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David Swindell, associate professor and director of the Center for Urban Innovation, was awarded the NASPAA Public Service Matters Spotlight Award at the annual conference last week. The award highlights faculty “who have devised innovative solutions to public problems.” Swindell was honored for his work in creating a collaborative services delivery tool for local governments.
Collaborative service delivery is often contemplated by local governments, especially in an era of tight budgets. Yet, there is little guidance for local governments regarding the conditions under which collaborative services may be beneficial, or which arrangements (such as interlocal agreements or public-private partnerships) are appropriate, given the characteristics of the service and the organizations involved.
To fill this gap, Swindell worked with the International City-County Management Association and the Alliance for Innovation to develop the Collaborative Service Delivery Matrix: A Decision Tool to Assist Local Governments. Coupled with other resources, including a white paper on collaborative services hosted on the ICMA website (see http://icma.org/en/results/management_strategies/resources/documents_art...), the decision tool offers local governments criteria to consider for discussion with staff and potential partners, and a decision process that helps communities to identify the opportunities and challenges. The tool is based on a distillation of research on collaborative services and also gives communities a way to systematically examine the potential without a need for extensive data or lengthy analysis.
Using a three-point scale to perform a “soft benefit/cost analysis,” in Part I of the matrix local governments rate characteristics of both the service of interest and their community. According to the guide provided on the website, “We designed it not to provide a yes or no answer to whether an organization should pursue a collaborative arrangement, but rather to encourage participants to work through a process and be very explicit about the opportunities and challenges they will confront when undertaking a collaboration. The outcome is simply an indication of the likelihood of success as evidenced by other collaborations and scholarly literature.” In Part 2 of the matrix, the scores from the first part are used to rate five different types of arrangements: horizontal and vertical collaborations within the public sector, consolidation/regionalization, public-nonprofit partnerships, and public-private partnerships.
This tool is available for free on the the Center for Urban Innovation and ICMA websites, and has been promoted nationally to city managers and other local officials by the ICMA and the Alliance for Innovation. Additionally, it has received coverage by the Harvard Shorenstein Center, PA Times Online, American City and County, and the Arizona PBS television affiliate.