Purpose: The paper aims to develop a framework to facilitate the evaluation of the complexities of working in multi-level governance and partnership and to assess the extent to which collaboration adds value in terms of both process and outcomes. Design/methodology/approach: The paper applies the fuzzy analysis hierarchy process (FAHP) to the design of an evaluation framework for partnerships and uses data from a questionnaire survey in Wuhan, China, to validate the framework. Findings: The paper finds that the effectiveness of multi-level governance and partnerships is primarily determined by such factors as clarity of framework for partnership, consensus on mission statement of strategic partnership, mechanisms for joint initiation and implementation of projects and removal of barriers to flow of resources. Practical implications: The paper shows that policymakers need to adopt an evaluation approach to improve the effectiveness of multi-level governance and partnerships. Originality/value: The paper provides a framework for building multi-level governance and partnerships in the Chinese context.