Collaboration Research Overview

Striving Toward a Brighter Future in Ohio Through Intergovernmental Collaboration
                                  Motivators for Collaboration*

MotivatorsFor more than thirty years, the Center for Public Administration and Public Policy at Kent State University (the KSU Center) has conducted research and provided assistance to improve the capacities and performance of Ohio local governments. Of all of the subjects addressed by the Center, however, intergovernmental collaboration is one of the most relevant to current challenges facing Ohio. Broadly speaking, intergovernmental collaboration is defined as two or more local governments working together to save money or share services. The Center’s goal is to expand knowledge and assist communities by sharing collaborative ideas, identifying best practices for intergovernmental collaborative approaches, identifying barriers to collaboration and – over time -- benchmarking progress through assessments of the cost and effectiveness of services in order to better understand the impact collaboration has on saving money and improving services.

For the past several years, the KSU Center has produced reports and studies on intergovernmental collaboration.  These studies have been funded by a number of supporters, including the Fund for Our Economic Future (FFEF), the Ohio Commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration (OCLGRC), and the Northeast Ohio Research Consortium (NEORC).  Collectively, these reports and publications provide knowledge regarding who is collaborating, why they are collaborating, what motivates them and what hinders collaborative progress.  They also identify factors leading to progress in initiating and maintaining collaborative efforts. 

Some key findings from these reports and studies are as follows:                                       Timeline of Beginning Efforts*

  • TimelineIntergovernmental collaboration provides opportunities for cost savings, economic development, and local government service improvement.
  • Successful collaborations are occurring in a range of policy areas, including economic development, emergency services, and infrastructure management.
  • Two factors appear to be particularly important in fostering progress in inter-governmental collaboration: (1) external incentives through grants or mandates, and; (2) patterns of past interaction that build trust among participants which enables progress.
  • In one survey, 60% of the local collaborators surveyed in 2009 (n=52) stated that economic development was a motivator of their collaboration.*
  • Local government collaboration also appears to be growing: in one survey, 40% indicated their collaborative efforts began as recently as 2009, an increase from previous years.*

*Note: Because the survey sample of collaborations yielding these findings was not random, more extensive research is appropriate to verify them.

Intergovernmental Collaborative Inventory

In addition to these studies, the Center has developed an inventory of local government collaborations in northeast Ohio and has worked with the Ohio State Auditor’s Office to identify and release information on collaborative ideas being explored in Ohio.  The purpose of the KSU Center inventory is to improve our knowledge of local government collaborations that are taking place in northeast Ohio. Over time, we hope that it will also help enable benchmarking progress to assist local governments in understanding best practices, and in learning from one another.

Active v. IdeasBased on our inventory work to date, we know that intergovernmental collaboration is happening in Ohio. Between the Center’s inventory of local government collaborations and the Ohio Auditor’s Shared Services Idea Center, we have identified 143 collaborative actions already taking place in the 16-county region of Northeast Ohio. In addition, there are many more ideas for collaborative projects in our communities.  If these collaborative ideas became collaborative actions, NE Ohio could nearly DOUBLE the number of local government collaborations actively taking place. Fostering collaboration to improve efficiency and effectiveness in government is only possible if local governments move from talking about collaborating to actually doing it. 

Collaborative Ideas make up almost HALF of the collaborations tracked by the Centers Collaborative Inventory and the Auditor of states Shared Services Idea Center.