A Process Tracing approach to study partnerships and sustainable development

A Process Tracing approach to study partnerships and sustainable development

The Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC) has recently started working with process tracing, a rigorous within-case methodology to study partnerships for sustainable development. This is part of an ongoing search for new research approaches to unpack complex partnering processes for sustainable development.

Public-private partnerships continue to play a crucial role in pursuing sustainable development. Simultaneously, questions around the functioning of partnerships persist. How do we identify a partnership’s contribution to impact? How do partnership dynamics translate into intended and unintended consequences? Under which conditions do partnerships contribute to sustainable development? These and other questions reflect the ongoing struggle in partnership practice and research around what works, in which arrangements, and under what circumstances.     

In a search for answers to these questions, it is necessary to expand the toolbox of research methodologies to study partnerships for sustainable development. Process tracing is among the methodologies and approaches that offers significant potential for addressing some of the central questions in partnership studies. It is a rigorous qualitative method to assess how partnership interventions lead to impact.

The PrC has developed a guidebook to provide stepwise guidance to those who wish to use process tracing in studying partnerships for development.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PrC has used process tracing to explore the contribution of two modalities of private-sector engagement to systemic change. You can read the policy brief here