Brie Loskota’s article about developing partnerships is part of Pluralism in Peril: Challenges to An American Ideal, a report of The Aspen Institute Justice & Society Program’s Inclusive America Project.
From climate change to homelessness, the challenges we face locally and globally are too big for any one entity to address. The idea that government alone can solve complex problems has long been on the wane—so much so that many people today think government cannot solve any problem, regardless of its complexity. In reality, effective governance takes collaboration between government agencies, the private sector, and community groups to make progress on social problems, whether large or small.
Those who work in the trenches on social issues understand that, because our future is interdependent, we cannot solve problems by retreating to our bunkers. The language of collaboration—working across differences, breaking down silos, creating cross-sector partnerships, and building bridges—permeates our national culture, from interfaith initiatives and disaster preparedness to economic development and community policing.
Yet, there is also skepticism about collaboration. “Partnership” can be self-serving or perfunctory. In our politically polarized times, we may have deep suspicions about people with different political, religious, or cultural beliefs.
In order to be effective, therefore, partnerships must be relational. They must be based on self-knowledge and self-disclosure, mutual trust and respect, and shared responsibilities and rewards. While this may seem obvious to those involved in bringing communities together, this kind of bridge-building has not always been a common practice.
Brie Loskota is the executive director of the USC Center for Religion and Civil Culture.