The aim of this review is to present evidence about partnership working in an accessible way so that it can be used to inform policy and practice.


The review brings together evidence from empirical research on UK public service partnerships reported in peer reviewed journals or the grey literature between January 2000 and July 2015. This includes partnerships between local statutory sector agencies and with third and private sectors. The review does not include research focused on partnerships with local communities or people using services, or exclusive public/private sector partnerships. In addition, the review includes a small number of theoretical papers and reports that have been frequently cited in the literature, or identified by the research team and peer reviewers as being important to contextualising the discussions.

Both the practice of partnership working and the efforts to research this topic are mired in complexity. Whilst it is possible to discern clear trends in the research findings, the literature does not lend itself to be summarised as a series of unequivocal messages about what works, when and in which contexts.

What a review of this body of research does provide is an understanding of the ways in which partnership working processes inter-relate to influence the success of the partnership. This enables us to draw some strong conclusions about the kinds of approaches to partnership that are likely to lead to positive outcomes. It is not the intention of this review to describe the literature exhaustively. Instead it aims to equip readers with the understanding required to assess the relevance of specific findings in their own contexts.

The findings of the review are presented in five main sections, each reflecting one of the five questions the review set out to address:

  1. How is partnership working conceptualised and defined across UK public services?
  2. How is the effectiveness of partnership working conceptualised and evaluated?
  3. What are the features of an effective partnership?
  4. What factors influence partnership effectiveness?
  5. What does the evidence tell us about how to improve partnership working across UK public services?

Download the publication

Partnership working across UK public services (PDF)

Briefing paper – Partnership working across UK public services (PDF)

Supplementary publications

See the Creating Effective Partnerships resource pack, including presentations from the launch event on 3 December 2015

More details

Author: Dr Ailsa Cook (lead researcher and author) Director, Outcome Focus

Publication date: December 2015

Type of publication: Evidence review