by Leon Younger,

President, Leon Younger & PROS

The key to parks departments forming partnerships is to recognize our strengths and weaknesses – and recognize where private involvement can improve our position.

I. There is a role for public/private partnerships in parks and recreation management

Why establish public/private partnerships?

  1. The actual cost of providing government services is too high.
  2. It creates more budget capacity for your operating budget and it spreads the risk.
  3. Having alternative activities with partners spreads the risk.
  4. Merging resources helps to create a higher service delivery between partners.
  5. It creates entrepreneurial opportunities not always affordable to public agencies.
  6. It expands and changes the staff’s mindset in creative thinking when you have to plan with your partner.
  7. It creates a market driven approach to service delivery versus a product approach.
  8. Service to patrons becomes the key to success to partnering.
  9. The expected cultures of each organization is heightened.

II. The New Paradigm of Reality

  1. Success ties us to the past and people resist implementing good ideas that were “not invented here.”
  2. Use the “change process” to move towards public/private partnerships.
    1. Have ownership and belief that change is good.
    2. Passion, enthusiasm, and conviction to continuous improvement.
    3. Motivational skills are necessary to keep staff, volunteers, and you happy.
    4. Demonstrate the benefits of the change.
    5. Provide a sense of purpose and give to others.
    6. Communicate your results.
  3. Understand these management tools that put us in the partnership role:
    1. Activity Based Costing
    2. Partnership
    3. Alliances
    4. Sponsorships
    5. Benchmark
    6. Consultative Management
    7. Continuous Improvement
    8. Creativity
    9. Cost Effective
    10. Visioning
    11. Capacity Utilization
    12. Cost Effective
    13. Enhancements
    14. Matrix Management
    15. Strategic Thinking

III. What is Partnering?

There is yet no official description of this management process, but the nearest dictionary terms are described as:

Partner An ally or companion
One of a pair of players on the same side in a game.
Partnership A contractual relationship between two or more persons carrying on a joint business venture with a view to profit, each incurring liability for losses and the right to share in the profits.

So partnering becomes a process by which you dismantle the pre-fabricated walls built up in the traditional client/contractor split and introduce a co-operative approach to business.

IV. Partnerships Require these Components

  1. Vision – A compelling picture of the possibilities
  2. Impact – Adding real productivity and value. The partner’s capacity to deliver tangible results that increase productivity, add value, improve efficiency, and/or profitability.
  3. Intimacy – Closeness, sharing, mutual trust
  • You must redesign organizational boundaries to make a relationship more productive.
  • Mutual change is the basic source of impact in partnering
  • Quality has to become an expectation rather than a bonus.
  • Partnering requires information sharing on an entirely different level than traditional buying and selling. Partners share overall business and strategic plans, confidential information, and product expertise to get a win-win.
  • The partnership requires an investment of time, money, energy, control, and elimination of duplication.
  • Develop your partnership purpose so everyone knows, now and in the future, why you set this partnership up. You have to try to get to 50/50 where possible.
  • You must have a good partner team established that is bias-free.
  • Don’t just look for the quick win.
  • Establish a good measuring system to track your progress and your results.
  • Using a facilitator makes a lot of sense in partnering.

V. Other Components to Include in Successful Partnerships

  1. Common goals and missions
  2. Each partner emphasizes and has a history of sound management and success.
  3. No personal agendas
  4. The agency’s understood value and has communicated the value effectively to the partner.
  5. Similar interests and separate expertise
  6. Shared interest in servicing people better

VI. Forms of Partnerships

A. Investment Partnerships

  • equity build out of 100,000 sq. ft. wellness center – equal sharing of cost and net income
  • lease of space to physicians to house a wellness component with the agency

B. Event Partnership

  • festivals, community wide special events

C. Park Partnership

  • use of private sector and community members to build a gazebo, clean up a park, design an interpretive trail
  • park improvements completed between the YMCA, the park and recreation agency and the community

D. Contractual Partnership

  • concession agreement at a pool – $1,500 per month lease plus % of the net profits.

E. Not-for-Profit Partnership

  • parking lot expansion for a church was paid for in exchange for use of the parking during large overflow events.

F. Inter-Agency Partnership

  • joint ownership of a golf course among several governmental entities with a share of the net revenues.
  • joint use of safety personnel between agencies
  • resident rates for facilities not found in neighboring communities, i.e.. two communities, two varying facilities, both offer resident rates for each community

G. Product Partnership

  • $2,000 annual contribution from Coke to permit scoreboards to be installed on ball fields
  • Taco Bell contract to manage the pool concession operations

H. Park/School Partnership

  • equal build out of gymnasium and/or classroom space at school for equal use by each entity
  • park use of school before and after school for a latch key program
  • park contract to manage school arts and physical education programs

I. City-wide / Agency Partnership

VII. Implementing the Partnership Agreement

  1. Understand each business organization’s approach to a partnership.
  2. Establish mutual objectives and responsibilities together.
  3. Integrate a communication and reporting process strategy.
  4. Select a mechanism for identifying problems.
  5. Agree to find solutions without compromising quality, philosophy and finances.
  6. Establish length of commitment.
  7. Clarify liability issues
  8. Evaluate your partnership agreements.
  9. Measure the benefits each partner obtains regarding:
    1. Media Exposure
    2. Image Exposure
    3. Financial
    4. Sales
    5. Quality of Customer Satisfaction

VIII. Why Partnerships Fail

  1. Lack of commitment from one or multiple partners.
  2. Using partnership for personal gain
  3. The objectives lacked clarity.
  4. Greater than reasonable expectations from the partner.
  5. The agreement was not equitable – not considered a WIN-WIN.
  6. Hidden agendas on both sides.
  7. Did not communicate effectively and no follow-through.

Success ties you to the past. The factors that created today’s success often create tomorrow’s failure.