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Effective consortia working: Literature review and priorities for future research

29 March 2021The Partnering Initiative and Bond

What can we learn from consortia to inform sustainable and long-term international development practice?

This literature review explores the current understanding of consortia and identifies key areas for future research, to help the international development community maximise the benefits of working in consortia.

More organisations are adopting the consortium approach to deliver development programmes, often driven by donors. By collaborating as a consortium, organisations can pool their resources to achieve a common goal. However, there are also significant challenges in setting up a consortium, and a substantial amount of time and resources are needed from all participants.

The literature review highlights six priorities for further research:

  1. Identifying added value: Future consortia would benefit from a precise definition of how the model operates and how it adds value to their work. It would provide them with the ability to create more effective long-term and sustainable goals.
  2. Monitoring and learning: More information is needed to provide specific structures and tools to monitor the effectiveness of consortia. This includes giving them the opportunity for critical reflection and strengthening participation.
  3. Leadership and delegation: Evidence is needed to establish how consortia can work effectively and efficiently in a decentralised way. It is also needed to ensure a distribution of power where local actors assume increasing share of control, decision-making and long-term leadership.
  4. Expertise: There is a tendency in consortia to distinguish between implementing partners (usually located in high-income countries) and technical partners (often based in low-income countries). Considerations need to be taken to understand how this affects participation between stakeholders.
  5. Structure and purpose: More evidence is needed to understand what types of partnership the consortium model is most suited to. Is it an appropriate method for loose alliances of researchers as well as for large-scale, complex and multi-national projects?
  6. Remote working: With the mounting climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic restricting travel, most of us have moved to remote working. Organisations have responded by adapting their programmes and embracing digital technologies. Further research is needed to understand whether and how the consortium model facilitates adaptive and flexible working.

This literature review has been produced as part of the Learning from Consortia programme.

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