The utility of both local governments and community-based organisations can be considerably enhanced when these agencies work in partnership with one another. Different roles will be played by local governments and community organisations in different types of partnership arrangements. Distinguishing among these roles helps allocate responsibilities better among the partner agencies, and it is also helpful for scheduling implementation, devising appropriate capacity building programmes and designing suitable accountability mechanisms. An analytical framework to help with these tasks is developed and presented in this article. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.