Despite the exponential growth of global health partnerships (GHPs) over the past 20 years, evidence for their effectiveness remains limited. Furthermore, many partnerships are dysfunctional as a result of inequitable partnership benefits, low trust and accountability and poor evaluation and quality improvement practices. In this article, we describe a theoretical model for partnerships developed by seven global health experts. Through semistructured interviews and an open-coding approach to data analysis, we identify 12 GHP pillars spanning across three interconnected partnership levels and inspired by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The transactional pillars are governance, resources and expertise, power management, transparency and accountability, data and evidence and respect and curiosity. The collaborative pillars (which build on the transactional pillars) are shared vision, relationship building, deep understanding and trust. The transformational pillars (which build on the collaborative pillars and allow partnerships to achieve their full potential) are equity and sustainability. The theoretical model described in this article is complemented by real-life examples, which outline both the cost incurred when GHPs fail to live up to these pillars and the benefits gained when GHPs uphold them. We also provide lessons learnt and best practices that GHPs should adopt to further increase their strength and improve their effectiveness in the future. To continue improving health outcomes and reducing health inequities globally, we need GHPs that are transformational, not just rhetorically but de facto. These actualised partnerships should serve as a catalyst for the greater societal good and not simply as a platform to accrue and exchange organisational benefits.