Success Through Collaboration

With the right focus, the right team and an ongoing commitment to the project and the partnership, the public and private sectors can join forces to tackle even the most vexing challenges facing large, urban municipalities.

Partnering to bring sports fields to kids.

In San Francisco, the shared vision of three brothers became a $45 million citywide effort to improve athletic fields for youth sports.

For the past six years, the City Fields Foundation and the Recreation and Parks Department have worked together to address a chronic shortfall of public fields for local kids.

Now, after renovating a dozen athletic fields in six parks, reorganizing the sports-permit system, and negotiating a joint-use agreement with the local school district, this project has added 66,000 hours of new play time for city kids, and is close to eliminating the deficit of youth play spaces.

As a result, 1,800 more kids are playing ball in the city’s parks.

But there were plenty of bumps in the road. Both agencies learned valuable lessons that have made the partnership and other projects more successful.

Here are some suggestions for joining forces for a similar endeavor:

Be your partner’s best advocate and toughest critic.

The public sector needs more than money; it needs outside support, perspective and expertise.

At the same time, the private sector needs to understand the competing demands on a public agency, and must support that group in negotiating solutions. No matter how noble people’s intentions, some folks are going to oppose any proposal as many have differing views on how to use city parks.

Honest and direct internal dialogue is the best way to prepare for external challenges. Ask tough questions. Respect one another’s perspective and concerns. Demand solid deliverables.

Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want as long as you are willing to help achieve it.

Be true partners.

Both sectors have preconceived notions about each other that are easily dispelled by simply putting information on the table. Each group must be willing to operate at both 30,000 feet and delve deeply into details. By making collaborative decisions, both sides will learn the other’s strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears.

Before making a decision, be sure to ask whether the partner organization agrees. If not, give a call or shoot off an e-mail. If your overtures and the other organization’s responses aren’t short and simple, take the time to talk it through. The more you work together, the more you’ll be able to anticipate and understand each other’s perspectives.

(Don’t worry about taking credit–the work will speak for itself.)

A win-win result for kids.

Partnerships are difficult work.

Take the long view, and accept that you don’t always have to be right (even when you are).

Remain flexible on funding.

Long-term, trusting partnerships should collaborate to make projects as cost-efficient as possible and have ample time to make sure all parties meet their obligations.

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Related posts:

  1. FieldTurf–Project Portfolio
  2. Measuring Success
  3. Dirty Work
  4. Defying Boundaries
  5. The Power Of Collaboration
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