While the world roils with clashes, catastrophes and hacks, locally efforts are ramping up great collaborations: the East Naples and Golden Gate fire districts’ merger and others sharing strategies; the United Way Community Foundation 211 Project; the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce’s partnerships with Collier government and Lee County’s Horizon Council; and the 40-agency Coalition on Aging.
Their leaders are leveraging the integrity of their agencies for our transformational, mutual benefit. They believe, as the headline on a recent Thomas L. Friedman column read, “Compromise is not a four-letter word.”
Fortunately, experienced, competent, intellectually rich and well-connected pacesetters live here. Teaming them, as Julie Schmelzle, the partnership’s chairwoman, recently emailed, “can elevate our community further as a good place for opportunities.”
But as baseball legend Casey Stengel once said: “Getting good players is easy. Getting ’em to play together is the hard part.”
So, it is essential to support our neighbors and friends who are now playing well together.
2014 is the year for positive reinforcement and anxiety reduction to create, advance and share unifying, joint ownership of vital initiatives.
During the past four years there have been several studies of “best practices” of counties comparable to Collier. Truth be told and specific aspects aside, those places positing sustained progress are consistently led by leaders who credit and support folks co-acting. The “best” counties are traditionally led by those who believe and champion collaboration on focused goals with measurable results.
Our current efforts will only flourish if we all believe and advocate it is important for Collier and Lee counties to jointly promote our assets to the United States’ top site selectors; if we cheer our first responders on to benefit from more joint training; if we champion — as does our sheriff — an easy-to-use 211 phone line to redirect critical, non-emergency 911 calls to experienced human services counselors; and if we recognize the benefit of coordinating services to the 10,471 seniors living alone in Collier County, many of whom are poor, fragile and vulnerable.
Research shows co-action programs can powerfully help joint agencies to maximize their missions and achieve specific goals. Their staffs can strengthen. Economies and resources can be leveraged. Civic images can be elevated. Well-conceived, adroitly-acted collaboratives can improve service delivery and maximize public service impact.
But many — governments and private nonprofits — live in silos and suffer deep-seated “anti-share” sentiments. Some resist strategic collaborations and lose valuable opportunities.
In 2014, public and private funders should spur government, business and civic groups to support nonprofits to work together and solve our mutual, pressing problems.
Candidly, full future funding for all our current independent agencies will be very difficult. Siloed agencies fragment our service-delivery system and kick communitywide solutions down the road.
Most of our agencies are professionally staffed and volunteer-driven. All volunteer leaders should resolve to enable our nonprofit pros to collaborate strategically. They have daunting jobs. They are daily stressed to cope with increased service demands and are primarily wired to serve as many needy people as possible.
These professionals — our neighbors often invisible until we need them — are wired to get things done.
Several local board chairs have admitted raising funds in Naples is a contact sport. Their nonprofit execs, constantly pushed to pitch themselves as unique as they compete for funds, naturally may not view peers as partners.
To really win, our current and future leaders need to forget old myths about being seen as weak, losing power or jobs as they cooperate.
Funders — public and private — who can creatively reflect and plan can spark possible partnerships.
They can maturely converse to realize new unions, pay for groups to align on targeted goals, reduce inefficiencies and produce real results.
Successful cooperation only flourishes in a supportive climate. Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi said it well: “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” That support comes from a shared vision, champions and incentives.
In Collier County, the current progress of our vibrant nonprofit sector will only advance if we craft constituencies to play well together.
As we warmly embrace the start of 2014, we should laud everyone in the current collaborations and encourage those who jointly are trying to make things a bit better. We should urge our media — both as journalists and as vastly influential key corporate citizens — to celebrate success and credit those who make it happen.