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Local Government Agencies Collaborative Action: Citizen and Public Charities Response

A note for our readers: the views reflected by the authors do not reflect the views of ASPA.

By Horace Blake

Public agencies are not capable of supplying all the labor and resources to come to the aid of every social issue in the local communities. Municipalities, counties and states must rely on the collaborative action of non-government agencies, religious base institutions and public charities to come to the table in addressing some of the many needs that would otherwise go unattended. For example, in the State of Texas, many nonprofits access state grants while soliciting matching funds from the public along with in-kind contributions to keep this dynamics in social services working at its best. It is therefore of optimum importance for these charities and the local government agencies to adhere to open communication in matching services with needs of the community.

Blake MayLocal government agencies are in the practice of embarking on open meetings where citizens and interested charities are able to add input or seek out the means to an end. Brian Adams, in his 2004 article titled “Public Meetings and the Democratic Process,” examined the role of citizen participation (group dynamics) in public meetings and their influence on policy decisions. He assessed that the public meetings serve as an important democratic process where citizens, charities and other nonprofits are able to provide officials with information, influence public opinion, set future agenda and communicate through collaborative action. In recent years, non-government organizations, citizens and local charities have been able to inspire collaborative changes with their ongoing group participation.

Hallmarks of Local Collaborative Citizenship

Building a civil society is one of the most important fundamental hallmarks of our political culture. It is from this base that citizens in non-governmental roles, not-for profit, independent nature of people and groups, who are able to express their democratic rights and engage in community collaboration. Many of these citizen stakeholders align themselves with a variety of groups, whether charities or non-government entities, in order to contribute to or defend social causes. It is here that the U.S. government routinely examines their interest through the grant writing process whereby grants to nongovernmental organizations, professional associations, civic education groups, religious groups and women’s organizations develop democratic participation where this group dynamics is exported globally. This type of collaborative partnership exemplifies American uniqueness. This is different in the sense that in most countries the citizens expect government to do it all. Further stated this creates popular consent; the idea that government must draw their powers from the consent of the governed.

Collaborative Approaches in Communities

Collaborative approaches to government bring together partners with diverse perspectives and areas of expertise often within defined geographic areas or regions. This approach links the partners involved in both the development of knowledge and in efforts to address mutual problems and issues. According to Amy J. Schultz, Barbara A. Israel and Paula Lantz in their 2003 article, “Instrument for Evaluating Dimensions of Group Dynamics Within a Community,” a group’s dynamics is made up of structural characteristics such as membership, complexity and formulation. Environmental characteristics consist of previous collaboration and community response to the issues and geographic location. Collaborative or participatory evaluation involves systematic inquiry by self-critical communities to assess their process and progress toward intermediate and outcome objectives.

In a regional initiative such as building a food bank, group dynamics communication can be a useful tool for partnerships or other collaborative efforts whose success relies in part on the development of effective and equitable working relationships between members that comprises public agencies, nonprofits and public charities. Group dynamics characteristics purpose is to include effective leadership that consists of:

  • Shared leadership, including task maintenance leadership behaviors.
  • Two-way communication, recognition of conflicts and constructive conflict resolution.
  • Cooperative development of goals and shared vision.
  • Participatory decision-making processes that are flexible and use consensus for important decisions; agreed upon problem-solving processes.
  • Well organized meetings with collaboratively developed agendas and facilitation consistent with these characteristics.

Benefits of Partnering with Nonprofits and Public Charities

In an era where local government agencies are making the effort to reign in overhead and cost of daily activities, having nonprofits and public charities to do many task such as contributing their time and resources to help the community  is a clarion call to be of service to the local community. In Carrollton, Texas, nonprofits such as Metrocrest Social Services takes on the role that runs the whole gamut from food bank, to job training and placement to temporary housing for those who are displaced whether due to loss of gainful employment or challenges such as family violence at home. This charity receives funding from the City of Carrollton that is planned in their annual budget and set aside for Metrocrest to meet the many needs of several other adjoining municipalities who also contribute their fair share of this social service’s budget. Many local citizens may also contribute their labor or in-kind resources such as building products or money to augment the services that are offered on a regular basis.

Other charities, such as People Helping People, targets anyone in the community who meets a certain income level requirement where fences and  roofs are repaired or replaced, houses are painted and where needed any exterior cosmetic needs are taken care of to a maximum of $5000 for the selected candidate. This is also budgeted from the city  with the intention this amount could go a very long way as local citizens looking for volunteer opportunities along with local businesses  are able to contribute in-kind resources to get more accomplished for the budgeted amount.

In addition, many businesses are now partnering with nonprofits and charities to send teams of employees who are willing to commit to specific amount of hours in an effort to reach out to the community in which they do business, labeled under the notion of corporate responsibility. Collaborative evaluation of task, goal, objective and resources is the development of mutual trust, shared power and influence.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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