Collaboration key to providing efficient community services

Collaboration between local governments, organizations and agencies can save valuable local financial resources and help leverage outside financial resources without duplication of services.

The realities of Michigan’s poor economic situation in the past several years have led many local governments, agencies and organizations to re-evaluate how they conduct business. As costs rise and revenues decline more must be done with less. Maintaining services requires creativity and innovation and an increasingly popular method to achieve this is through collaboration.

Although collaboration between local governments, organizations and agencies has been taking place for many decades, it has been relatively underutilized in most areas of service. In the past few years, however, a significant paradigm shift has occurred, driven by the recent economic downturn. Funding agencies and organizations with limited resources want to maximize the impact of every dollar they distribute. To achieve this goal, they have placed a high priority on collaborative projects.

In addition, federal agencies have incorporated collaborative requirements into many federal funding programs. These actions have had a trickle-down effect on state and local funding programs. Without collaboration many local governments, organizations and agencies will not be in a position to secure these funds.

Research of service cost sharing through collaboration has shown reduction of overhead associated with the avoidance of duplication of services, increased quality of service and lower required revenue investment for each individual collaborating entity. Additionally, research has also demonstrated the immense value of technical collaboration (e.g., data sharing).

For years, many communities across Michigan have recognized the value of collaboration and have used it to the benefit of their communities. For example, many municipalities in Newaygo County have been recognized as innovative collaboration leaders. Several cities have collaborated with neighboring townships to manage growth and provide essential services to communities.

These efforts include creative 425 agreements to provide utilities to expanding commercial areas, police protection to schools, shared equipment and multijurisdictional growth and recreational planning. In addition, most community development projects taking place in the county involve some form of collaboration between local municipalities, nonprofit organizations, business organizations and state and federal agencies.

Because of this willingness to collaborate, Michigan State University Extension and other universities and agencies have regularly located projects and pilot programs in Newaygo County prior to expanding them statewide.

The next time you hear about your local government collaborating with others in your area, know that they are attempting to make the best use of your tax dollars. Encourage your local officials, organizations and agencies to consider opportunities for collaboration before starting their next project.

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