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Interest in policy partnerships in Canada has increased over the past decade as governments have reduced core funding to volunteer organizations and looked to community partners to undertake a greater share of service delivery as well as contribute increasingly to policy development. (Phillips 1995; Ekos 1998) Governments, public interest groups and citizens have also been looking for new ways of obtaining input to the development of public policy in an increasingly pluralistic society empowered by new communications technologies.

This paper presents a brief synopsis of some of the literature on partnerships with a particular focus on partnerships between governments and non-governmental or voluntary sector organizations. It provides an overview of some of the key elements of partnerships, potential contributions to the public policy discourse by voluntary sector partners, limitations to full partnerships, potential pitfalls and keys to successful partnerships. It also presents a brief overview of the Voluntary Sector Initiative, a Canadian partnership initiative that reveals some of the potential and challenges in government/voluntary sector partnerships. The paper draws heavily upon an extensive literature review conducted in 1998 by Ekos Research Associates. It draws, as well, on other works referenced here.

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