The partnership phenomenon in the UK

This article presents a detailed review of the vast partnership literature which has emerged over the last decade. It begins by examining definitions of partnership, and suggests that while academic definitions are unhelpfully vague, practitioner definitions tend to conflate partnership processes with partnership outcomes. An alternative definition based upon partnership processes and practices is offered. This is followed by a review of the conceptual advocates/critics debate, and the abundance of empirical partnership studies exploring trade union representative capacity/mutual gains outcomes. It is proposed that while recent empirical evidence identifies a variety of outcomes and presents various typologies of partnership, there is an absence of debates on typologies in the literature. The article then identifies several limitations of the existing literature including ideological positions, a lack of sensitivity to context and to different types of partnership, and a focus on outcomes. The article concludes by suggesting a need to understand more about the process of partnership, to clarify the meaning and expectations of partnership, and stresses the importance of evaluating partnership in context.