We usually think of nonprofit collaboration only in terms of charitable organizations, but does government collaborate as well? I recently learned about an interesting example of a government-led collaboration effort focusing on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as the federal bailout. The process of determining how to spend bail out dollars in the Northern Illinois is being led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, or CMAP. CMAP is the official regional planning organization for northern Illinois. From day one, CMAP was having high-level discussions about the best way to use the Chicago region’s influx of bail out dollars in the most productive way with the goal of achieving higher quality results. Recently I attended a presentation where Randall Blankenhorn, the Executive Director of CMAP explained their approach to disperse American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Mr. Blankenhorn made a perfect argument for how it’s critical when presented with such tremendous resources - $14 billion for the Chicago metropolitan region – to leverage that capacity to create more accountability and to experiment with restructuring the delivery of services in the region.

Mr. Blankenhorn explained that as early as November 2008, in the very early days of the discussion of a bailout bill, CMAP’s board approved a set of principles for how the funds should be spent in northern Illinois. One of these principles is: The investments should be partnered for real reform. To prioritize local infrastructure investments that in a comprehensive way look beyond transportation benefits to include land use, economic, environmental, social, and other impacts.  In other words, let’s not look at these issues as silo arenas. Instead, let’s weave the strategies together to create comprehensive solutions and leverage the impact of the investment to re-position the region and its services for the future.

To accomplish its goals, CMAP is partnering with foundations, nonprofit organizations, and public agencies throughout the region in a coordinated, accountable fashion. We are fortunate to have CMAP leading the process for investing American Recovery and Reinvestment dollars here. Do you have examples of good government collaboration you want to share? Post a comment with your own example.