This is the second part of a two-part post that discusses the value of public-private partnerships in the grant seeking process.
Benefits of Public Private Partnerships
PPPs are generally viewed as being highly beneficial for governmental agencies, the private sector and the communities in which they operate. According to the National Council for Public Private Partnerships, the average American city works with private partners to provide 23 out of 65 basic municipal services. The use of PPPs is on the rise due to the fact that they are an effective tool for meeting public needs, maintaining a high level of public control, improving the quality of services, and being more cost effective than traditional project models. When it comes to seeking grant funding for IT projects, PPPs can give your project an edge on the competition. Specific benefits that are associated with public private partnerships include:
- Faster, more efficient and cost effective delivery of capital-intensive projects: PPPs allow each party to do what it does best. Most Tribal IT departments may manage their technological infrastructures very well, but that doesn’t mean that they know how to construct a new project from the ground up. PPPs allow tribes to engage industry experts that do have the knowledge and experience to ensure the project’s success, allowing Tribal IT personnel to keep focusing on core functions. From the funding agency’s perspective this demonstrates a well-planned, cost effective and efficient use of resources.
- Spreads the risk and demonstrates commitment: In nearly all PPP models the private sector partner assumes some portion of the risk related to the project. Just like a bank is more willing to lend money for a mortgage when the borrower has a financial stake in the property (the down payment), a funding agency is more likely to view a project favorably when other parties have something to lose if the project is unsuccessful. A public private partnership where all parties have something at stake helps demonstrate all-around commitment to the project’s long-term success.
- Helps demonstrate sustainability: Overlooking the long-term sustainability of IT projects—especially infrastructure projects—is a critical error that results in many otherwise worthy funding proposals being rejected. A well-structured public private partnership forces all parties to examine sustainability as part of the planning process. I like to look at Federal funding agencies as venture capitalists—they are interested in providing the seed money to get the project off the ground, but once it’s up and running they want to step aside. In other words, they are not interested in funding projects they don’t see as having a long-term chance of success. A PPP-structured IT project that incorporates long-term sustainability has a far better chance of getting grant funding than one that does not.
Interestingly, PPPs are not new and have in fact been in use in the United States for more than 200 years. There are thousands of successful public private partnerships operating in the United States right now supporting a broad range of projects and services. Now let’s look at two recent, real-world examples of public private partnerships and how they benefited the Tribes, the projects, the community, the private sector partners, and most important, the project’s grant funding potential.
Karuk: The Karuk Tribe was awarded a $1.1 million Community Connect grant in 2011. In this Design-Build Public Private Partnership the Karuk Tribe teamed up with companies such as Siskiyou Telephone, EnerTribe, Datasat Technologies, Native Link Communications and other private sector firms, each of which participated in the project design and build process. By taking this approach the Tribe built upon past successes and relationships and was able to utilize innovative strategies to address the area’s unique geography while also addressing the project’s long-term sustainability. While the Tribe is certainly not lacking in in-house talent these partnerships allowed individuals to maintain focus on his or her area of expertise. The partnerships also helped create an environment in which the Tribal IT Department is not taxed too far beyond its staffing capabilities. The partnerships played in key role in enabling the Tribe to win the highly competitive Community Connect grant.
Sisseton: In another Design-Build partnership, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate (SWO) Tribe took advantage of PPPs by partnering with Native Link Communications and 15 different organizations and agencies throughout the community. Again, in this working arrangement, each partner contributed to the project’s design and will participate in the build-out process. The key advantages of this partnership included reduced costs by leveraging the community’s public and private resources and improved project management capacity through the provision of engineering services and ongoing support and capacity-building training.
What to look for in a PPP
While there certainly are numerous advantages to PPPs, IT departments should exercise caution before signing a partnership agreement. First, the Tribe needs to make certain that its interests are protected and that its priorities, not just the partner’s, are met through the partnership. Second, a successful PPP must be flexible. When seeking grant funding, the project scope is likely to change between the time the proposal is submitted and the time it is actually funded. Additionally, it is not unusual for a Federal funding agency to require changes to the scope of work before it will approve the project’s funding. A PPP must be flexible enough to meet any design or project scope of work changes as well as any that might be required of the funding agency.
Steps for identifying potential partnerships
When exploring potential partnerships, it helps to identify and write down the needs and goals of the region as a whole. You will also want to clarify the project’s goals and objectives from the Tribe’s perspective. When doing so, be sure to engage representatives from each department within the Tribe. With this information, you can determine the various ways in which the different goals and objectives are aligned to one another. From there, you can begin to take a closer look at the public and private sector resources in the community that might benefit from and be able to contribute to, an effective public private partnership. Look for private sector companies and community organizations or agencies whose mission and goals are aligned to the needs and goals of the Tribe and the community. For example, in the case of a municipality that is seeking to scale-up its communications infrastructure up, engaging additional community organizations and agencies that could improve their services or enhance their capacity to serve their constituents through the upgrade can substantially strengthen a funding proposal.
Contact me today to discuss how I can help you leverage the power of public-private partnerships to secure grant funding for your information technology project.