The Will and the Way: Local Partnerships, Political Strategy and the Well-being of America's Children and Youth
In an era of devolution in much social policy, a growing number of initiatives aim to improve the well-being of children, youth, and their families through locally governed, data-driven “partnerships” of various kinds. Broadly stated, the aims of these partnerships are not limited to savvy technical reform of policies or programs. Their aims target “systems change” of a much more daunting variety—a change in political will, policy agendas, and policy implementation arrangements, all driven by broad and sustained local movements on behalf of our children. Part of a larger research project on how community problem-solving is evolving around the globe, this paper takes a critical look at what such locally-based efforts actually do and at the key strategic challenges they confront. It emphasizes the distinct dimensions of political work implied in an era of partnership-driven problem-solving, explores the roles of coalition building in local politics, and analyzes the special challenges that partnerships face when they are, at once, interest-driven coalitions that ensure political support and operational alliances through which players seek to jointly produce the better outcomes they seek. Special attention is given to the roles of intermediary players that help other players navigate these challenges and to the multiple demands made of “grassroots” and “grasstops” (elite) stakeholders.
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