Partnerships between the government and community groups are advocated by many academics and practitioners, but few have examined the limits to partnerships. A simple theory of government (involving the efforts of “reasonable people” in an “ideal state”) is used to explore the issues in creating sustainable partnerships. A graphical presentation is used to demonstrate that successful partnerships rely on more than good management; their success also depends on their effects on the rest of the polity, and the response to those effects. Three conditions for sustainable partnerships are derived: benefit, support and acceptability. Attention to good network management, political risks and sound public administration can improve the prospects for a successful and sustainable partnership, but eventually there are limits to partnerships.
This paper has been produced as part of a program at the Institute of Governance and Policy at Victoria University of Wellington and is supported by a grant from the research program of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.