Governments have various options open to them outside of traditional in-house service production when it comes to how to deliver a public service.
- contracting out
- implementing vouchers
- franchise licensing, or
- even load-shedding the responsibility altogether and letting some other group or agency pick up the service.
One increasingly popular form of alternative service delivery arrangement among local governments is through collaborative partnerships. Unlike privatisation or contracting out a service, collaborative arrangements involve more than a simple pay-for-service transaction.
Collaboration involves both parties sharing the costs as well as the benefits derived from the service delivered.
As such, these arrangements can take on many forms, though they tend to fall into five general categories:
- public-public (horizontal) partnerships
- public-public (vertical) partnerships
- public-private partnerships, and
- public-nonprofit partnerships.
While engaging in various alternative service delivery arrangements is very popular today and often has political support as well, research on alternatives shows that not all such arrangements lead to good outcomes. Sometimes, in-house production may be the best option. Other times, a collaborative approach might be best.
This raises two questions:
- Is a collaborative service delivery approach right for my community?
- If so, what form of collaborative approach makes the most sense for us?
In order for a community and its leaders to answer these questions, the Enhanced Partnership involving the ICMA, the Alliance for Innovation (AFI), and the Center for Urban Innovation at Arizona State University, joined together in developing an evidence-based decision tool to aid communities in answering these questions.
The tool is outlined in the companion report: The Collaborative Service Delivery Matrix: A Decision Tool to Assist Local Governments. The tool is in two parts, one dedicated to each question. The Enhanced Partnership built the tool based on extensive research of existing studies, interviews with city and county managers, and a range of cases studies of successful and less successful collaborations. They synthesized the lessons derived to provide a simple, straightforward tool that communities can use to conduct a “soft cost-benefit analysis” based on two general factors: the type of service under consideration and community context. Each factor has seven characteristics that staff, council, and/or community members can score on simple three-point scales. The results of those scores indicate the likelihood of a success, should the community pursue a collaborative service deliver approach.
Learn more about Collaborative Service Delivery, Benefits and Challenges of Collaboration, Decision Matrix Tool, Alternative Structures of Collaboration and How to Choose One here