Introduction: Public- vs. Private-Sector Roles
Peer V. Schaeffer
Public-private cooperation is a necessity in many economic development projects because the private sector is responsible for most of the profit-oriented activities that contribute to job growth. The public sector's roles are usually limited to the provision of shared services such as infrastructure and education, and the creation and enforcement of rules and regulations. Nonprofit organizations are interesting because they can be both entrepreneurial and engage in business activities and serve as providers of public goods. Because of their role, they sometimes function as intermediaries between the private for- profit and the public sectors. A good example of the intermediary role is provided in the case study of a microloan program in West Virginia (chapter 27). In the case study of a community festival in Hawaii (chapter 24), nonprofits play similar roles. A somewhat different role is that described in the case study of public-private partnerships in Nordic countries (chapter 28), where nonprofit organizations act on behalf, and with the financial support of, the government in the provision of selected public services.
Public-private cooperative efforts are often referred to as partnerships. Unfortunately, the widespread use of this term hides variations between different forms of public-private cooperation. The extent and form of cooperation can be critical to the success or failure of a project. Using the same term for all forms of cooperation may lead us to overlook some of the causes for success or failure. The term "partnership" has the further disadvantage of emotional connotations. It evokes an image of friends or close colleagues who share goals, responsibilities, and rewards and who work together on the basis of trust that has been built over time. Almost all public-private efforts, however, are between organizations that have very different goals and may never have worked together before. This is particularly true in economic development