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Collaboration in Georgia Government

August 18, 2015
Desk with paper and pencil

Creating innovations in government may seem daunting, but it can be as easy as looking out your back door. The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia recently published a report examining how several local governments in Georgia are working with their local school districts to improve service delivery effectiveness and education of today’s youth. The study, Local Governments and School Systems: Partnering for Better Communities, looks at 6 communities in 3 areas of critical importance to local governments:

  • Land use and School Siting
  • Fire Service Delivery
  • Juvenile Justice

For each of these areas, the report showcases successful collaborations that are meeting an important need in the community, whether it be addressing complex land use issues related to population growth, ensuring that closed schools are purposefully reused by the local government, finding a new and reliable pool of volunteer and career firefighters, or keeping youth in school and out of juvenile court. The school systems and local governments realized that by working together each would benefit.

The report highlights several important insights learned through these case studies. Local and school officials in other communities who want to solve a common concern can adapt these lessons learned to their own situations.

  • Successful collaboration requires 3 key ingredients: motivation to solve a problem, open communication and strong leadership.
  • It’s important for group members to cultivate respect and trust for each other.
  • Collaborations should be allowed to evolve so that they remain relevant to the program or issue being addressed.
  • When a problem is particularly difficult, using a neutral facilitator or meeting in a neutral space can ensure that all parties feel equal.
  • There is no “ideal” situation for collaboration. They can work in urban and rural communities. They can involve multiple partners or just two. They can solve an immediate or a perennial problem.
  • The best collaborations are about more than just helping your own organization. They’re about wanting to better the community. The case studies in the report illustrate the strong sense of “public spiritedness” that Georgians support and want from their public officials.

Collaboration can be an excellent mechanism for innovation. When local and school officials work together to solve complex issues, great things can happen. Collaboration is occurring across Georgia, and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government wants to help it grow.

About the Author

Paula Sanford, a faculty member with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, is a local government finance specialist who helps clients improve their operations and plan effectively through studies and reviews in such areas as financial management, organizational structure, service delivery and performance measurement. She has contributed research expertise to studies related to public pensions, fiscal viability, new accounting rules and governmental organization.

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