The Way of Partnership

I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in a unique collaboration with my interdisciplinary colleagues across multiple institutions in founding the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies (IJPS), the first online journal published by the University of Minnesota Libraries. I am the journal’s Design Editor and a current Editorial Board member.

The notion of partnership is not new and has been used in many contexts, usually suggesting people working together.   In the context of the field of Partnership Studies and IJPS, partnership means something particular. It is a social template of sorts and every social organization lies on a continuum between partnership and its opposite, domination.

Riane Eisler, Editor-in-Chief of IJPS and whose ground breaking work IJPS is inspired by, expands on the components of the two ends of the continuum. In her work Human Possibilities: An Integrated Systems Approach she identified the four core components of partnership as:

  1. A democratic and egalitarian structure.
  2. Equal partnership between women and men.
  3. Abuse and violence is not culturally accepted.
  4. Beliefs about human nature that support empathic and mutually respectful relations

On the contrary, the four core components of domination are:

  1. A structure of rigid top-down rankings: hierarchies of domination maintained through physical, psychological, and economic control. This structure is the template for all social institutions and is found in both the family and the state or tribe, for example.
  2. The rigid ranking of one half of humanity over the other half, for example by gender.
  3. Culturally accepted abuse and violence, from child and wife beating to chronic warfare.
  4. Beliefs that relations of domination and submission (beginning with the domination of male over female) are inevitable, normal, and even moral.

The IJPS, set up as an academic and non-profit collaboration, is innovative not only because of the way it itself was created emerging from a partnership, but also because it moves beyond the usual academic context by recognizing cutting edge work on partnership can come from community as well as the academy. 

A special feature of the journal is that it seeks to include partnership perspectives (as outlined above) from every discipline including from the sciences, humanities and the arts.  One example of including the arts is that the cover art for each issue is invited along with an artist statement. I’ll write more another time about the cover art I made and a paper I wrote as guest editor of the Spring 2015 Vol. 2, Issue 1 titled ‘Designing to Partner/Partnering to Design: Exploring Synergies between Cultural Transformation and Design toward a Partnership Society.’

In the meantime, does your work or art embody partnership? Do you have ideas how human society may transcend domination and move towards partnership as a whole?  Consider sending an article or artwork to the journal!



Eisler, R. (2013). Human Possibilities: An Integrated Systems Approach. World Futures, The Journal of Global Education, 69:4-6 (pp. 269-289) Pacific Grove, CA: Center for Partnership Studies. Retrieved from:


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