Magazine article Policy & Practice

Joining Forces: Two National Organizations Strive to Model a Generative Partnership to Accelerate Their Shared Visions

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Joining Forces: Two National Organizations Strive to Model a Generative Partnership to Accelerate Their Shared Visions

Article excerpt

The delivery of critical programs and services to millions of people each day illustrates the close, long-standing relationship between the public and social services sectors. Yet, the relationship is more complex than only delivery of services. Rather, it includes a shared passion to strive for a healthy and equitable society where all people can reach their full potential.

But to make a truly meaningful effort to reach that goal, it is imperative that the sectors work within a more agile, solutions-oriented relationship--what we refer to as "generative partnerships." These partnerships are more than collaborative efforts around single initiatives; their aim is something bigger and their potential impact transformative. The outcomes that can be realized when the public and social services sectors work in generative partnerships are validated by a Nobel Prize-winning economist.

Research by Elinor Ostrom, the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in economic science, corroborated that any complex, difficult social problem is best solved not in the public or the private sector, but rather in an environment where both sectors are working together, in earnest, to bring resolution.

Cause-driven organizations like the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities (Alliance) understand that an endorsement embedded in economic science isn't enough. We know that the more sectors, fields, and systems that we can join together in generative partnerships, the better chance for results that will address the significant social issues facing our communities.

In fact, such partnerships give the APHSA and Alliance networks a much better opportunity to create a modern and integrated health and human services system that is capable of breakthrough, generative results at the individual, family, and community levels.

Generative Partnerships Are Different

Generative partnerships remind us of the process of putting together a jigsaw puzzle versus playing a game of chess. These dynamic partnerships feature unique roles, assets, and responsibilities for each sector that must be understood and respected by the other sector in order to establish a partnership that achieves true generative results.

APHSA and the Alliance began the journey toward a generative partnership more than five years ago. We started out on the right foot because while we are distinct in our sectors and our roles, as organizations we are both ultimately striving to achieve the same thing as witnessed through our organizational visions and missions:


Vision: Better, healthier lives for children, adults, families, and communities.

Mission: APHSA pursues excellence in health and human services by supporting state and local agencies, informing policymakers, and working with our partners to drive innovative, integrated, and efficient solutions in policy and practice.


Vision: A healthy and equitable society.

Mission: To strengthen the capacities and influence of our national network of high-impact nonprofit human-serving organizations.

Through these five years, our teams and members have developed relationships with and learned from one another, continue to share resources, and are committed to creating new knowledge and unique opportunities for our networks. We are also very committed, where appropriate, to partner together in advocacy at the national level. Yet, we still recognize that our paths may not always be in sync and may at times require distinct journeys in pursuit of our shared visions.

Benefits of Generative Partnerships

The experiences of APHSA and the Alliance have taught us that there are multiple benefits to be realized through generative partnerships, including:

* When you commit to a generative partnership, you will more fully leverage each other's assets, expend existing resources more efficiently, and spur innovation and adaptive solutions, which actually generate new resources. …

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