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Want to Be Effective at Sustainability? The Key is to Collaborate, Report Says

Sustainability Leaf

Sustainability policies are complicated, and the issues bridge departmental boundaries within a local government as well as across municipal and county boundaries. In the latest Local Government Review, it states that effective implementation requires collaboration across agencies within government and among governments in the region.

The 2015 Local Government Sustainability Survey asked respondents if departments within the jurisdiction coordinated on some sustainability programs. The highest areas of interagency collaboration are in

  • Land use,
  • Economic development,
  • Grant writing,
  • Hazard mitigation, and
  • Storm water management. 

The highest areas of regional coordination is highest in

  • Transportation,
  • Economic development, and
  • Harzard mitigation/evacuation planning. 


Collaboration and Coordination in Different Areas of Sustainability


In the Municipal Year Book 2015 article, Collaborative Service Delivery: A Tool for Assessing Feasibility, it states that jurisdictions of all kinds might be interested in benefiting from collaborative service delivery arrangements. However, these benefits are not without costs. The trick is to identify the services best suited to collaborative arrangements that will maximize benefits while minimizing costs. Too often, local leaders enter into some form of collaborative arrangement with less than full information concerning the potential costs and benefits.

So what exactly are the potential benefits? Not surprisingly, the benefit most commonly expected from collaborative arrangements relates to cost savings associated with the production or delivery of a given service. In point of fact, costs savings can be realized in this manner, but the extent of those savings depends on the nature of the service. For instance, capital-intensive services often exhibit economies of scale such that additional “units” of the service can be produced at lower costs after a certain amount has been expended.

Thus, two or more jurisdictions could join together in a bulk-purchasing arrangement that could capture this economy of scale. Such arrangements have the potential to lower costs for certain services to a level that might have been out of reach for a jurisdiction acting alone. But not all services lend themselves to this kind of cost savings. Luckily, collaborations yield other kinds of benefits. For instance, some collaborative arrangements can help achieve service delivery goals while both catering to those who prefer to see governments work with other agencies and lowering opposition from those who are leery of full-blown outsourcing. Also, collaborations require interactions among principles and staff throughout the negotiation, implementation, and evaluation stages. This can lead to the development of additional ideas for collaborations in other service areas and increased trust across jurisdictional or sectoral lines. Of course, the bottom-line goal is that such collaborations, designed and executed correctly, can provide the quantity and quality of needed public services that individual entities could not provide alone.

In 2013, O’Leary and Gerard conducted a survey of city managers to determine what motivates those who have their organizations engage in service delivery collaborations. They found that there are essentially five reasons why managers collaborate: (1) it is implicitly mandated, (2) it improves outcomes, (3) it improves the problem-solving process, (4) it builds relationships and credibility, and (5) it is explicitly mandated. So there are several benefits that may be realized through a collaborative service delivery arrangement.

examples of successful collaboration/coordination IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT

storm water management collaboration/coordination

In the article, Bridging Interests on Local Government Collaboration, city manager Jim McKnight, Rockledge, Florida, described a tri-party, facility-use agreement that provides multiple-type services on the same site. In his example, development of a 50-acre stormwater park was created when two municipalities and the county entered into an agreement to fund and develop a stormwater lake. The water that drains into the lake provides a water quantity and water quality benefit for the surrounding area and the lake water is treated and used as reclaimed water for irrigation. A joint-use dog park has also been built on the site.

Land Use Planning Collaboration/Coordination

In the report, Improving Quality of Life: The Effect of Aligning Local Service Delivery and Public Health Goals, t

he provincial government of British Columbia, Canada, has developed a series of model programs related to health and land-use planning. To implement these programs, the Health Authority (HA) began working with local planners on implementation.1 In 2007, the HA created the Healthy Community Environment (HCE) position to develop a model that links health and land use around seven dimensions: (1) Environment (water, air), (2) injury prevention, (3) nutrition and food security, (4) healthy child development, (5) physical activity related to public transportation and recreation, (6) housing and social wellness, and (7) access and inclusion for persons with mental illness or disabilities.

After first learning about residential land development applications, the HA created templates for local planners to review these applications based on the seven health dimensions. Furthermore, the HA provided education about the seven health dimensions to local governments along with the templates.

Local governments have given significant attention to the physical activity dimension as they seek to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce vehicle dependency. Moreover, several local governments in the region have sought additional HA involvement in plan review and now consider public health a stakeholder in planning.


Moore. P., “A Model to Embed Health Outcomes Into Land-Use Planning,” Community Development, 2011 (42:5): 525-540.

Cheryl Hilvert and David Swindell, “Collaborative Service Delivery: What Every Local Government Manager Should Know,” State and Local Government Review 45, no. 4 (2013): 240–254.