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Notes from the Field

In Partnership We Trust

In our work examining industry sector partnerships, trust among members is often cited by participants as a critical ingredient to the consortium's success.

The Community Development team at the Cleveland Fed is researching industry sector partnerships with the goal of identifying features and constructs that can be considered by others with similar workforce development programming. (The project examines five sector partnerships and is scheduled to be released in the 1st quarter of 2016.) I had the good fortune of assisting with one portion of the study that involved interviewing members of one of the partnerships to gather general background information.

During these interviews, I was struck by a common element in many of the members’ responses to the question, “Why is this partnership successful?” It’s something I may have been taking for granted in thinking about partnerships, which is trust among the partners. I didn’t fully appreciate how insightful and powerful this answer was until after all of the interviews were completed and I began reflecting on the members and how this particular sector partnership operated. Additionally, I considered the many other partnerships I have seen across the industry, and it was then that I fully realized how central trust is to the work we do.

So, what does it mean to have trust among the partnership members? In the case of the sector partnership we examined that day, trust was simply an understanding that the information being shared was to be used to further the goals of the partnership, which include peer-to-peer learning and training incumbent workers to meet the region’s labor demand. Trust among the partners also meant the information shared was not to be used to gain a competitive business advantage over another—which is even more interesting considering that the partners at the table are direct business competitors in the region!

In hindsight, it was refreshing to hear many of the respondents explicitly cite that trust among the partners is a critical ingredient to the consortium’s success. It reminded me that building good partnerships is not something that is easily accomplished. It takes time, requires a lot of effort, and serves as a reminder to not take the core building blocks of a partnership for granted.

The views expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.