Partnerships between the government and community groups are advocated by many academics and practitioners, but few have examined the limits to partnerships. A simple theory of government (involving the efforts of 'reasonable people' in an 'ideal state') is used to explore the issues in creating sustainable partnerships. A graphical presentation is used to demonstrate that successful partnerships rely on more than goodmanagement; their success also depends on their effects on the rest of the polity, and the response to those effects. Three conditions for sustainable partnerships are derived: benefit, support and acceptability. Attention to good network management, political risks and sound public administration can improve the prospects for a successful and sustainable partnership, but eventually there are limits to partnerships.
A NZ State Services Commission/ANZSOG Occasional Paper funded by the ANZSOG Research Program.