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Identify key partners

Last edited: February 21, 2019

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Identifying the key partners that should be involved in a coordinated response to violence against women, as well as their current roles and perspectives, is a crucial part of developing the response. It is important for local communities and other stakeholders to be involved in the development process to ensure relevance, sustainability of actions, and a sense of local ‘ownership’ (United Nations Population Fund, 2007).  Victims/survivors and their representatives should also always be included in planning coordinated responses to violence against women. 

Partners/stakeholders who may be involved in the coordinated response include:

  • Law enforcement and criminal justice agencies (police, prosecutors/attorneys, judges, probation);
  • State agencies (e.g. health and mental health, education, social welfare, child protection and housing services);
  • NGOs (especially those that advocate for and provide services to victims/survivors);
  • Service providers for marginalised women (e.g. migrant women, minority women, disabled women, lesbian and transgender women);
  • Treatment/education services for perpetrators;
  • Victims/survivors of violence;
  • Community groups;
  • Perpetrator programmes; and
  • Researchers and academics specialising in violence against women.

Additional partners relevant in certain contexts may include:

  • Local government departments (e.g. gender equality units, community safety units);
  • Informal justice institutions (e.g. religious councils, village elders, etc.);
  • Human rights organisations;
  • Military;
  • Child and youth services;
  • Faith-based groups and community leaders;
  • Trade unions;
  • Private sector organisations; and
  • Media.

Coordinated responses often begin with a small group of committed individual stakeholders or agencies.  To broaden participation, this group should extend invitations to other interested parties.  Alternatively, a broader based approach can be adopted, such as using service mapping to identify and invite those known to deliver services to victims/survivors and perpetrators of violence against women to participate.

The following is useful to note when involving partners:

  • Engaging the right individuals within organisations is central to the effectiveness of the coordinated response.  Ensure those participating are knowledgeable and/or open to learning, committed to a multi-disciplinary, collaborative response to violence against women and having decision-making authority within their own organisations.  Those who are required to attend by their organisations, or who simply want to be seen participating, can hinder the process by blocking or slowing down progress (Logar, 2006). 
  • Lessons from established coordinated responses suggest that a gradual process of expansion of the group is preferable. It can be more productive to begin with those who are committed and relevant, building to an engagement with others in positions of power at a later date.  For example, if a number of key players are resistant, build links with those agencies that are open to collaboration and use future successes to engage other parties at a later stage (Gamache & Asmus, 1999). Over-representation can also make it hard for groups to achieve concrete results, so ‘starting small and growing slowly’ as more resources are secured is what some European projects have found to be effective (Logar, 2006). 
  • The involvement of victims/survivors in coordination efforts is often considered a means of ensuring that activities are adequately matched to need. In practice, however, this may not always happen or, where it does, can leave individuals feeling marginalized or ignored. If victims/survivors (and their advocates) are to be included, mechanisms need to be in place to ensure that their voices and insights are recognised and responded to.  This involvement may take the form of consultations, victims/survivors’ forums and reference groups. It is also important to remember that staff working in the various partner organisations of the coordinated response may themselves be victims/survivors (Hague, 2000), whose opinions and perspectives should be treated as valuable insights, while being handled ethically and respectfully. 
  • While it is unrealistic to expect agreement in all areas, it is crucial to establish that all those participating in the coordinated response share a similar overall approach to understanding and addressing violence against women.  For example, while faith-based groups and leaders can be crucial allies in certain contexts, it is vital that they are committed to understanding violence against women as a violation of human rights and are supportive of women and girls’ right to live free from violence.

How to begin the process

  1. Identify existing and potential partnerships with local or national agencies/groups and their roles in responding to violence against women.
  2. Meet with key people to find out more about their role and how their service/sector fits within the overall system.
  3. Hold an initial meeting or roundtable with potential partners to introduce the idea of a coordinated response.  Where there is a large group, seminars, conferences or presentations may work well as a forum.
  4. Provide information about the vision, scope and strategic focus of the coordinated response and the benefits of collaboration.
  5. Allow participants to share their views and raise concerns.
  6. Look at areas of overlap and potential partnership.
  7. Identify areas of dissent, disagreement and other barriers.
  8. Work towards developing a Memorandum of Understanding, outlining an agreement to work together and what members’ roles will be.

Adapted from Building Stronger Sexual Assault Survivor Services Through Collaboration (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, undated), available in English.


See also ‘Defining roles in a coordinated response’, and ‘What is the relationship between coordination at the national and sub-national levels?’ for more on the roles of local and national partners, and how these are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

International organisations

International agencies, such as the United Nations, have frequently worked in partnership with government agencies and NGOs in many countries, on ending violence against women. They provide funding support and technical assistance in the design of legal frameworks for violence against women policies, national action plans, and in the implementation of public policies at the national and international level. International actors can also help promote effective public-private partnerships, including coalitions between governments and NGOs (Morrison et al., 2004).


Tools and resources:

The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCASDV) has developed a stakeholder map to help identify who should be involved in a coordinated response.  This is included in KCASDV’s Community Organizing Toolkit, which contains many useful resources for planning, initiating and managing collaborative partnerships.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault CCR Toolkit (Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2009).  This toolkit contains a sample letter for inviting potential members to join the coordinated response.  Available in English.