Social, economic and political change is largely about changing institutions. Institutional innovation is usually at the heart of what any stakeholder partnering process tries to tackle, although it is not always framed in this way.
Institutions exist at many levels and in many different types. They create the structures in society that influence people’s behaviour. They provide the ‘rules of the game’, which may be formal or informal. At the same time, institutions are continually changing and being reshaped as the result of people’s actions.
Recognizing this dynamic nature of institutions opens possibilities for MSPs to foster institutional innovation in the direction of sustainability and equity. Knowing how to design and facilitate a multi-stakeholder partnering process, and being effective in doing so, depends to a large degree on how well the institutional context has been understood.
Effective MSPs therefore need to engage stakeholders in looking critically at their own institutions and the institutions they want to affect. Besides, a dialogue is needed to critically examine the existing institutions which enable or block the changes they want to effect. Institutional factors themselves are often a critical constraint for effective multi-stakeholder partnerships. In other words, some institutional change may be necessary to enable the partnership to bring about the wider institutional innovation being sought.
Finally, one should keep in mind that however dynamic institutions can be, changing them does not happen overnight. Long-term partnerships are the key to making sustained changes.