The Power of Partnerships
The first partnership is among the three school districts in the County (Catawba County Schools, Newton-Conover City Schools, and Hickory Public Schools). All three school districts are large enough to have to provide certain special services to students but small enough where individually providing those services would be inefficient. Realizing this, the districts have identified three programs where they work together. Each district is responsible for operating one program for all three districts. This approach allows the districts to provide high-quality services at a cost efficient manner improving educational outcomes in the County.
The second effective partnership that I have seen is among the local non-profits in the county. Catawba currently suffers from a 15.1 percent poverty rate with 22.8 percent of children living in a household earning below the poverty line. Many of these families and individuals previously had employment but lost jobs during the recession and have struggled to regain employment or have jobs that simply do not pay enough. Many of the local non-profits have come together to attempt to solve this crisis. But what is amazing about their approach is the amount of collaboration and partnership among themselves. They regularly meet to ensure that they are not duplicating services but, rather, complimenting each others services. For example, the Family Care Center provides transitional housing to families with jobs or in the process of getting a job while Exodus House focuses on providing housing and services to those suffering from addiction, and Sipe’s Orchard House provides transitional housing and life coaching to at-risk youth. They all provide transitional housing but none of them serve the same population. Together, along with many other non-profits, these organizations work jointly to attempt to solve the poverty crisis with distinct yet, intentionally, complimentary approaches.
As I pursue a career in local government, I will be keeping these partnerships in mind as I work with others on the wicked problems facing local governments. Partnerships are not always the solution as they can increase bureaucracy and reduce accountability, but are an important tool that local government leaders have access to.