Stewarding Sustainability Transformations in Multi-stakeholder Collaboration

  • Petra Kuenkel


This chapter takes the Patterns of Aliveness Theory into the day-to-day management practice of leading transformative change in multi-actor settings. A short deep dive into the current discourse on multi-stakeholder partnerships emphasizes the importance of collaborative practice for SDG implementation. Arguing that this practice is a pathway to sustainability transformations, the chapter highlights collaboration catalysts in complex multi-stakeholder change initiatives and relates them to the six dimensions of the Collective Leadership Compass. It shows how these match with the six aliveness-enhancing principles elaborated in Chap. 5 and how this forms the next level of an emerging conceptual architecture for stewarding sustainability transformations. Two successful examples of collaborative multi-stakeholder change processes illustrate how the strategic design of collaboration leads to tangible results and enhances actors’ collaboration literacy in navigating complex change.


Multi-stakeholder collaboration SDG implementation Collective action Transformative change Sustainability stewardship Collective leadership Collective Leadership Compass Co-designing change Complex change Collaboration ecosystems 


  1. Alexander, C. (1979). The timeless way of building (Vol. 1). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, C. (2002). The nature of order. An essay on the art of building and the nature of the universe: Book I – the phenomenon of life. Berkeley, CA: The Center for Environmental Structure.Google Scholar
  3. Alvarez-Pereira, C. (July-August 2016). Towards a Society of Living: Provocations on Economy and Economics by a Layman and Entrepreneur. Eruditio – e-Journal of the World Academy of Art & Science, 2(2).Google Scholar
  4. Aras, B., & Falk, R. (2015). Authoritarian ‘geopolitics’ of survival in the Arab Spring. Third World Quarterly, 36(2), 322–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Austin, J. E. (2000). The collaboration challenge: How non-profit and businesses succeed through strategic alliances. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  6. Austin, J. E., & Seitanidi, M. M. (2012). Collaborative value creation: A review of partnering between nonprofits and businesses: Part I. Value creation spectrum and collaboration stages. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 41(5), 726–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bäckstrand, K. (2006). Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development: Rethinking legitimacy, accountability and effectiveness. European Environment, 16(5), 290–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beisheim, M. (2011). Innovative Governance durch Entwicklungspartnerschaften? Chancen und Grenzen am Beispiel transnationaler Wasserpartnerschaften, SWP-Studie Nr. 2011/20 (pp. 5–29), Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin.Google Scholar
  9. Beisheim, M. (2012). Partnerships for sustainable development: why and how Rio+ 20 must improve the framework for multi-stakeholder partnerships. RP 3. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, German Institute for International and Security Affairs.Google Scholar
  10. Bellin, E. (2012). Reconsidering the robustness of authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring. Comparative Politics, 44(2), 127–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berger, I. A., Cunningham, P. H., & Drumwright, M. E. (2004). Social alliances: Company/nonprofit collaboration. California Management Review, 47(1), 58–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Biermann, F., Man-san Chan, A. M., & Pattberg, P. (2007). Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development: Does the promise hold? In P. Glasbergen, F. Biermann, & A. Mol (Eds.), Partnerships, governance and sustainable development: Reflections on theory and practice. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  13. BMZ (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung). (2016). Project evaluation: Summary report, Tunisia: Development of rural regions – integrated Water Resources Management (AGIRE). Retrieved from
  14. Bollier, D., & Helfrich, S. (Eds.). (2015). Patterns of commoning. Amherst, MA: Levellers Press.Google Scholar
  15. Bollier, D., & Watts, T. (2002). Saving the information commons: A new public interest agenda in digital media. Washington, DC: New America Foundation and Public Knowledge.Google Scholar
  16. Brouwer, H., & Woodlhill, J. (2015). The MSP Guide: How to design and facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships. Wageningen: Centre for Development Innovation, University of Wageningen.Google Scholar
  17. Buuren, A. V. (2009). Knowledge for governance, governance of knowledge: Inclusive knowledge management in collaborative governance processes. International Public Management Journal, 12(2), 208–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Byiers, B., Guadagno, F., & Karaki, K. (2015). From looking good to doing good: Mapping CSO-business partnerships. ECDPM Discussion Paper 182. Maastricht: ECDPM.Google Scholar
  19. Calton, J., Payne, S., & Waddock, S. (2008). Learning to teach ethics from the heart. In D. Swanson & D. Fisher (Eds.), Advancing business ethics education (Vol. 3, pp. 147–160). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.Google Scholar
  20. Capra, F., & Luisi, P. L. (2014). The system’s view of life: A unifying vision. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Corbett, J., & Mellouli, S. (2017). Winning the SDG battle in cities: How an integrated information ecosystem can contribute to the achievement of the 2030 sustainable development goals. Information Systems Journal, 27(2), 427–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cortez, E., Britz, J., Albright, K., Kigongo-Bukenya, I., & Hernandez, N. (August 19-23 2007). Forging global partnerships: Intercontinental collaborative initiatives between LIS programs. Paper presented at the 73rd IFLA General Conference and Council, Durban.Google Scholar
