Research Briefing, September/October 2020

blogimage_researchbriefingEach month, there is new, fascinating research emerging that provides practical insight into how the government, business, and non-profit sectors partner to address society’s most pressing problems. To keep our readers up to date on this work, which comes from a variety of academic and non-academic sources, we compile a monthly briefing and publish it on our blog — for researchers who want to stay up to date on progress in the field of cross-sector collaboration and practitioners who are interested in how this research may be applicable to their work.

This briefing includes articles about:

  • cross-sector business models for sustainability,
  • a cross-sector taskforce to improve COVID-19 outcomes in vulnerable populations,
  • business-sector partnerships to advance inclusive growth in cities,
  • data re-use and collaboration for the public good,
  • forming tri-sector alliances in a crisis, and
  • the effects of impact bonds on social service delivery.


Toward Collaborative Cross-sector Business Models for Sustainability,” Business & Society, Esben Rahbek Gjerdrum Pedersen, Florian Lüdeke-Freund, Irene Henriques, and M. May Seitanidi

Abstract: “Sustainability challenges typically occur across sectoral boundaries, calling the state, market, and civil society to action. Although consensus exists on the merits of cross-sector collaboration, our understanding of whether and how it can create value for various, collaborating stakeholders is still limited. This special issue focuses on how new combined knowledge on cross-sector collaboration and business models for sustainability can inform the academic and practitioner debates about sustainability challenges and solutions. We discuss how cross-sector collaboration can play an important role for the transition to new and potentially sustainability-driven business models given that value creation, delivery, and capture of organizations are intimately related to the collaborative ties with their stakeholders. Sustainable alternatives to conventional business models tend to adopt a more holistic perspective of business by broadening the spectrum of solutions and stakeholders and, when aligned with cross-sector collaboration, can contribute new ways of addressing the wicked sustainability problems humanity faces.”


State-wide Cross-sector Partnership to Identify Risk and Implement Tactics to Prevent Severe COVID-19 Outcomes in Vulnerable Populations,” (working paper), APHA’s Virtual 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo, Susan Mani

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has a disproportionate burden of severe illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups driven by socio-economic disparities. The state of Maryland assembled a cross-sector taskforce for vulnerable populations to identify barriers and implement data-driven tactics to improve access to testing and healthcare resources for COVID-19.

Description: Data was analyzed on state wide populations generating community-level social determinant of health risk exposure indices as well as individual-level COVID-19 vulnerability scores. Over 900,000 individuals were identified as elevated risk with a subset of 164,000 individuals at highest risk that were then prioritized for immediate outreach and support. The taskforce utilized the state’s health information exchange to create and disseminate risk stratified rosters for public health officials, and attributed populations for providers and managed health plans. Additionally, the taskforce created teams to perform COVID-19 testing and on site management of chronic conditions for highest risk populations including seniors living in congregate housing settings, people with chronic diseases at increased risk for severe complications and mortality, and communities with significant socio-economic disadvantages.

Lessons Learned and Implications: This innovative public-private partnership was effective in mitigating an emergent public health crisis in high risk populations. Resource constraints and related allocation decisions presented a unique opportunity to overcome traditional challenges regarding data sharing and partnerships. Key questions and decisions to be made are evolving rapidly during the pandemic requiring an agile analytic approach and collaborative partnership models.”


Partnering with Businesses for Local Shared Prosperity,” Urban Institute, Matthew Eldridge, Emily Bramhall, Aaron Shroyer, and Marcela Montes 

Abstract: “Widening economic inequality and racial disparities across American cities prevent low incomes families, women, people of color, and other historically marginalized groups from benefitting and contributing to economic growth. At the same time, growing evidence suggests that economic inclusion is critical for boosting economic competitiveness (Mills 2015), generating faster growth (Parilla 2017), and supporting economic resiliency (Poethig et al. 2018). In recognition of the relationship between strong and sustained economic growth and equity, a growing number of local leaders are championing strategies that promote more inclusive economies; this brief seeks to understand these efforts.

In this brief, we seek to better understand the role of the business sector in advancing inclusive growth in cities and identify opportunities and considerations for public-sector and nonprofit leaders to spark, strengthen, and sustain business engagement on these topics. Because building local shared prosperity is still an emerging practice, we focus on documenting existing efforts where businesses are taking a leading role in advancing economic inclusion and supporting community development. By looking at how these efforts are structured and exploring the motivations driving businesses to participate, we offer descriptive observations complemented by insights on how local leaders can engage businesses. We conclude with high-level reflections on how business leaders can deepen their support for local shared prosperity.”


The Emergence of a Third Wave of Open Data: How To Accelerate the Re-Use of Data for Public Interest Purposes While Ensuring Data Rights and Community Flourishing,” GovLab, Stefaan G. Verhulst, Andrew Young, Andrew J. Zahuranec, Susan Ariel Aaronson, Ania Calderon, and Matt Gee

Abstract: “We live, as we are so often told, in an era of data abundance. Yet we also live during a period marked by tremendous inequities and asymmetries when it comes to data access. There are many drivers of data asymmetries, both existing and emerging. First, one key challenge is that much — possibly the majority — of generated data today resides in the private sector, hidden away in silos collected, controlled, and often monetized by companies and other entities. New models for collaborating and accessing private sector data are emerging to break these silos, but it is imperative that we further build on them. In addition, despite its undeniable accomplishments, the open data movement has thus far been limited by an overwhelming focus on the national and supranational levels. Much data resides at the subnational, local level, and attention there could considerably open access.  

In this piece, we argue these (and many other) limitations necessitate additional improvements to accelerate the re-use of data to unleash the public good potential of the digital era. We reflect on the potential of what we call the ‘Third Wave of Open Data.’ We discuss both what we see as the emerging elements of this wave and the actions several players have taken that may contribute to its realization. In doing so, we propose actions for how policy makers and data practitioners might address the limitations of previous waves and outline a set of actions that could accelerate data re-use and collaboration.


Seeding the Ground for Tri-sector Alliances Before the Crisis Hits,” SSIR, Nancy Rauch Douzinas

Abstract: “As with any crisis, COVID-19 has fostered resourcefulness, creativity, and activism in unexpected places. One clear area has been organically formed collaboration across business, government, and philanthropy, not just in traditionally crafted public-private partnerships, but collaborations sprouting from the grassroots, region by region, to respond to urgent community needs like supply chains for hospitals and food distribution to low-income, out-of-school students.

In the spirit of seeding public-private response to the next crisis, and as an ongoing force for change, we offer the five principles for pollinating and fertilizing organic alliances.


Do Impact Bonds Affect the Ecosystem of Social Services Delivery and Financing?,” The Brookings Institution, Emily Gustafsson-Wright, Sarah Osborne, and Meg Massey

Abstract: “This brief, the fourth in a series of five analyzing various dimensions of the success of impact bonds, examines the evidence for how impact bonds affect the larger ecosystem of social service delivery and financing. The influence of impact bonds as a mechanism is considered, independent of the targeted outcomes achieved by the impact bond interventions themselves. Seven types of ecosystem effects are reviewed: whether impact bonds build a culture of monitoring and evaluation, drive performance management, foster innovation in delivery, crowd-in private capital, reduce government risk, incentivize collaboration, and/or sustain impact in social service delivery ecosystems. Qualitative evaluations of completed impact bonds and interviews with impact bond stakeholders in active and completed deals show that impact bonds do seem to influence the systems where they are active by shifting mindsets and building stakeholder capacity.”



Other recently released research on cross-sector collaboration: