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Collaborative Governance: Private Roles for Public Goals in Turbulent Times
John D. Donahue and Richard J. Zeckhauser | Princeton University Press | 2011

All too often government lacks the skill, the will, and the wallet to meet its missions. Schools fall short of the mark while roads and bridges fall into disrepair. Health care costs too much and delivers too little. Budgets bleed red ink as the cost of services citizens want outstrips the taxes they are willing to pay. Collaborative Governance is the first book to offer solutions by demonstrating how government at every level can engage the private sector to overcome seemingly insurmountable problems and achieve public goals more effectively.

John Donahue and Richard Zeckhauser show how the public sector can harness private expertise to bolster productivity, capture information, and augment resources. The authors explain how private engagement in public missions--rightly structured and skillfully managed--is not so much an alternative to government as the way smart government ought to operate. The key is to carefully and strategically grant discretion to private entities, whether for-profit or nonprofit, in ways that simultaneously motivate and empower them to create public value. Drawing on a host of real-world examples-including charter schools, job training, and the resurrection of New York's Central Park--they show how, when, and why collaboration works, and also under what circumstances it doesn't.

For news coverage on this book, click here.

Public-Private Collaboration
John D. Donahue and Richard J. Zeckhauser | The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy |
Ed. Michael Moran, et al | 2006

Sharing the Watch: Public-Private Collaboration for Infrastructure Security
John D. Donahue and Richard J. Zeckhauser | Seeds of Disaster, Roots of Response |
Ed. Philip Auserwald, et al | 2006

On Collaborative Governance
John D. Donahue | Kennedy School Working Paper | 2004


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Extreme Hiring Makeover, Part A: Tackling the Federal Employment Crisis
Kirsten Lundberg | Kennedy School Case Program | December 2006
In the early 21st century, the US federal government faced a hiring crisis as fully half of its workforce would soon be eligible to retire. Yet hiring procedures were time-consuming, confusing to the applicant, and frustrating to managers who felt their new hires often lacked necessary skills despite screening. The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service decided in 2004-2005 to run a one-year pilot program which would bring together three volunteer federal agencies with seven private sector or non-profit firms (which offered their services pro bono) expert in hiring and recruiting. The hope was that the public agencies would identify and adopt relevant and effective private sector hiring best practices. Part A of this case describes the process by which the Partnership brought together all the participants in what it dubbed the Extreme Hiring Makeover project. It highlights the suspicions on both sides--from the public sector whether private firms could understand the constraints of the public agencies, and whether they might try to exploit the project to win lucrative contracts; and from the private sector whether agencies could be flexible enough to adopt new practices. A second case, Part B, traces implementation of the project within one of the three agencies - the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Students will gain an understanding of the often overlooked common interests of the public and private sectors, as well as the tensions between them. The case also provides a window into how nonprofits can be valuable facilitators between the sectors. Students will learn about the evolution of the federal hiring process, and have the opportunity to discuss how difficult it can be to change practices within large bureaucracies. The case will be useful in courses on public managements, engineering change, and nonprofits.

Extreme Hiring Makeover, Part B: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Kirsten Lundberg | Kennedy School Case Program | December 2006
In July 2004, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) volunteered to be one of three federal agencies taking part in a one-year pilot project to reform federal hiring practices. The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service coordinated the project, which matched federal agencies with for-profit or nonprofit firms expert in hiring and recruiting. This case is about how a public-private partnership played out as Extreme Hiring Makeover was implemented within CMS. It traces how the agency mapped its hiring process in an effort to eliminate needless steps, staged a demonstration hiring with private sector assistance, and learned how to write job listings which would be visually and substantively appealing to candidates. The case describes the challenges as well as the successes of bringing private sector best practices into a public agency. The case will help students understand the federal government's current hiring practices, as well as ways in which it can be flexible and creative. They will explore the facilitation role a third party, such as a nonprofit, can play between the public and private sectors. Discussion could also turn to the role of innovative decisionmakers in advancing change. The case can be used in courses on public management, on human resource management, or on public/private partnerships.

Too Many Parents? Part A: Governance of Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway
Kirsten Lundberg | Kennedy School Case Program | June 2006
This case study examines—through the lens of governance structure—the evolution of the Central Artery (or "Big Dig") in Boston, a public works project of historic proportion which had the potential to create a green oasis of parks in the heart of downtown. It tells the story of the struggle over who would eventually control and finance the maintenance of the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway—the name given to land created when an elevated highway was dismantled and the roadway rebuilt underground. Those who wanted control, but not necessarily financial responsibility, included the mayor of Boston, the governor, the legislature and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (a quasi-governmental body). Issues of park design entangled with governance questions, leading to a stalemate of nearly 15 years. But in 2004, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) pushed for a resolution so that the Greenway could be dedicated in connection with Boston's role as host of the July Democratic Party presidential convention. Over the years of debate, various models of governance for the Greenway were discussed and dismissed. Some of them involved private sector partners; some did not. Students will have the opportunity to compare and contrast the proposed governance models, judging them on their merits as well as on their political suitability. They will gain insight into the differences in operations and public accountability among a public agency, a foundation, a conservancy or a nonprofit trust. This case can be used in courses on public-private partnership, on public management, or business/government relations. It will help students explore how political decision makers must consider simultaneously the theoretical coherence of any given solution along with its political expedience.

Too Many Parents? Part B: Making A Conservancy Work
Kirsten Lundberg | Kennedy School Case Program | June 2006
In April 2005, Nancy Brennan took over as director of the newly-created Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston. This case examines the challenges which faced her and the 10-person Conservancy board. The body, charged with raising money to fund maintenance of a ribbon of parks downtown, had been created after years of political jockeying. Its founding document was the result of political expedience rather than merit-based adoption of a comprehensive and rational governing structure. Brennan, during the first months of the Conservancy's existence, would come to understand how board composition, fundraising requirements and other elements would likely have to change in order to let the Conservancy succeed. Her realizations dawned, however, as she scrambled to raise a daunting $5 million in nine months—or the Conservancy would close. The case raises for classroom discussion the merits of the Conservancy model of governance, the tradeoffs between organizational theory and daily politics, and the realities of running a public-private venture. It will allow students to gain an deeper understanding of the challenges of starting up a nonprofit, of the checks and balances that govern a nonprofit board, and of the realities of operating according to private sector principles in a public sector environment. The case can be used in courses on nonprofit management, on public-private partnerships, or business/government relations.

A Public Service or Gravy Train? The Federal Guaranteed Student Loan Program
Kirsten Lundberg | Kennedy School Case Program | February 2005
Beginning with the so-called GI Bill in 1944, the US federal government began to intervene in the higher education marketplace to provide subsidized loans, as well as grants, directly to students. After the 1965 Higher Education Act, such assistance was channeled through the Guaranteed Student Loan Program-through which student loans were insured by government but actually provided by private lenders such as banks and credit unions. This public-private partnership proved popular and durable, until challenged in the summer of 2004 by the revelation that some private lenders were taking advantage of a loophole in the law to reap a windfall-upwards of $1 billion-at taxpayer expense, without providing increased services. While Congress moved to close the loophole in question, the uproar ignited a long-dormant debate over the proper role of government in providing assistance to students pursuing higher education. Should the government subsidize student loans at all? What rate of subsidy was fair both to private lenders and to student borrowers? What sort of oversight was necessary in a hybrid public-private system? This case serves as a vehicle for discussion of the appropriateness and utility of public-private social program partnerships, providing material for arguments about both costs and benefits.

Smarter Foreign Aid?: USAID
Kirsten Lundberg | Kennedy School Case Program | December 2004
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), responsible for US government aid to developing nations, had come under increasing criticism from Congress and others during the 1990s. At the same time, the proportion of foreign aid delivered by government had shrunk as other sources of aid—from such contributors as nonprofits, universities, and private industry—grew. This case describes the rationale and formative period of a new effort by AID to achieve its goals—by partnering deliberately with private sector and nonprofit players in order to pool resources rather than duplicate aid efforts. The Global Development Alliance (GDA) would face Congressional skepticism about whether such partnerships amounted to corporate welfare, as well as worry that favored congressional projects would lose funding. It also faced internal resistance from career USAID officials accustomed to familiar routines and procedures. The case describes the start-up of GDA, how it sought to integrate the new concept of private and nonprofit sector partners into the USAID culture, and examines specific decisions faced by the GDA leadership team on structure, legal instruments, and budget issues. In addition to raising questions about how a wealthy country can best help poorer ones, the case spotlights the issue of how government-business relations should be structured when government is neither procuring nor regulating, but seeking to build public-private-nonprofit alliances.

Parks and Partnership in New York City (Part A): Adrian Benepe's Challenge
John D. Donahue | Kennedy School Case Program | June 2004
New York's public parks, brought to their magnificent peak by the legendary Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in the mid-20th-century heyday of direct government activism, were in disarray in a new era of public-sector austerity. As the City's hard-pressed government found itself short of money and manpower the parks—from the iconic Central Park to neighborhood playgrounds—grew dingy and dangerous. With few other options, park officials began experimenting in the 1980s with a new approach: Shifting responsibilities to the private sector. By 2003 this “partnership” strategy had become the linchpin of the park system. Private organizations—ranging from sophisticated organizations funded by New York's rich and famous to informal networks of neighborhood volunteers—had taken on major roles in maintaining, upgrading, and day-to-day management of the City's park system. Commission Adrian Benepe, though a veteran Parks Department employee deeply committed to public service, had contributed to the development of the partnership approach throughout his career. But as he was promoted to the top job, he faced the challenge of pursuing a complex mission when much of the essential capacity was subject to his influence but by no means under his control. Attending fundraisers, massaging donors' egos, and motivating volunteers—rather than the direct exercise of authority—are Benepe's most important management tools.

Parks and Partnership in New York City (Part B): The Spectrum of Engagement
John D. Donahue and Susan Rosegrant | Kennedy School Case Program | June 2004
In a gradual but profound transition, New York's park system had become dependent on private partners. The private sector's involvement was pervasive by 2003, but came in very different forms. This case, a companion to “Adrian Benepe's Challenge,” highlights specific items to map the spectrum of engagement ranging from contracts where government is clearly in control, to philanthropy where government is mostly passive, to a range of complex collaboration in between. The five points of focus are:

  • Outsourcing much of the maintenance of the Parks Department's fleet of vehicles;
  • The evolution of the Central Park Conservancy from an informal group of volunteers to a sophisticated and well-funded non-profit with full responsibility for managing New York's flagship park;
  • Bryant Park's transformation from a drug market to a glittering landmark, under the auspices of a private corporation subject to only limited Parks Department influence;
  • The emergence of the Bronx River Alliance, comprising dozens of public and private organizations, as steward for the troubled river and the lands on its banks;
  • The single-minded (and almost single-handed) campaign of the entertainer Bette Midler to realize her unique vision for a public park in a rough area of Harlem.