This paper combines the idea of a hierarchical distributed genetic algorithm with different inter-agent partnering strategies. Cascading clusters of sub-populations are built from bottom up, with higher-level sub-populations optimising larger parts of the problem. Hence higher-level sub-populations search a larger search space with a lower resolution whilst lower-level sub-populations search a smaller search space with a higher resolution. The effects of different partner selection schemes amongst the agents on solution quality are examined for two multiple-choice optimisation problems. It is shown that partnering strategies that exploit problem-specific knowledge are superior and can counter inappropriate (sub-) fitness measurements.