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noun part·ner·ship \ ˈpärt-nər-ˌship \
Definition of partnership
:an arrangement in which people engage in an activity or business with one another or share something with each other
There is growing public sector interest in partnerships. Once found only in the private sector, the concept of partnering is increasingly important to how the public sector approaches:
- resource constraints,
- increasingly complex problems, and
- implementation of sustainable solutions.
In this new series of articles, we will discuss new concepts in public sector partnering. We outline the elements of a good partnership. We also provide some suggestions for assessing partnerships governance and performance.
It is important to define partners as being different from stakeholders. Partners bring resources to the fight. Stakeholders bring issues, points of view, and positions. Partners invest time, talent, and treasure – the 3 Ts – to mutually determined problems.
As public sector budgets remain flat, or decline, hiring and contracting for services are no longer options. The public sector is increasingly seeking partners to provide the skills, funding, data, staff, and competencies that it does not possess. We refer to this joining of resources as “collaborative capital.” Collaborative capital is the sharing of intellectual capital, political capital, labor, and financial capital among many organizations to address a defined problem.
- Intellectual Capital: the data, unique processes, software, and insight that is the basis of each partner’s business model. It includes the ability to confer legitimacy on any of the above.
- Political Capital: the ability of each partner to influence public policy, regulation, law, and public budgets.
- Labor: the staff and volunteers each partner can commit toward ongoing governance, developing solutions, and implementation.
- Financial Capital: the actual dollar funding each partner provides toward the solution.
Each of these 4 elements of collaborative capital are generally required to solve public sector problems. Each partner should provide some or all the 4. Some partners bring only one of the above and others all four. The most successful partnerships have the necessary and sufficient partners to provide all 4 types of collaborative capital.
In the next segment, we will discuss each of the collaborative capital elements in more detail, and how they play out in public sector partnering.
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All of us get certain words or phrases stuck in our brains. These terms then become over-used in our communications with others. This article in Inc. provides some evidence to show this tendency to use the hottest new business phrase may not be helping us or those around us; in fact, it may be dumbing down our understanding of issues.
Organizations have internally addressed the problems they can tackle alone, and are now reaching beyond their organizational structure to address problems for which they have only partial control or impact. This means participating in inter-organization bodies with the mission to solve the problem by working collaboratively across partner organizations to create solutions.
Inter-organization problem solving creates huge problems for traditional managers and management theory.
Loss of Control
It is uncomfortable for organizations and managers to give up control and decision-making to inter-organizational bodies. Establishing business trust is THE essential element for real progress and support for the work of inter-organizational team’s to be successfully implemented.
Participation on inter-organizational teams requires that resources be offered up to the team, and people’s time is only the start. Resources go beyond meeting participation and include redirecting each participating organization’s resources to the effort: information and data sharing, re-prioritization of existing effort, communication, and changes to strategy are always part of the mix.
Decision-making and Governance
Determining decision-making models, beyond pure consensus is a new area in management theory. The key questions is: “If we can’t reach 100% consensus, then what level of agreement is necessary for you to support the solution if outvoted?”
Delegation of Authority to Representatives
Participation in inter-organizational teams requires delegation of authority to (often) lower level managers who will have the authority to commit the resources and name of the organization to a solution.
Complexity of Communication
Communicating decisions and progress back to the organization for work that is outside the organization’s structure is not a process that now exists. Until inter-organizational teams are formally viewed as part of the organization’s business model, they remain in a communication gray area with their work effort not well understood by the organization.
What areconservation ?
Seeking to “address the impacts of accelerating climate change on wildlife and the habitats upon which they depend,” the U.S. Department of the Interior has created a national collaborative strategy for strategic habitat conservation on the landscape level, seeking to “put the right science in the right places.”
Landscape conservation cooperatives, or LCCs, are self-directed, applied conservation science partnerships that will take a bigger view than any single organization or agency can do independently to address national-scale stressors, including climate change.
This video (4:08) from the USFWS Northeast Region tells the story.