Partos meet-up on strategic partnerships: rethinking ownership and control within advocacy partnerships


Cultivating meaningful partnerships is central to work in international development. However, this is not always easy to achieve, which is reflected in the wide consensus that power imbalances between partners in international development exist. Last Thursday, the 6th of February, representatives from around 50 organizations convened to challenge and rethink roles and ownership within advocacy partnerships.

Plenary session & working groups

With the Power of Voices grant deadline approaching, in which strategic North-South advocacy partnerships are a central theme, attendees were eager to explore ways to approach this topic within their own organizations. Overall, the event’s atmosphere was dynamic and open. One attendee’s remark, stating they were pleased to see the openness in communication between organizations and their willingness to share lessons, encapsulates the ambiance perfectly. The event kick-started with presentations by experts Willem Elbers, Margit van Wessel and Heinz Greijn. Elbers and van Wessel’s presentations touched upon the importance of strengthening Southern voices and shared their recommendations on what can be done to achieve more Southern ownership and transformative relationships between partners. Heinz Greijn presented the power awareness tool that was developed as part of the Partos Shift The Power Lab, and which helps shed light on power dynamics in partnerships. Following the presentations, workshops were held. Three of the four groups discussed the challenges to Southern ownership and potential solutions to these challenges, while another group reflected on the power awareness tool. A wealth of interesting reflections resulted.


One key takeaway was that to create transformative relationships a culture of discussion must be fostered. Another group pointed out that simply being aware about power imbalances within strategic partnerships is a step in the right direction and an essential part to forming solutions. Yet another group questioned whether power is simply a management issue or more, where one attendee suggested that while governance may change, power dynamics may stay. Building strategic partnerships takes time and trust, not to mention the difficulty of moving from reflection to action. As van Wessel concluded:


“it takes courage to do all these things and I wish you a lot of courage”. 


A full report with the presentations and all results from the working groups you can find here:


For more information on the Power Awareness Tool please contact Anne-Marie Heemskerk ( or Heinz Greijn (