Partnerships, Collaboration, Resource-Sharing in the Public Sector

I’m looking for examples of how local government collaborates. Maybe the better question is not “are we collaborating and sharing resources?” but “should we collaborate and share resources?”

I’m an educator and for the past ten years I’ve worked as a government trainer. I’ve noticed over the years a disturbing pattern. There seems to be little cooperative events between and among municipalities when it comes to training and education. Why is that? To me, especially in these tough economic times, it just makes sense that trainers and educators should work together to educate our organizations.

That’s exactly what we’re trying to do at my organization: we’ve opened up a training event to our city and county neighbors with the hopes that we can help fill a training void. Our thought was by bringing public sector employees together to learn and network, we could create a more dynamic (and interesting) learning environment. In addition, by pooling our resources, we can do more, much more, for less, much less. I believe when we network outside of our own houses we discover commonalities that we didn’t realize existed.

So we’ve opened up our training event and made it even bigger and grander with the hopes that we can network with our neighbors. Alas, so far the response has been dismal. I’m not deterred, mind you, but I am curious as to what factors impede or constrain participation in community learning events such as this.

In addition, there is a small group of government trainers in my local area who are trying to form a “training cooperative.” The idea is to open up our classrooms to employees from other organizations to help fill training needs more quickly and effectively or to even serve as “guest trainers” outside of our own organization. But this idea, also, is proving slow to germinate. While many are on board in principle, very few are jumping on the wagon to fully engage.

Why is that? I’ve got a few ideas, a few theories as to why this type of collaboration is kept at arm’s length, but I’d like to hear from others, those of you who have had either positive or negative experiences collaborating in a government environment. How are you collaborating or resource sharing? Have your efforts been effective? And if so, what factors do you contribute to that success? If not, what do you believe are the barriers?

I think it’s time we started to move beyond the traditional paradigms that we’ve been operating from – regardless of our industry or profession – and begin to walk a new walk. In my industry, training, I don’t believe we can continue to do business as usual. I know of too many organizations who have slashed or eliminated their training budgets. So I know that something’s gotta change.

Let’s start to role model what it means to cooperate, share knowledge, share resources and create a sum that’s larger than its parts. I’m starting. What about you?

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