Partnership Evaluation Practices in Public-Nonprofit Community Sport Relationships: Understanding Resource Dependency
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Interorganizational relationships (IORs) can offer community sport organizations (CSOs) a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address the complex issues in their environment (Misener & Doherty, 2014). IORs offer each partner access to specialized knowledge, information, and material resources (e.g. human, financial, infrastructure) that otherwise may be unattainable on their own (Huxham & Vangen, 2000). One type of partnership that may offer significant benefit to CSOs is public-sector partners such as municipal recreation departments who work closely with CSOs to coordinate facility use and offer support for sport delivery in their communities (Thibault, Frisby, Kikulis, 1999). However, the resource exchange and evaluation of IORs between CSOs and municipal partners has not been well understood (Jones, Edwards, Bocarro, Bunds, & Smith 2018). The study draws on resource dependency theory (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978) as a lens for understanding how organizations can navigate power and resource flow in order to reduce environmental uncertainty and dependence (Hillman, Withers, & Collins, 2009). For CSOs, access to specific resources, and particularly infrastructure/facilities, is crucial to achieving their mandate. However, cross-sector partnerships may not achieve their potential because of imbalanced resources, misalignment of values, and different accountability structures and missions (Misener & Misener, 2017). Therefore, it is necessary to gain a greater understanding of the nature of resource exchange and potential dependency in CSO-public partnership. Partnership evaluation is often overlooked due to the absence of objective metrics, lack of evaluation skills, and inadequate time devoted to assessment (Babiak & Willem, 2016). Key components of evaluation include scoping, planning, managing, resourcing, and sustaining/terminating partnerships. In light of possible resource dependencies that shape the nature of public-CSO relations, it is essential to understand how resources influence evaluation practices in these partnerships (cf. Provan & Milward, 1998; Babiak, 2009). The purpose of this qualitative study is two-fold to (1) understand the nature of resource exchange and potential dependency in CSO-public partnerships, and (2) explore how resources influence partnership evaluation practices in CSO-public partnerships. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the Manager/Coordinator/Director of Community Sport Relations (or similar position) within the Department of Recreation Services in five mid-size municipalities in Ontario. These individuals are responsible for managing facility distribution, providing support, collaborating on events, and managing communication with CSOs. Interviews were then conducted with 19 CSO Presidents (or their representative) from these communities who represent different sports and sizes of CSOs. The sample population provided a range of rural (2) and urban (3) municipalities as well as ten different sports (i.e. adult or youth) with varying resource capacities. Gaining the perspective of different sector partners enabled a more holistic understanding of partnership practices and evaluation strategies (Babiak, 2009). Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using inductive and deductive methods (Miles, Huberman, & Saldana, 2013). Analysis of the data revealed that the approach to the provision of resources and benefits exchanged between CSOs and the public sector represent more of a cumulative or “package” approach to resource exchange which expands our understanding beyond a "this for that" conceptualization of resource exchange that is more typical in the literature and offers a holistic understanding of the nature of resource exchange. In addition, five core themes; equity in decision making, fostering common vision, offering mutual support, increasing coordination and efficiency, and reducing uncertainty and promoting organizational stability emerged as effective ways to help public and CSO partners navigate resource uncertainty, dependency, and power influence in their environment. Finally, public and CSO partners mutual dependence for resources to achieve a similar objective of community sport development strongly influenced evaluation practices. Since both partners are unable to produce the quality and quantity of resources on their own, their dependence on each other remains high. Indeed, the total “package” approach of resources being exchanged also increased partners value and dependence in the relationship. Typically, even when a resource was considered low, other resource desires are still being supported and fulfilled, therefore decreasing partners needs to evaluate. Considerably, the lack of formal evaluation activities within this partnership can be attributed to partners vested interest in community sport development and their high interdependence on one another for resources. The present study contributes to the body of knowledge and practice of sport-based IORs at the community level. In addition, this research extends scholarly literature on public-CSO partnerships within a Canadian context. Finally, the study offers new understanding into resource exchange and dependency in public-CSO partnerships, while also offering insight into the influence of resource dependence on evaluation practices in this IOR relationship.
Cite this version of the work
Ashley A. Hutchinson (2020). Partnership Evaluation Practices in Public-Nonprofit Community Sport Relationships: Understanding Resource Dependency. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/15572