Research Briefing, November 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 and reports about:

  • absorptive capacity in cross‐sector partnerships,
  • capacity and collaboration in urban sustainability initiatives,
  • coaching multi-sector partnerships to promote health equity,
  • a co-creation framework to unlock wicked problems,
  • cross-sector collaboration to build dementia awareness, and
  • evaluating public-private partnerships to improve population health.

Collaborating Smartly: The Role of Open Strategy in Absorptive Capacity,” Journal of Small Business Management, Thomas G. Pittz et al.

Abstract: “Research on open strategy suggests that shared knowledge through collaboration can generate co‐created value. We explore this idea by assessing it as a predictor of absorptive capacity (ACAP) in cross‐sector partnerships in pursuit of social innovation. The findings of our study indicate that aspects of strategic openness, including a shared sense of interdependence toward a mutual goal, are the primary mechanisms that enhance knowledge accretion in cross‐sector partnerships. The data also suggest that formalized organizational mechanisms are more influential for producing ACAP than informal mechanisms.”

The Perfect Amount of Help: An Examination of the Relationship Between Capacity and Collaboration in Urban Energy and Climate Initiatives,” Urban Affairs Review, Rachel M. Krause, Christopher V. Hawkins, and Angela Y. S. Park

Abstract: “Many municipalities are taking meaningful action in pursuit of climate, environmental, and energy objectives. These issues are complex and transboundary and thus provide fertile ground for collaboration, particularly in metropolitan regions. However, despite the many benefits that can result from collaboration, it also entails transaction risk. As a result, cities have incentive to be selective about who they collaborate with. In some cases, cities, particularly those with considerable internal resources and capacities, might find it easier to ‘go it alone.’ We pull from the literature on collaboration risk, transaction cost economics, and organizational capacity to develop hypotheses about the relationship between capacity and collaboration in urban sustainability initiatives. Our analysis finds that the extent to which cities collaborate with external organizations on climate and energy issues is shaped by local administrative capacity; however, the relationship is nonlinear.”

Can Coaching Help Community Partnerships Promote Health Equity, Community Engagement, and Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes? Results From an Evaluation,” The Foundation Review, Jung Y. Kim, Lisa Schottenfeld, and Michael Cavanaugh

“Foundations and other entities have increasingly funded coaching and technical assistance to support multisector community partnerships to promote health and health equity. However, much remains to be learned about how coaching can best support these partnerships.

As part of its efforts to build a culture in which everyone in the United States has a fair opportunity to be healthy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnered with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to provide structured coaching to strengthen the capacities of community partnerships. The foundation contracted with Mathematica to evaluate the coaching program, focusing on whether it had an effect on strengthening the capacity of partnerships to prioritize policy, systems, and environmental changes; promote health equity; and increase community engagement.

The evaluation found that the coaching program provided valuable support to many partnerships, helping some focus on policy, systems, and environmental changes. Integrating health equity and community engagement into a general health-promotion coaching model might be best suited for partnerships just beginning to develop a strategy to improve health equity. Partnerships that already have a strong understanding of health equity might benefit most from intensive, specialized technical assistance to address inequities. Some partnerships reported that coaching shifted their thinking around community engagement, but none reported increasing engagement as a result of coaching.

To advance health equity and engage communities, we propose that funders consider investing in partnerships that already prioritize leadership of community members most affected by inequities. Specialized technical assistance may help leaders not affected by inequities to think critically about their community’s history and structures of power, ongoing.”

Cocreation and Design Thinking for Impact,” Deloitte, Stine Degnegaard and William D. Eggers

“Complex challenges such as global warming that include multiple stakeholders with intertwining or contradictory interests are often called ‘wicked problems.’ They present multiple possible approaches but no obvious single root cause or solution. Other such wicked problems include homelessness, rural access to safe water and sanitation in developing nations, the opioid epidemic, and political corruption. They shift faster than our ability to fully understand their components. Each is a symptom of another problem and has no one right answer, just approaches that improve the situation. In other words, wicked problems are everyone’s problem—and no single stakeholder’s responsibility.”

“Because wicked problems have multiple stakeholders, a cocreation approach—in which the stakeholders share responsibility for the problem and together develop a process for solving it—can be an effective way to unlock solutions. This report proposes a cocreation framework that helps users map a challenge from a variety of perspectives, analyze that information, recruit unlikely partners, and collaborate toward common outcomes.

Cross-Sector Collaboration To Build Dementia-Friendly Businesses: Engaging Students In Public Issues In Aging,” Innovation in Aging, Lesa L. Huber, Amanda Mosier, and Victoria Abramenaka-Lachheb

Abstract: “Despite a nationwide campaign to build dementia friendly communities, increasing awareness and engagement with programs like Dementia Friendly Businesses remains a challenge for local champions. To create welcoming environments for people living with dementia (PLWD), communities may benefit from cross-sector collaboration. Fundamental to collaborative efforts is the conviction that individuals, families, businesses, organizations, and institutions each play a role in reducing the stigma associated with dementia and facilitating welcoming environments. This exploratory study considers the outcomes of a cross-sector collaboration between a university, a hospital, individual community members, and students to build awareness of the need for new norms that reduce stigma for people living with dementia. We measured change at each ecological level. Through this collaboration, 61 local businesses and organizations are now DFB certified, 350 individuals have participated in training, and 150 students have joined 12 community trainers to advocate for dementia friendly spaces. Students’ survey responses show that 75% agree or strongly agree that the project engaged them in a meaningful real world experience and advocating for the need for dementia friendly spaces. PLWD provide qualitative data on feeling welcomed in the community. The university and hospital co-created an online open access dementia friendly training taken by 89 people in 6 months. 150 community members came together for a day-long workshop to build capacity and innovate solutions. Implications of the project suggest that changing cultural norms about dementia requires creative solutions that meaningfully engage individuals, organizations, institutions, and communities to collaborate across multiple sectors.”

Promoting Population Health with Public-Private Partnerships: Where’s the Evidence?,” BMC Public Health, Lucy A. Parker, Gustavo A. Zaragoza, and Ildefonso Hernández-Aguado

Background: Although public-private partnerships have become common in the health sector, the evidence supporting their effectiveness is limited, and when the products or services provided by the private partner are harmful to health inherent conflicts of interest may be difficult to overcome. The objective of this study is to appraise the evidence describing process or effectiveness of public-private partnerships (PPPs) that aim to promote population health, and analyse how characteristics such as independence or competing interests influence the results of their evaluation.

Methods: We carried out a systematic search of Medline and Web of Science to identify scientific reports evaluating the process or effectiveness of PPPs that aim to promote population health. Two reviewers applied inclusion criteria, extracted and evaluated study quality. We classified PPPs according to the health problem tackled, the independence of the evaluation, and the potential for competition between business interests of the private partner and health promotion activity undertaken. We classified the conclusions of the evaluation as positive (supportive/tentatively supportive) or negative (semi-critical/critical).

Results: We identified 36 studies evaluating 25 PPPs. Evaluations that were favourable to the use of PPPs in health promotion were more frequently classed as ‘not independent’ and of poor quality. On the other hand, negative evaluations were more common when the PPP involved a private partner with a high potential for competition between the health promotion activity undertaken and their financial interests. PPPs that sought to prevent non-communicable diseases were more frequently negatively evaluated compared to PPPs tackling infectious disease or other types of health problems. Almost all of the evaluations evaluated process, with only 2 papers reporting quantitative health related outcomes.”