The word “partnership” is one of those ambiguous terms that can be difficult to define. To partner means “to join with someone or something” – the word “with” being the most important as it means a mutually agreed upon, shared way to work together. The very nature of partnerships is that they differ depending on the relationships between parties – no two partnerships are alike, and this is what makes the process so exciting.

The United Nations Foundation’s work is rooted in the eighth Millennium Development Goal, which calls for the development of “a global partnership for development” across all sectors in order to promote open and fair trade, provide aid for least developed countries, address the debt burden of developing countries, and provide access to information and communications technology and affordable drugs in developing countries. From corporate partnerships that leverage the expertise and resources of major global companies to organizational and entertainment partnerships that build on philanthropic and creative initiatives of foundations, faith communities, artists, and athletes, we are passionate about identifying unique, out-of-the-box solutions to these important global challenges.

As we move closer toward the target date for the Millennium Development Goals at the end of 2015, we are focusing on developing new partnerships that will enable us to approach issues differently. Innovation and entrepreneurship are needed to be successful, as well as to ensure accountability for all. It is no longer enough to approach partnerships as transactional exchanges of money for services. Multi-sector engagement is key to enabling long-term impact in communities around the world toward the transformative change that we need.

Nowhere has this been clearer than through Every Woman Every Child, a movement launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to improve the health and well-being of 16 million women and children by 2015. Now in its fourth year, Every Woman Every Child has gained the support of over 300 partners, ranging from governments to businesses to non-governmental and civil society groups, and the results have been good. In tackling the issue of delivering health services to women in often remote regions, the private and non-profit sectors have partnered in an innovative way through the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA) platform by developing a series of free mobile telephone messages to remind women of clinic appointments, educate them on pre and post natal health, and allow them to speak with health mentors from companies such as Johnson & Johnson. In another example, Merck for Mothers and PATH are tackling maternal mortality by developing an assessment tool to identify technologies that can save women’s lives in resource-constrained environments, as well as help the global health community to better decide where to invest its resources.

Global health isn’t the only area where multi-stakeholder partnerships are vital, though. Whether it’s women’s and girls’ empowerment, LGBTQ rights, climate and energy, or rule of law, we need to draw on the strengths and expertise of both the private and public sectors in order to create true, lasting impact. Corporations can contribute their expertise and ingenuity to ensuring global impact if they understand what is at stake and how they can become involved in the process. Similarly, policymakers and governments can act once their citizens push them. Everyone has a huge opportunity to help drive this process forward and hold public institutions accountable for their policies and initiatives.

The time to roll up our sleeves and partner together is now. It is not always easy, but the results are significantly greater than going at it alone.