Resilient Communities are the Foundations of a Resilient America.

A Few Words About Partnerships

It has almost become a truism that partnerships are one of the cornerstones of community resilience. In fact, the National Academies published a study almost two years ago that focused exclusively on public-private partnerships and resilience. FEMA periodically touts the benefits of forming partnerships to emergency managers as an essential part of community resilience. However, FEMA doesn’t provide much guidance about what makes effective partnerships with the private sector at the community level.  A few pointers…

• A private company enters a partnership based on perceived self-interest. Generally that means that there has to be a perceived positive outcome for the company. The fact that the community as a whole might benefit may not resonate with the company. Thus, it’s best to seek partners who will be interested in the outcome of the proposed partnership.

• Partnerships with the private sector are seldom permanent. Too often, there is an impression that “once a partner, always a partner.” A private company has limited resources to invest in non-profit-making activities. If it partners to achieve some goal, we shouldn’t be surprised if the private partner backs out after the goal is reached. Even more so, if it’s taking much longer to achieve the goal, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the private partner’s interest wane.

• Partnerships with the private sector seldom encompass the “Whole of Community.” Limited resources and limited expertise lead to a limited engagement.

Thus, in seeking partners for a community initiative – like enhancing community resilience, three questions become of paramount importance:

• What do I want a partner for?  What’s the goal?
• What does does any prospective partner get out of partnering?
• How long will it take to achieve the objective?