Communities of Opportunity
Whether or not one agrees with Barack Obama’s plan to continue to support federal funding of social services delivered by religious organizations, it is hard to argue with his statement that, “The challenges we face today — from saving our planet to ending poverty — are simply too big for government to solve alone.” In fact, many folks have been espousing multi-sectoral solutions for social ills for some time now. These partnerships between government, non-profit or religious organizations, individuals and private businesses bring together a depth and diversity of resources that simply aren’t available when the sectors act separately.
A recent example of just such an initiative is Communities of Opportunity. According to its website, COO is “a new system launched by the city of San Francisco, residents of the southeast corner of the city, and philanthropic organizations to fundamentally change the way these three groups work together to transform a neighborhood.” Its business plan outlines the bringing together of government, nonprofits and individuals this way:
“The role of government is to intervene where the market fails society’s most vulnerable populations, the city’s poorest residents. This includes investing public funds to counteract policies that disadvantage a geographic area, promote localized economic development, create jobs, and increase the provision of goods and services. Because most nonprofits lack the economies of scale to construct infrastructure, and private actors have little incentive to invest in reweaving the frayed social fabric, government through a strategic public-private partnership is uniquely positioned to create the required innovative infrastructure to eradicate poverty ”
Certainly, public-private partnerships are not a new idea, but with the failing economy and increasing need for social services, perhaps now is the time to promote more of these creative partnerships—leveraging the expertise and resources of each member of the partnership to achieve the greatest good.