From the White House to the Harvard Business Review, state governments to local philanthropy, many institutions and individuals have expressed their belief in the power of cross-sector partnerships by funding and participating in them. As a result, these partnerships have multiplied in recent years. However, the collective understanding of what makes a cross-sector partnership successful is limited.

While there have been a number of case studies about cross-sector partnerships working on specific issues, and there is an emerging body of work on collective impact — an approach that has cross-sector partnerships at its core — there has not been extensive inquiry into the structure and behaviors of effective cross-sector partnerships.

At Living Cities, we believe in the power of crosssector partnerships to address some of the toughest challenges our country faces today. We also believe there is a need for greater understanding of crosssector partnerships so that practitioners, participants, and funders have a systematic way and shared language to reflect on whether their existing or planned partnerships are structured to achieve their intended goals.

Over the last two years, we have been learning from and with leaders about what it takes to set up and run a cross-sector partnership so that it can have real and measurable impact. Through our grants and research, site visits, and hours of interviews we learned so much that was useful, we knew we had to find a way to organize, define, and describe the ideas that were being mentioned time and again. In this work, we define a cross-sector partnership as an alliance of organizations, which together have a role in solving a problem and achieving a shared goal.

This case study is structured as follows:

A. About Partners for a Competitive Workforce
B. A Closer Look: Traits, Factors and Behaviors Influencing Partners for a Competitive Workforce

  • Building a strong foundation for a cross-sector partnership
  • Factors that influence the success of a cross-sectore partnership
  • Behaviors of high-impact cross-sector partnerships

C. Three Insights that Emerge from this Case
D. What’s Next?


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