This paper explores the governance of complex public sector partnerships through a detailed case study of a Joint Commissioning Partnership Board (JCPB) in the South East of England. It argues that a theoretical and empirical focus on the instrumental roles of boards has resulted in an under-appreciation of their symbolic purposes, especially in the context of the governance of inter-organizational relationships. The paper considers the performative dimension of partnership governance, highlighting the role of the symbolic in institutional enactment. Following a brief overview of governance in public sector partnerships, the case study site for the empirical research is introduced. The instrumental and symbolic roles of management boards are considered from a new institutionalist perspective and a dramaturgical analysis of institutional enactment undertaken to explore interplays of the symbolic and instrumental in strategy formation. Some implications for our understanding of the symbolic in partnership governance are discussed.