Chapter 12. Developing and Utilizing Strategic Partnerships
Thomas J. Lang
There is a saying, “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” An individual or group can certainly move faster when there is no need to cooperate with others or bring them along, but then they must bear the burden alone. When like-minded individuals or groups go together, the burden can be shared and they can reach further and accomplish more. However, relationships take additional time, effort, and resources to cultivate, and there is no guarantee that partnerships will yield the desired rewards, nor are rewards always going to be equitably distributed among partners. Partnership benefits are determined by skillful navigation of the partnership process, which should include self-assessment, evaluation of potential partners, partnership development, and managing the partnership for mutual benefits. If this sounds familiar, it is because people often undergo a similar process in their personal life—there is a reason that the words “spouse” and “partner” are synonymous.
Good partnerships can inspire innovation and evolve to provide more opportunities (The White House 2013). As private companies and conservation organizations better understand the needs of fish and wildlife agencies and how to successfully navigate working with agencies, they may innovate and can provide more applicable and effective services and stronger business partnerships. Companies have already expanded beyond the traditional service-provider role of providing bureaucratic information technology support for license sales, hunt draws, park reservations, and customer database management to a larger role that includes data mining for strategic planning and marketing planning services (Brandt Information Services 2020). At a time when agency budgets and staffing are stagnant or shrinking and demands for agency time and resources are expanding, agencies that embrace, seek, develop, and utilize partnerships will be better positioned to maximize their capacity to support their missions.
Developing and utilizing partnerships to support fish and wildlife conservation efforts are not new developments. Partnerships, defined as “a collaborative relationship between entities to work toward shared objectives through a mutually agreed division of labor” (CCF 2010), have been fundamental in fish and wildlife conservation and management. Such efforts began in the Progressive Era (1890s to 1920s), when conservation was born and the philosophical courses of the public trust doctrine, development of the natural resources profession through scientific training, and increased demand for public participation in policy decisions were set (Chapter 1; Duda et. al 2010). For example, in the United States, sporting groups like the Boone and Crockett Club worked closely with government to forge many of the earliest conservation achievements.