  23. Dhehibi, B., Lachaal, L., Elloumi, M., & Messaoud, A. (2007). Measuring irrigation water use efficiency using stochastic production frontier: An application on citrus producing farms in Tunisia. African Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 1(2), 1–15.Google Scholar
  24. Donaldson, T., & Walsh, J. P. (2015). Research in organizational behavior, toward a theory of business. Research in Organizational Behavior, 35, 181–207. Scholar
  25. Doran, P. (2017). A political economy of attention, mindfulness and consumerism: Reclaiming the mindful commons. New York, NY: Routledge Studies in Sustainability.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Eaton, M., Hughes, H. J., & MacGregor, J. (Eds.). (2016). Contemplative approaches to sustainability in higher education: Theory and practice. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Fadeeva, Z. (2005). Promise of sustainability collaboration: Potential fulfilled? Journal of Cleaner Production, 13(2), 165–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust: The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. London: Hamish Hamilton.Google Scholar
  29. Fullerton, J. (2015). Regenerative capitalism: How universal principles and patterns will shape our new economy. Capital Institute: Future of Finance Publication [online publication]. Retrieved from
  30. Gergen, K. J. (2015). From mirroring to world-making: Research as future forming. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 45(3), 287–310. Scholar
  31. Goepel, M. (2016). The great mindshift. How a new economic paradigm and sustainability transformations go hand in hand. New York: Springer International Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Glasbergen, P. (2011). Understanding partnerships for sustainable development analytically: The ladder of partnership activity as a methodological tool. Environmental Policy and Governance, 21(1), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hanjra, M. A., & Qureshi, M. E. (2010). Global water crisis and future food security in an era of climate change. Food Policy, 35(5), 365–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hanleybrown, F., Kania, J., & Kramer, M. (2012). Channeling change: Making collective impact work. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 9(1), 1–8.Google Scholar
  35. Hanna, N. K. (2011). Transforming government and building the information society: Challenges and opportunities for the developing world. New York, NY: Springer Science, & Business Media.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hodgkinson, G. P., Whittington, R., Johnson, G., & Schwarz, M. (2006). The role of strategy workshops in strategy development processes: Formality, communication, co-ordination and inclusion. Long Range Planning, 39(5), 479–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Horx, M. (2003). Future fitness. Frankfurt am Main: Eichborn Verlag.Google Scholar
  38. House, R., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., & Dorfman, P. (2002). Understanding cultures and implicit leadership theories across the globe: An introduction to project GLOBE. Journal of World Business, 37(1), 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Isaacs, W. (1999). Dialogue and the art of thinking together: A pioneering approach to communicating in business and in life. New York: Currency Doubleday.Google Scholar
  40. Jamali, D. (2007). The case for strategic corporate social responsibility in developing countries. Business and Society Review, 112, 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jemmali, H., & Matoussi, M. S. (2013). A multidimensional analysis of water poverty at local scale: Application of improved water poverty index for Tunisia. Water Policy, 15(1), 98–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kania, J., & Kramer, M. (2011). Collective impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 9(1), 36–41.Google Scholar
  43. Kaplan, R. S., & Norton, D. P. (1996). The balanced scorecard: Translating strategy into action. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  44. Kaplinsky, R. (2000). Globalisation and unequalisation: What can be learned from value chain analysis. Journal of Development Studies, 37(2), 117–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. KPMG International, De Boer, Y., & van Bergen, B. (2012). Expect the unexpected: building business value in a changing world. Amsterdam: KPMG International.Google Scholar
  46. Kuenkel, P. (2008). Mind and heart: Mapping your personal journey towards leadership for sustainability. Potsdam: Collective Leadership Institute.Google Scholar
  47. Kuenkel, P. (2015). Navigating change in complex multi-actor settings: A practice approach to better collaboration. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 58, 119–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kuenkel, P. (2016). The art of leading collectively: How we can co-create a sustainable, socially just future. Claremont, NH: Chelsea Green.Google Scholar
  49. Kuenkel, P. (2017). Building competences for partnering: How donors can ensure multi-stakeholder partnerships succeed. (Briefing Note 95). Maastricht: ECDPM. Retrieved from
  50. Kuenkel, P., & Aitken, A. (2015). Key factors for the successful implementation of stakeholder partnerships: The case of the African Cashew Initiative. In V. Bitzer, R. Haman, M. Hall, & E. W. Griffin (Eds.), The business of social and environmental innovation: New frontiers in Africa. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  51. Kuenkel, P., & Schaefer, K. (2013). Shifting the way we co-create: How we can turn the challenges of sustainability into opportunities. Collective Leadership Studies No 1. Potsdam: The Collective Leadership Institute.Google Scholar
