Apr 8th 2015 | Posted in Mary Scott Nabers' Insights by Mary Scott Nabers

Photo by Jeff Kubina is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Jeff Kubina is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Maybe more than you think!  If you are a community leader, a nonprofit board member or a parent interested in public safety or education, chances are you are involved in what could be called a latent megacommunity, even though the term may not be common.

Megacommunities are designed to provide values and benefits to people who live and work together. They exist to solve large, critical problems that require the talents of government, business and civil society. The concept of a megacommunity is not all that common in the United States, but such organizations are working well in other parts of the world.  And, there are some megacommunities in America that hold tremendous promise.

Critical issues that impact the public such as water resources, infrastructure needs, public safety and health care are all potential targets for megacommunities. When problems are so large that they cannot be solved by government, business or civil society alone, a megacommunity is often the best option. Success is more likely when a multitude of skills and resources can be leveraged along with committed efforts by many diversified groups.

The boundaries between organizations, businesses and taxpayers become murky when a megacommunity is established. The efforts of each complement the efforts of all as the group leverages the strengths of its parts. A governmental entity may contribute fiduciary resources, nonprofits may offer a structure that provides services to specialized causes and businesses may offer assistance from a variety of sources. The groups have a vested interest in a common goal that will provide citizen benefits.

When individuals find themselves members of several megacommunities because they care about many things – religious institutions, schools, work environments, etc. – it means that they are part of what could be called a latent megacommunity. The efforts are helpful, but such groups cannot be designated as intentional or active megacommunities.

While nearly every public entity, individual and institution has some relationship to a latent or unintentional megacommunity, true megacommunities are more vibrant and aggressive and all members know exactly what problem they seek to solve.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is an example of a successful megacommunity. It started as a federally incentivized program known as Promise Communities. HCZ created a megacommunity to provide disadvantaged children promising futures by providing college readiness, education and health care. The megacommunity has found ways to integrate educational assistance that begins with pre-kindergarten and continues through college. It integrates health services for both children and parents, anti-violence campaigns in the neighborhood, pre-natal parental education and other social services programs. To sustain the program, HCZ relies on private investors, nonprofits and volunteers who are committed to make Harlem a better place. The megacommunity has worked to generate support and create interest in youth education and the groups have found ways to keep the children in schools and prepare them for college. The results have been outstanding and all parties are benefitting. Government took the lead, but success would not have been possible without the involvement of all the other groups.

As social needs increase, this type of collaboration will likely be even more important. The world is changing quickly and critical issues demanding attention are huge. The combined efforts of people and groups in designated megacommunities throughout the world are experiencing tremendous success. Here’s hoping we’ll see more of this in the United States. Contact the team at Strategic Partnerships, Inc. for more information as we keep a close eye on this trend.

Mary Scott Nabers

As President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector. A well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields, she is often asked to share her industry insights with top publications and through professional speaking engagements.