Partnerships between companies and non-governmental organizations that aim to incorporate smallholder farmers into value chains are increasingly being promoted as a way of pursuing development goals. This article investigates two case studies of such partnerships and the outcomes they achieved in order to refine the rationale underlying such interventions. In two case studies in Uganda and Rwanda, we documented the sequences of events within such partnership interventions, their context, and the intermediate outcomes, identified as the new rules and practices that generate institutional change. By portraying both the configuration of events within a partnership intervention and the contextual factors, these case studies reveal how the interventions produced outcomes that were situated in changing contexts, such as changes in market demand, government policy or business strategy. The research approach made it possible to disentangle partnership interventions and contextual processes, and to give participants a firmer idea of the potential and limitations of value chain partnerships to achieve developmental targets.