  52. Kuenkel, P., Fricke, V., & Cholakova, S. (2009). The common code for the coffee community. In D. Volmer (Ed.), Enhancing the effectiveness of sustainability partnerships. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  53. Kuenkel, P., Gerlach, S., & Frieg, V. (2011). Working with stakeholder dialogues: Key concepts and competencies for achieving common goals. A practical guide for change agents from public sector, private sector and civil society. Potsdam: The Collective Leadership Institute.Google Scholar
  54. Kuenkel, P., Buddenberg, J., Kuehn, E., & Heckmann, S. (2016). Towards a reference framework for effective partnering: Creating collaboration patterns that work for successful SDG implementation. Publication for the GPECD global partnership initiative: Promoting effective partnering. Collective Leadership Institute.Google Scholar
  55. Le Blanc, D. (2015). Towards integration at last? The sustainable development goals as a network of targets. Sustainable Development, 23(3), 176–187. Scholar
  56. Lovins, H. A. (1977). Soft energy paths. London: Penguin.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lozano, R. (2007). Collaboration as a pathway for sustainability. Sustainable Development, 15(6), 370–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McCann, J. E. (1983). Design guidelines for social problem-solving interventions. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 19(2), 177–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Meadows, D. (1999). Leverage points: Places to intervene into a system. Hartland, VT: Sustainability institute.Google Scholar
  60. OECD. (2015). System innovation. Synthesis report. Retrieved from June 30, 2017
  61. Pattberg, P., & Widerberg, O. (2014). Transnational multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development. Building blocks for success. IVM Report, R-14/31. Amsterdam: Institute for Environmental Studies.Google Scholar
  62. Poncelet, E. C. (2001). Personal transformation in multistakeholder environmental partnerships. Policy Sciences, 34(3), 273–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Raworth, K. (2017). Doughnut economics. Seven ways to think like a 21st century economist. London: Random House.Google Scholar
  64. Raynolds, L. T., Murray, D., & Heller, A. (2007). Regulating sustainability in the coffee sector: A comparative analysis of third-party environmental and social certification initiatives. Agriculture and Human Values, 24, 147–163. Scholar
  65. Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å., Persson, F. S., Chapin, III, Lambin, E. & Foley. J. (2009). Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14(2): 32.Google Scholar
  66. Scharmer, O. (2007). Theory U: Leading from the futures as it emerges. San Francisco, CA: Berrett- Koehler Publisher.Google Scholar
  67. Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.Google Scholar
  68. Senge, P., Hamilton, H., & Kania, J. (2015). The dawn of system leadership (Vol. 13, pp. 27–33). Stanford Social Innovation Review.Google Scholar
  69. Snowden, D. J., & Boone, M. E. (2007). A leader’s framework for decision making. Harvard Business Review, 85(11), 68–76.Google Scholar
  70. Solaimani, S., Gulyaz, E., van der Veen, J. A., & Venugopal, V. (2015). Enablers and inhibitors of collaborative supply chains: An integrative framework. Conference proceedings of the Production and Operations Management Society 2015. Retrieved from
  71. Succar, B. (2009). Building information modelling framework: A research and delivery foundation for industry stakeholders. Automation in Construction, 18(3), 357–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Tamoschus, D., Hienerth, C., & Lessl, M. (2015, November 19–20). Developing a Framework to Manage a Pharmaceutical Innovation ecosystem: collaboration archetypes, open innovation tools, and strategies. Paper presented at the 2nd World Open Innovation Conference, Santa Clara, CA, SILICON Valley. Retrieved from
  73. Tennyson, R. (2011). The partnering Toolbook. An essential guide to cross-sector partnering. Oxford, UK: The Partnering Initiative, Retrieved from
  74. Turner, S., Merchant, K., Kania, J., & Martin, E. (2012, July 18). Understanding the value of backbone organizations in collective impact: Part two [Blog post]. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from
  75. Vaishnavi, V. K., & Kuechler, W. (2015). Design science research methods and patterns: Innovating information and communication technology. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Varela, F. J., Thompson, E. T., & Rosch, E. (1992). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  77. Van Tulder, R., & Pfisterer, S. (2013). Creating partnership space: Exploring the right fit for sustainable development partnerships. In M. M. Seitanidi & A. Crane (Eds.), Social partnerships and Responsible Business. A research handbook. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  78. Vörösmarty, C. J., Green, P., Salisbury, J., & Lammers, R. B. (2000). Global water resources: Vulnerability from climate change and population growth. Science, 289(5477), 284–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Waddell, S., Waddock, S., Cornell, S., Dentoni, D., McLachlan, M., & Meszoely, G. (2015). Large systems change: An emerging field of transformation and transitions. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 58, 5–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Weber, A. (2016). Biology of wonder: Aliveness, feeling and the metamorphosis of science. Gabriola Island, Canada. New Society Publishers.Google Scholar
  81. Yates, J., & Orlikowski, W. J. (1992). Genres of organizational communication: A structurational approach to studying communication and media. Academy of Management Review, 17(2), 299–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra Kuenkel
    • 1
  1. 1.Full Member of the Club of RomeCollective Leadership InstitutePotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations