A partnership is an arrangement where parties, known as partners, agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. The partners in a partnership may be individuals, businesses, interest-based organizations, schools, governments or combinations. Organizations may partner to increase the likelihood of each achieving their mission and to amplify their reach. A partnership may result in issuing and holding equity or may be only governed by a contract. Partnership agreements can be formed in the following areas:
Business: two or more companies join forces in a joint venture or a consortium to i) work on a project (e.g. industrial or research project) which would be too heavy or too risky for a single entity, ii) join forces to have a stronger position on the market, iii) comply with specific regulation (e.g. in some emerging countries, foreigners can only invest in the form of partnerships with local entrepreneurs). In this case, the alliance may be structured in a process comparable to a Mergers & Acquisitions transaction.
Politics (or geopolitics): In what is usually called an alliance, governments may partner to achieve their national interests, sometimes against allied governments holding contrary interests, as occurred during World War II and the Cold War.
Knowledge: In education, accrediting agencies increasingly evaluate schools, or universities, by the level and quality of their partnerships with local or international peers and a variety of other entities across societal sectors.
Individual: Some partnerships occur at personal levels, such as when two or more individuals agree to domicile together, while other partnerships are not only personal, but private, known only to the involved parties.
Partnerships present the involved parties with complex negotiation and special challenges that must be navigated unto agreement. Overarching goals, levels of give-and-take, areas of responsibility, lines of authority and succession, how success is evaluated and distributed, and often a variety of other factors must all be negotiated. Once agreement is reached, the partnership is typically enforceable by civil law, especially if well documented. Partners who wish to make their agreement affirmatively explicit and enforceable typically draw up Articles of Partnership. Trust and pragmatism are also essential as it cannot be expected that everything can be written in the initial partnership agreement, therefore quality governance and clear communication are critical success factors in the long run. It is common for information about formally partnered entities to be made public, such as through a press release, a newspaper ad, or public records laws.
While industrial partnerships stand to amplify mutual interests and accelerate success, some forms of collaboration may be considered ethically problematic. When a politician, for example, partners with a corporation to advance the latter's interest in exchange for some benefit, a conflict of interest results; consequentially, the public good may suffer. While technically lawful in some jurisdictions, such practice is broadly viewed negatively or as corruption.
Partnerships recognized by a government body may enjoy special benefits from taxation policy. Among developed countries, for example, business partnerships are often favored over corporations in taxation policy, since dividend taxes only occur on profit before they are distributed to the partners. However, depending on the partnership structure and the jurisdiction in which it operates, owners of a partnership may be exposed to greater personal liability than they would as shareholders of a corporation. In such countries, partnerships are often regulated via anti-trust laws, so as to inhibit monopolistic practices and foster free market competition. Enforcement of the laws, however, varies considerably. Domestic partnerships recognized by governments typically enjoy tax benefits, as well.
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