Research Briefing, December 2019

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 month’s briefing includes articles about:

  • integrating collaborative governance and environmental justice,
  • sustainability innovation through cross-sector collaboration,
  • building partnerships between local government and nonprofits,
  • an intersectoral health innovation in rural and Appalachian communities, and
  • partner selection in firm-nonprofit collaborations.

Collaborative Governance and Environmental Justice: Disadvantaged Community Representation in California Sustainable Groundwater Management,” Policy Studies Journal, Kristin B. Dobbin and Mark Lubell

Abstract: “A consistent critique of the theory and empirical research on collaborative governance is a lack of conceptualization and analysis of the role of political power and inequality. Our paper contributes to this discussion by analyzing the formal representation of small disadvantaged communities in the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in California. Employing primary and secondary data, we model the likelihood of representation in the state’s new Groundwater Sustainability Agencies based on key attributes of both the communities and governance settings. We find that the overall collaborative governance is associated with increased representation of these marginalized stakeholders. Importantly, however, even in collaborative settings representation of the smallest, most low‐income communities and those lacking political recognition via incorporated cities or public water districts still lags far behind their more advantaged counterparts. In fact, disparities in representation along these lines increased. Using a uniquely interdisciplinary approach our analysis highlights the opportunity afforded by integrating collaborative governance and environmental justice in the shared pursuit of effective and equitable institutions and the inter‐related goals of equity and sustainability.”

Local Sustainability Innovation Through Cross-sector Collaboration: Lessons from a Neighborhood Energy Competition,” Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs, William L. Swann

Abstract: “Although public managers and nongovernmental actors play important roles in promoting sustainable communities, little is known about how these actors collaborate with each other across sectors when it comes to sustainability innovation. This case study illustrates how a policy entrepreneur partnered with local government, businesses, and community organizations to implement an innovative neighborhood energy competition that achieved community-wide energy savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. The outcome of this case suggests that local communities can promote bottom-up sustainability innovation through cross-sector collaboration that combines grassroots efforts led by policy entrepreneurs and nongovernmental actors with technical capacity provided by the government. The outcome also suggests that financial incentives are important, albeit with caveats, for motivating citizen participation in sustainability innovation. There are, however, a number of challenges associated with sustaining such innovation over time. This case offers useful insights into collaborative governance and practical recommendations for utilizing energy competitions as a sustainability policy tool.”

Nonprofit and Government Collaborations Move at the ‘Speed of Trust’,” Inside Social Innovation Podcast, Libby Schaaf, Michael Tubbs, and Autumn McDonald

“What do mayors look for and ask from nonprofit managers? What do they wish leaders in the sector would ask of them, and how can public servants and nonprofit leaders learn to better communicate and collaborate?

In this recording from SSIR’s 2019 NMI conference, Mayors Libby Schaaf of Oakland and Michael Tubbs of Stockton spoke with Autumn McDonald, director of New America CA, about the best ways to build mutually beneficial partnerships between local government and nonprofits.

Moving Upstream: An Intersectoral Collaboration to Build Sustainable Planning Capacity in Rural and Appalachian Communities,” The Foundation Review, Laura Milazzo, Holly Raffle, and Matthew Courser

As part of an effort to address health inequities in Appalachian and rural Ohio, the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services developed an upstream intersectoral health innovation that specifically addressed the lack of infrastructure and other capacity issues that create barriers to obtaining federally funded prevention services among communities with the highest need for those services.

The department partnered with two nonprofit organizations and a university to create a performance-based, stepping-stone investment strategy that provided monetary awards to community organizations and included intensive, customized training and technical assistance that promoted capacity-building for data-driven strategic planning.

This article discusses successes and lessons learned from implementing this infrastructure development initiative, which strengthened capacity of local prevention workforces in six Appalachian and rural communities. The findings will be helpful to foundations as they structure and evaluate funding opportunities to sustainably address persistent inequities in health and mental health.”

Firm-Nonprofit Collaboration: Explaining the Rationale Behind Firms’ Cross-sector Partner Choices,” Long Range Planning, Sylvia Feilhauer and Rüdiger Hahn

Abstract: “Cross-sector partnerships between firms and nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are emerging at an unprecedented rate to address sustainability issues. Extant research on cross-sector partnerships explains the firms’ motivations to engage in partnerships but little is known about what drives the firms’ partner choice. We build on firm-firm alliance research, differentiating between network-reinforcing and network-broadening strategies for finding partners. Based on a qualitative study with 33 experts from 17 frontrunner companies and 14 partnering NPOs, as well as secondary data, we assess the trade-offs between these two strategies and explore firms’ partner search and selection decisions. We advance cross-sector partnership research by proposing three drivers to explain why firms in our sample preferred to reinforce (rather than to broaden) their networks when forming additional cross-sector partnerships for sustainability. Moreover, we propose two conditions to explain why frontrunner firms often rely on opportunity-driven (rather than search-driven) partnership formation. These insights shed light on the type of formation strategy used in the context of cross-sector partnerships for sustainability.