Mutuality is a term used to capture how more effective collaboration between partners in a contractual relationship, through application of the principles of ‘mutuality’, can achieve better outcomes for both the partners themselves and the stakeholders they serve. Mutuality as a concept has been mooted since the 1960s, and described as follows:

‘Mutuality, as a business philosophy, recognises that long-term relationships comprise more than a chain of operational transactions within a contracted framework. Mutuality is true partnering. It is predicated on shared interests, operations and goals, and does not seek to act opportunistically. Mutuality focuses on establishing a relationship based on the exchange of value beyond simple contracting terms. Where mutuality frameworks are applied, business relationships are consistently stronger, more open, more agile, more resilient and significantly more productive.’

To fully exploit some of the innovative and transformational opportunities presented to the public sector, public sector bodies must first have in place a fully collaborative relationship with their main providers, one that has a clear focus on the joint strategic objectives of the partnership and is underpinned by the behavioural, cultural and operational frameworks essential for success. To help achieve this, Proving developed a framework to enable the effectiveness of current collaboration to be measured and improvement opportunities identified. In researching this framework, Proving considered extant guidance in this area, for example ISO44001, The International Standard for Collaborative Business Relationships, to develop a framework that would enable not just the effectiveness of the current collaboration to be measured, but also the relationship over time between improved collaboration and value for money.

Mutuality has now been added as a sixth dimension to the Proving Value for Money framework (alongside Economy, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Strategic Value and Stakeholder Value) and is supported by a full factor set and scoring guide.


The factors assessed are:

  • Joint objective setting
  • Joint governance structure
  • Behaviours and trust indicators
  • Joint executive leadership
  • Operational leadership
  • Joint management framework
  • Joint communications strategy
  • Joint knowledge management strategy
  • Joint risk management strategy
  • Joint issue resolution strategy
  • Value creation and continuous improvement
  • Utilisation of learning from experience
  • Measurement of delivery and performance
  • Joint exit strategy
  • Relationship management strategy

Mutuality assessments, usually undertaken through a one day workshop involving the senior leadership of both partner organisations, have been successfully undertaken across a number of local authorities to drive better outcomes and value for money through improved collaboration.

If you are interested in exploring further what your organisation could achieve through a mutuality assessment, please contact Andy Perrin,