Research Briefing, May 2016

blogimage_researchbriefingEach month, there is new, fascinating research emerging that provides practical insight into the intersector — the space where collaboration among government, business, and non-profit sectors enables leaders to share expertise, resources, and authority to address society’s most pressing problems. To keep our readers up to date, we compile a monthly briefing that captures the newest research, 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:

  • state-centric versus civil society collaboration models,
  • volunteer programs co-managed by government and non-profits,
  • how partners from different sectors understand impact,
  • strategies for improving childhood opportunity,
  • cross-sector partnerships that aim to integrate new immigrants,
  • and collective voluntary environmental programs.

Local Place-Based Collaborative Governance Comparing State-Centric and Society-Centered Models,” Urban Affairs Review, Susan E. Clarke

Abstract: “The renaissance in place-based, cross-sector local collaboratives in American cities is distinguished by diverse strategies and actors. This exploratory research compares early stages of two collaborative initiatives — one relying on traditional state-centric collaboration models and the other drawing on emergent civil society collaboration models — in Denver, Colorado. The FasTracks initiative is a complex public-sector effort involving multiple jurisdictions, private-sector partners, and civic organizations in developing a regional transit system. The Children’s Corridor, spearheaded by the Piton Foundation, links efforts of local government, multiple non-profit organizations, and private providers to improve children’s well-being in a targeted area. Although the Children’s Corridor collaboration suffered unanticipated disruptions, the argument here is not that one collaborative strategy is more effective than another. Rather, the resilience of the large-scale FasTracks collaborative — despite high transaction costs, diverse interests, eroding trust — was contingent on “bridging the collaborative divide” with dynamic scaling to accommodate multiple governance challenges.

Structures, Challenges, and Successes of Volunteer Programs Co-managed by Nonprofit and Public Organizations,” Nonprofit Management and Leadership, Joe Follman, Maria Cseh, and Jeffrey Brudney

Abstract: “This article presents a mixed-methods, multicase study and comparison of volunteer programs in U.S. national parks that have evolved, in response to growth and fiscal pressures, to be co-managed by national park staff and their non-profit support partners. Findings detail why and how the expanded partnerships were formed; how they operate; challenges they face; ways in which they adhere to, stretch, and depart from theories of non-profit management, collaboration, and program institutionalization; and the significant — even exponential — volunteer program growth that resulted in each case.

These non-profit−public volunteer program partnerships — at Acadia, Arches and ­Canyonlands, Cuyahoga Valley, Golden Gate, the National Mall, and Yosemite national park sites — employ many standard forms of interorganizational relations, even though in these cases the non-profits give money to the government organization instead of the reverse. Their volunteer program and management structures also share similar elements because of coercive, normative, and mimetic pressures. At the same time, each volunteer program partnership is a distinct blend of collaboration and management practices because of the unique natural features, climate, needs, adjacent populations, and personalities of leaders at each site. The cases employ innovative strategies to substantially increase the number of staff who lead volunteer programs.”

Impact in Interdisciplinary and Cross-Sector Research: Opportunities and Challenges”, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, Daniel Gooch, Asimina Vasalou, and Laura Benton

Abstract: “Impact is embedded in today’s research culture, with increasing importance being placed on the value of research to society. In interdisciplinary and cross-sector projects, team members may hold distinct views on the types of impact they want to create. Set in the context of an interdisciplinary, cross-sector project comprised of partners from academia, industry, and the non-profit sector, our paper unpacks how these diverse project members understand impact. Our analysis shows that interdisciplinary projects offer a unique opportunity to create impact on a number of different levels. Moreover, it demonstrates that a lack of accountable design and collaboration practices can potentially hinder pathways to impact. Finally, we find that the interdisciplinary perspectives that such projects introduce encourage a rich gamut of sustainable outcomes that go beyond commercialization. Our findings support researchers working in these complex contexts to appreciate the opportunities and challenges involved in interdisciplinary cross-sector research contexts while imparting them with strategies for overcoming these challenges.”

Neighborhood-Level Interventions to Improve Childhood Opportunity and Lift Children Out of Poverty,” Academic Pediatrics, Megan Sandel, Elena Faugno, Angela Mingo, Jessie Cannon, Kymberly Byrd, Dolores Acevedo Garcia, Sheena Collier, Elizabeth McClure, and Renée Boynton Jarrett

Abstract: “Population health is associated with the socioeconomic characteristics of neighborhoods. There is considerable scientific and policy interest in community-level interventions to alleviate child poverty. Intergenerational poverty is associated with inequitable access to opportunities. Improving opportunity structures within neighborhoods may contribute to improved child health and development. Neighborhood-level efforts to alleviate poverty for all children require alignment of cross-sector efforts, community engagement, and multifactorial approaches that consider the role of people as well as place. We highlight several accessible tools and strategies that health practitioners can engage to improve regional and local systems that influence child opportunity. The Child Opportunity Index is a population-level surveillance tool to describe community-level resources and inequities in US metropolitan areas. The case studies reviewed outline strategies for creating higher opportunity neighborhoods for pediatricians interested in working across sectors to address the impact of neighborhood opportunity on child health and well-being.”

Cross-Sector Partnerships in the Provision of Services to New Immigrants in Canada: Characteristics, Relevance and Constraints,” Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, Agnes Meinhard, Lucia Lo, and Ilene Hyman

Abstract: “The integration of newcomers to Canada is a complex undertaking that involves many players working together in various formal or informal partnership arrangements. This paper focuses on the bilateral but asymmetrical relationship between governments and immigrant-serving organizations. The findings indicate that although there is agreement on what the partnership should look like, the two parties see integration in different perspectives: short-term versus long-term outlook and economic integration versus a more holistic view. The article explores whether contractual relationships can be considered partnerships and differentiates between macro–sector-to-sector partnerships versus those between government and individual organizations.”

Local Community Characteristics and Cooperation in Shared Green Cooperation,” Policy Studies Journal, Jorge Rivera, Maria Angelica Naranjo, Juan Robalino, Francisco Alpizar, and Allen Blackman

Abstract: “This article examines how basic socioeconomic and political factors are associated with higher levels of cooperation to garner a local community’s shared green reputation. We analyze panel data on participation efforts in a collective voluntary environmental program, the Ecological Blue Flag Program, by the entire population of beach communities in Costa Rica between 2001 and 2009. Collective voluntary environmental programs are relatively new and aim to improve environmental performance and shared ‘green’ reputation through joint participation and certification of multi-sector groups comprising businesses, governmental institutions, and non-governmental organizations. Our results indicate that higher levels of within-community cooperation for shared green reputation are more likely in seashore localities with lower income inequality and/or a higher number of businesses. These findings run counter to research suggesting these same characteristics are associated with lower levels of cooperation in the management of common pool natural resources such as fisheries and forests. We also find that within-community cooperation is positively correlated with a greater proportion of expatriates from industrialized countries and/or with higher levels of democratic political participation.”