This blog post from Living Cities reflects on the engagement of the public sector in the Integration Initiative and the different roles that government can play in such collaborations, ranging from a singular leader to a spectator, advocate, or full partner.

Government as Partner: The Need for a Full Leadership Table

Recently, I went on my first site visit to Newark as a new member of The Integration Initiative team. During the visit, I was struck by the rapport between the City’s Housing Director, Mike Meyer, and the Project Director of the Newark Integration Initiative, Monique Baptiste. The two discussed a shared strategy, bounced ideas off of one another, and demonstrated a meaningful understanding of one another’s work. They spoke more like co-workers, not leaders in two different sectors. I was witnessing the “one table approach” in action, and realized how this alone is a huge step for the city.

Historically, the public has counted on government for leadership, direction, and solutions to our most pressing problems. However, as our problems become increasingly complex, and we find ourselves in an evolving economic and social landscape, the public has lost its faith in government and has looked to the private and nonprofit sectors to lead the search for solutions. The problem with each scenario is that one sector is anointed the leader while the others are expected to play supporting roles. As a result of this tension, each sector tends to operate on its own, while the others, particularly government, are viewed as an obstacle or external target for lobbying rather than a critical piece of the puzzle.