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The Golden State of Collaboration: Fostering Intergovernmental and Cross-Sector Partnerships in California

Apr 27, 2020

In 2019, the Partnership for Public Service launched a project with X Sector Labs, a management consulting firm that advises executives on cross-sector leadership, and the San Francisco Federal Executive Board, which helps build cooperative relationships among federal, postal and military employees across northern California. The aim was to understand better how organizations in California's public, private, nonprofit and other sectors work together toward shared goals and to explore how to further enhance collaboration, especially with the federal government. Between October 2019 and January 2020, we jointly hosted a series of roundtable discussions in northern California to identify best practices for, and barriers to, collaboration among governments, businesses, nonproft organizations, academia and philanthropy.

More than 70 leaders from across sectors - the majority of whom have worked in both government and private or nonprofit roles during their careers - convened for conversations about how organizations can take collective action to address today's pressing challenges. Participants described why organizations partner, shared examples of collaborative efforts that worked well, and assessed potential difficulties around collaboration.

During these discussions, participants strongly agreed that when multiple organizations work together, they enhance their ability to address issues and achieve results. Too often, however, individuals and organizations are deterred by obstacles that can hamper collaboration.

This paper summarizes key themes from the roundtable discussions, including benefits and potential challenges of partnering across organizations, and outlines actions that could increase the number of effective partnerships in California, especially those involving the federal government. We hope these findings will help boost the ability of all sectors to collaborate with one another more often and more effectively.