Professor James M. Ferris, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy, met with U.S. federal officials to present recent research on new models for philanthropic and government partnerships
Representatives from the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy, housed at the USC Price School of Public Policy, met with decision-makers from more than 30 different federal agencies in Washington, D.C., on May 1 to present new research to the Community Partnership Inter-Agency Policy Committee examining the role of offices of Strategic Partnerships for government and philanthropy to jointly address public problems.
The presentation and panel discussion with this policy working group included lead representation from the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Security Staff, among other agencies. Attendees explored successful models of strategic partnerships and discussed challenges of creation, facilitation and sustainability.
“Cross-sector partnerships have become essential to philanthropy as well as government. Where government agencies have created Offices of Strategic Partnerships, we have seen not only an increase in the number of partnerships formed, but a maturation of the planning and execution of partnerships,” said Jim Thompson, director for partnerships and innovation at the National Security Staff, The White House.
The center has examined the growing number of “philanthropic liaisons” that have been created at the local and state levels as well as at the various federal agencies that serve as bridges between philanthropy and government.
Last year, the center convened a roundtable on the topic, titled Philanthropy and Government Working Together: What Does It Take?, which featured more than 40 practitioners and researchers from across the country for a high-level inter-sectoral conversation around the strategic interplay of foundations and government in solving public problems. This conversation continued in a session at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Council on Foundations in Los Angeles.
The interviews and outcomes of the roundtable contributed to the report, Philanthropy and Government Working Together: The Role of Offices of Strategic Partnerships in Public Problem Solving, were released in 2012. The report examines the emergence of new structures engaging partners to work together to address public problems.
“As both philanthropy and government seek to maximize their impact, they are increasingly looking to leverage each other’s assets more systematically to address public problems” said James M. Ferris, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy.
The report — which was researched and presented by Ferris and the center’s associate director, Nicholas P.O. Williams — finds that these new offices can catalyze and accelerate the development of effective partnerships between government and philanthropy, lower barriers, as well as reduce costs and risks by creating an infrastructure for partnerships between the two sectors.
The report also examines the challenges in making these new partnerships work. Differences in the institutional norms of the sectors, their roles and responsibilities, and in operations may constrain their ability to work together. Because of these differences, partnerships between government and philanthropy require more time and resources to function than they would if they were working alone or within the same sector. Finding ways to sustain the partnerships over time amid changing political and financial environments also pose challenges.
“Government and philanthropy are starting to see partnerships as critical to increase their impact but seldom do they understand how the other operates or what an effective philanthropic-government partnership might look like,” Ferris said. “The emergence of these offices, which are designed to support and manage strategic partnerships across sectors, offers valuable lessons for what makes partnerships more effective.”
Recently, Ferris contributed to an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times titled “A To-Do List for LA’s Next Mayor” positioning the value of philanthropic-government partnerships for the next Los Angeles mayor. “Collaborations, particularly those that span across sectors, are not easy, but the center’s research has found that offices of strategic partnerships offer the potential to catalyze and accelerate meaningful efforts to make positive change” noted Dr. Ferris in the Los Angeles Times on April 14.
The center will continue to conduct additional research. The full report can be found at www.usc.edu/philanthropy.