometimes it is government which realises that to create and implement effective policy it must seek the advice and work in partnership with other actors.  Increasingly business is having to work with ‘triple bottom line’ thinking and balance profit with environmental and social outcomes.  To do this it has to engage in new ways with its clients, policy makers and environmental and social activists.  NGOs are very diverse and some very deliberately take a confrontational approach, however, many others are learning that they can best achieve their objectives by creating, or being involved in processes where they constructively help business and government to make change.

In a globalised world neither government, business nor civil society  is all powerful, yet each has the power to at least partially subvert actions of the other spheres to which they are opposed.  Progress, particularly in relation to sustainable development, hinges on a social capacity for different sectors and interests to be able to constructively engage with each other. 

When looking across many examples of MSPs five main reasons can be seen for why actors engage in a multi-stakeholder partnership:

  1. Consultation
  2. Learning and idea generation
  3. Joint problem solving and decision making
  4. Overcoming conflicts
  5. Collective action 

In many MSPs, stakeholders engage for a combination of these reasons.  However, the primary purpose for a MSP does have significant implications for how it is set-up, structured and facilitated and for its legitimacy.  In this sense consultation and shared learning processes are less complex and less difficult to manage than those aimed at joint decision making, conflict resolution or collective action.