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By Troy Holt
In a down economy and an era of dwindling government resources, how can a public agency leverage the power, passion and resources of the private sector, the non-profit sector and citizens? One method is the Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model of service delivery.
Steering, Not Rowing
A key component of the Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model is the concept of steering rather than rowing. In Reinventing Government, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler quote E.S. Savas with, “The word government is from a Greek word, which means ‘to steer.’ The job of government is to steer, not to row the boat. Delivering services is rowing, and government is not very good at rowing.”
Different sectors of the economy can be leveraged to provide the goods and services that each system produces best separately or as a collective effort. Because it is broad in scope and capacity and run democratically, government is best at providing policy and social equity, directing the economy and preventing discrimination. Due to the flexibility of the market and to the forces of competition, the private sector is best at providing quality goods and services and choices to consumers. The nonprofit or “third” sector is best at providing human services and goods that do not yield a profit due to the generally small scale and local focus. In other words, “steering,” or providing guidance and direction, is what government does best, whereas “rowing,” or producing goods and services, is often best provided by the private or nonprofit sectors.
Scarce resources have caused public agencies to consider alternatives to providing services. The state of the economy can be used as an opportunity to leverage resources, partner with other agencies and look beyond the traditional government service provision model. A local government can leverage the resources available in the private sector and within other government agencies with the understanding that a local agency is responsible for ensuring the best services available, but they do not have to directly provide those services.
One city that uses the Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model is Rancho Cordova, California. The management approach in Rancho Cordova is innovative enough to be regularly studied by international delegations from countries such as Afghanistan, China, the Ukraine, Australia, South Korea, Costa Rica and Japan.
Rancho Cordova’s budget is about 2% of the local Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The city advocates that it should not use all of its 2% to provide services, but rather use this amount to leverage the other 98% that is spent in the private sector, non-profit sector and other government agencies to accomplish the service needs of those who live and work in the city.
For example, it is very important to the city’s residents that they maintain their connection to their roots as a U.S. Air Force community. The community of Rancho Cordova was originally a residential neighborhood for Mather Air Force Base. Although the base closed in 1993, the legacy lives on through the California Capital Airshow. The city does not have the resources to stage an entire airshow, but through the Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model, the city does not need the full allocation of resources to run a successful show. The city controls the chair seat and an at-large seat on the Airshow’s Board of Directors. City staff performs a small portion of the tasks required for the show (e.g., technology setup, etc.). The power and passion of citizens is leveraged with more than 1,000 volunteers. Through a nominal financial outlay, the city facilitates the operation of a show that was considered one of the best in the world at last year’s International Council of Airshows (ICAS). This is a great amenity for the California Capital Region and it brings prestige, entertainment, and a sense of history to city residents.
The city leveraged the passion of its citizens through the creation of a civic engagement program to improve the quality of life in its neighborhoods. City staff asked community members, “If there were no limits, what would your ideal community be like?” The city leveraged grant funding and expertise from the Davenport Institute of Pepperdine University to provide the resources to create the program. The pilot neighborhood created a wall mural on the side of a local school and the residents continue to collaborate on beautification projects that improve their morale, sense of community belonging and property values. The city’s goal is to reach each neighborhood in the next few years.
Alternative Service Provision
The City of Rancho Cordova used the economic downturn to its advantage to provide an umbrella of services to community residents. Managed competition has encouraged potential service providers – both public and private – to compete for contracts, based on performance and cost. Some of those services are contracted to private providers, other services are provided by public agencies.
Services provided by private firms include city attorney services, construction inspection services, waste hauling services, GIS services and the city planning department. All contracts, except waste hauling, provide for contracted staff to be embedded among city staff. For example, a GIS technician occupies a workstation that is immediately adjacent to a civil engineer. They work together closely and it is unnoticed that one is a city employee while the other is a contractor.
Services contracted to other public agencies include police, transit and building inspectors. A police services contract was negotiated with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. The contracts for transit service and building inspectors were bid competitively. In both cases, public agencies provided the lowest responsive proposals for service and cost.
Catalyze All Resources in the Community
A living example of the Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model is Rancho Cordova’s Growing Strong Neighborhoods (GSN) Initiative. The GSN mission is to improve the quality of life in Rancho Cordova and increase property values by encouraging residents and business owners to enhance their homes, property, street, and community. The initiative also includes a community service and citizen engagement component that facilitates the empowering of citizens to take responsibility for the improvement of their neighborhoods. The GSN Cabinet is a matrix team that leverages a variety of people and resources, including code enforcement, police, fire, economic development, planning, volunteer services, public works, housing, GIS, city manager’s office, communications and government relations, the local school district, county probation department, county child protective services, the city attorney and two city council members.
The Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model is used for revenue-building ventures such as the selling of services that are performed by existing Rancho Cordova staff. The city has contracted out its IT services to other public agencies. Additionally, the city has contracted staff to serve interim management positions in other cities. Most recently, the city’s economic development manager served as interim economic development director for a city in need. This arrangement allows Rancho Cordova staff to obtain new, diverse and career-enhancing experiences, allows other cities to obtain expertise quickly for temporary situations and allows the City of Rancho Cordova to build diverse revenue opportunities.
The Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model of service delivery is an innovative approach that allows cities such as Rancho Cordova to respond to rapidly changing market conditions and continually provide a high level of service at minimum cost and capital outlay. In Rancho Cordova, the results have been outstanding. The city maintains a high citizen satisfaction rating, and has achieved a budget surplus every year since city incorporation. The city has also received national recognition that includes being named an All America City in 2010 and the first local government agency to earn the distinction as a Fortune Great Place to Work in 2012 and 2013. The Broker, Facilitator, Catalyst, Educator Model allows for a management approach and culture that is organic and allows staff to be nimble and to respond quickly and with agility when both challenges and opportunities arise.
Author: ASPA member Troy Holt, MPA, has twenty-five years of public agency management experience in departments ranging from Police, Public Works, Transportation, Administrative Services and the City Manager’s Office. He is a graduate of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Senior Executives in State and Local Government program, and he is currently the Director of Communications and Government Relations for the City of Rancho Cordova, CA, the first local government agency to earn the distinction as a Fortune Great Place to Work. He is also a member of the ICMA Advisory Board on Graduate Education and can be reached via email at [email protected], followed on Twitter at @TroyGHolt, and LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/tgholt.