PolarBearPicPublic Private Partnerships (PPP) are a hot thing right now. Lots of people are talking about them. When built correctly, they are wonderful tools for creating successful relationships to get work done effectively. PPP occur when a service provided by the government is funded and operated through a cooperative venture between the government and a private sector company(ies). This relationship is usually long-term, and built on the premise of shared risks and reward between the organizations.

From parks and education, to infrastructure and technology, we see PPP in action every day, at every level of government. As financial pressure on government work increases, many agencies are relying on PPP as a way to reduce operating budgets – turning these responsibilities over to, or sharing them with, private companies.

For example, PPP are a common way to fund road and highway infrastructure projects. State and local governments across the nation partner with private sector companies to construct and maintain transportation infrastructure, including toll roads. These projects can take some of the burden off taxpayers, and sometimes benefit the private company financially.

In another example, the City of Seattle recently entered into a PPP to upgrade the city’s IT infrastructure. The private company replaced the municipal broadband with an ultra high-speed fiber network connection to provide the city’s residents and commercial customers with a (way) more reliable internet connection.

Another very successful and productive PPP is found right here in Anchorage. The Anchorage Park Foundation (APF) is a non-profit organization that supports parks and trails projects in partnership with the Municipality of Anchorage Parks & Recreation Department (MOA). For over ten years the APF has worked closely with MOA staff to raise funds and build community support for park and trail project development, coordination and construction.

Some local park and trail projects that were realized because of this partnership’s programs include the new polar bear playground at Russian Jack Springs Park, miles of trail rehabilitation along the Coastal and Chester Creek Trails, and the development and construction of the Campbell Creek Estuary. While the MOA and APF each bring to the table a different set of skills and organizational focus, they are both committed to the same guiding mission, Healthy Parks, Healthy People, and together accomplish more than working alone.

The PPP established between the MOA and APF is successful and productive for several reasons. First, it is a partnership built on the trust that each entity works toward their shared mission. The two organizations defined a set of partnership values that guide their relationship and help increase community ownership in parks and trails. The values include building community relationships, creating beautiful spaces efficiently, respecting the public-private relationship and the parks and trails system, living the Healthy Parks, Healthy People mission genuinely and practicing stewardship.

Secondly, the PPP between the MOA and APF places priority on joint staff development. This PPP is truly a partnership of close communication and openness, which is another reason for their continued successful relationship. Each week on Tuesday mornings the MOA and APF meet for a staff meeting at City Hall to discuss project updates and upcoming tasks. Staff members from each organization also work together at community events, like Neighborhood Park Fix-Its, during which community volunteers spend a Saturday morning revitalizing a neighborhood park.  The communication of shared vision and mutual support of this PPP extends from internal office meetings to public community projects.

Lastly, the MOA and APF understand that a partnership means leaning on one another to fulfil certain roles. Each organization focuses on what is does best to create the most productive relationship, leading to better parks and trails throughout Anchorage. The MOA focuses on project planning, design, construction administration and public involvement, while the APF is skilled at fundraising, grant acquisition and community engagement. Each organization plays to its strengths so that together they can achieve more.

While PPP are by no means a new strategy, when the partnership is one based on a mutually designed guiding framework, communication and respect it can look like the successful PPP between the MOA and APF. It is proven that parks and outdoor recreation spaces “improve our physical and psychological health, strengthen our communities, and make our cities and neighborhoods more attractive places to live and work” (www.nrpa.org). As public funding for park and trail maintenance and construction becomes less reliable, parks and recreation departments can harness the power of strategic partnerships to support the revitalization process.

Huddle is a proud supporter of the PPP between the MOA and APF. As a advisor to the APF, Huddle provides a range of PPP consulting services including strategic planning, park, trail and open space planning, landscape architecture and community involvement, to support key public land improvement strategies like the Anchorage Trails Initiative, the Anchorage Trails Wayfinding Plan and the Department of the Interior 50 Cities Initiative. We are excited to assist the APF and MOA in their mission to improve our public lands by looking outside the box for creative ways to get things done.