The 5th P: how to build better partnerships in tackling Gender-Based Violence

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Graduate intern Brianna Walsh looks at 3 key insights from June’s Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland meeting, “Tackling Gender-Based Violence: Implementing good practice on the ground.”

Building partnerships across government and wider society at all levels is widely accepted as essential in implementing strategies to tackle Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (DSGBV). However, figuring out how these relationships are formed, leveraged and sustained in this complex environment can be challenging.


  • Anthony McNally, Detective Chief Superintendent, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Public Protection Unit
  • Sarah Mason, CEO, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland
  • Seán Cooke, CEO, Men’s Development Network Ireland
  • Claire Archbold, Director, The Executive Office, Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy
  • Geraldine Fee, Assistant Director, Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy

The Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland is a growing community in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Europe, co-founded by CES to share experiences of implementation and to build the capacity of people working in services in implementation. The latest meeting of the Network was timely, as Summer 2022 saw the publication of Ireland’s new Zero Tolerance Strategy to tackle Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (DSGBV). The policy and accompanying implementation plan detail the 4 pillars of the Istanbul Convention and our ambitions to make progress in each by 2026:

  1. Prevention
  2. Protection
  3. Prosecution
  4. Policy-co-ordination

As always, speakers and members who attended the Network meeting focused on implementation; in other words, how policies and public services that aim to tackle DSGBV can be better delivered to improve outcomes on the ground. Insights from policymakers and public service providers revealed one clear message. When implementing good practice under each strategic pillar, the core ingredient is the 5th P: Partnership.

Here’s how better partnerships were developed in three different settings to tackle gender-based violence in Ireland and Northern Ireland:

1. Partnership in protection: public services

Detective Chief Superintendent Anthony McNally illustrated how the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) worked co-operatively when implementing protective reforms to address gender-based violence in Northern Ireland. The PSNI Public Protection Unit set out to improve criminal justice outcomes for women and better meet victims’ needs through training and collaborating across the police service itself, as well as developing multi-agency relationships with wider public services, including education and social care.

The sensitive nature of this issue requires thoughtful collaboration in the context of protection and public services. In building that collaboration, good leadership is a powerful tool. Leadership can be strengthened by working under a common purpose and trusting the competency of your team, particularly when that team operates outside of a single department. Having effective administrative systems in place that consider the needs of staff, services and victims is also key to building better partnerships in this field.

2. Partnership in policy co-ordination: government

In developing Northern Ireland’s new “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy”, partnership was at the heart of planning. The strategy was grounded in a co-designed, cross-agency consultation process, in order to include the voice of intersectional survivors. From the perspective of Women’s Aid, this evidence-informed approach is key in the early stages of successful implementation.

Implementing the policy will continue to rely on government, services and wider society playing their part. Developing engaged relationships for effective, collaborative service delivery was noted as a key strategy towards rolling out this plan. To build this kind of partnership, measuring change consistently across government is important. Doing so can evidence the impact of this approach and strengthen buy-in, encouraging policymakers to step out of their separate agencies. Increased, meaningful communication and engagement across all sectors is also key. Finally, getting the right people in the right place is crucial to avoid duplicating responsibilities and implement efficient co-working.

3. Partnership in prevention: community services

Finally, it’s not just a challenge to build working relationships when tackling gender-based violence. When implementing in this complex context, building trusted relationships requires even greater investment. The Men’s Development Network Ireland (MDNI) takes a preventative approach to DSGBV through their Domestic Violence Intervention Programme (MEND), a 32-week intervention with men who are violent within their intimate partner relationships. This is accompanied by a support programme for partners or ex-partners of men engaging with MEND, in which MDNI partnered with local victim support organisations. Collaboration in these sensitive initiatives can prove challenging, in terms of scale-up, risk management and trust-building. In addition, there is a risk of duplication across agencies.  

To overcome these challenges and advance the positive local outcomes from this programme, the panel discussion revealed key enablers for strengthening trusted relationships. It’s important to allow practitioners to make mistakes, to listen to the voice of survivors and to ensure that partnership is supported by strong data and dedicated stakeholders.

If you missed this event, save the date for our next meeting, a further conversation on responses to gender-based violence, this time focusing on strategy and policy implementation. The meeting will take place on 15th November, in the morning, in Dublin. If you’re interested in implementation, you can become a member of the Implementation Network of Ireland and Northern Ireland and receive updates by emailing

Check out our recent webinar on “The Power of Trusted Relationships in Implementation” here  

Take a look at our Access Evidence Report, an evidence review of Intimate Partner Violence which we produced to support practitioners working in this area.

If you’d like to work with CES on supporting better implementation in your organisation, chat to one of our implementation specialists by booking an online consultation.

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