Cross-Sector Collaboration: Building Trust Takes Time

April 17, 2019

Cross-Sector Collaborative Group

San Francisco Fed Community Development is a longtime proponent of bringing together cross-sector partnerships to address community challenges. That is, holistically working through interconnected issues—such as health, housing, transit, and even ensuring spaces for art—to achieve real, lasting change for struggling neighborhoods.

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco is one of four nonprofits implementing the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) in six regions across the United States. One of the foundational requirements for SPARCC was the presence of a formal collaboration that brought cross-sector partners together at the same metaphorical “table” at the regional scale.

The cross-sector table requirement was based on the assumption that leaders from different fields needed a formalized structure for aligning efforts and influencing regional power structures. In a recent SPARCC midcourse check-in, we looked at how that hypothesis is panning out.

In the first year of SPARCC, a three-year initiative, all six sites engaged in important table development work. For example, trust building, establishing a governance model, vision alignment, and developing a shared systems-change agenda.

Over the first half of SPARCC, representatives say that the cross-sector table has been an important driver of change. The tables foster multifaceted solutions and capture regional attention. For example, one leader pointed to examples of working directly with various departments to influence language and principles behind various governmental requests for proposals. All of the sites highly value the process of aligning cross-sector partners.

Representatives say, though, that table development is an iterative process, even for established collaboratives. Although the formal table structure has many benefits, the process can be time- and labor-intensive.

For details about the lessons learned and future direction of SPARCC, and a summary of the most relevant adaptations, visit Testing Our Hypotheses on Equitable Development: Midcourse Learning and Adapting through SPARCC.

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Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC) is a three-year initiative with major funding by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, JPB Foundation, and The California Endowment. Four nonprofits form the partnership that implements SPARCC: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Enterprise Community Partners, Low Income Investment Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council.