North–South/South–North partnerships: closing the ‘mutuality gap’


  • The research on which this article is based was made possible by the Faculty of Technology and the Development Policy and Practice Department at the Open University.


This article examines mutuality and difference in partnerships. Partnership is a widely-debated concept: it can represent collaboration based on equality and mutually-beneficial processes and outcomes; it can also involve highly unequal power relations and determination of means and ends. The article examines the construction of mutuality based on difference in practitioner to practitioner partnerships between local governments in Uganda and the UK. It argues that some of the lessons from these partnerships can help to rethink partnerships in other contexts. First, practitioner to practitioner partnerships can pose an alternative to partnerships based simply on divisions of labour between organisations. Second, partnerships conceived as learning models that build on mutuality and difference offer the potential to challenge power relations. Rethinking how practitioner to practitioner partnerships can be made more effective in this respect can provide models for other types of partnership. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.