Partnering and Leveraging
III:Steps in Partnering and Leveraging
circumstance is different, four steps generally define the partnering process. These are: cultivate partner relationships, review the need to partner,
structure the partnership and manage the process. Each step is discussed here
and summarized in Table 1.
Table 1: Steps in Building
Define a Specific Need
Structure the Partnership
tribe’s capabilities and needs
|Network with your counterparts
potential partner’s capabilities and needs
consensus on objectives
professional work environment
in the decisionmaking process
roles and responsibilities
projects of mutual interest
agreement from tribal leadership
resources each partner will contribute
Step 1: Cultivate
Positive relations with your transportation counterparts
set the ground work for successful partnering.It is a continuous process that
is undertaken whether there is an immediate opportunity to partner or not. It involves
networking, collaboration and fostering trust with other transportation professionals.
Networking is the exchange of information or services among individuals and groups, specifically for the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
- Identify networking venues. There are many networking
venues for cultivating professional relationships. Their purpose is to promote
training, information exchange and networking.Networking venues may include:
- – Statewide Transportation Summits
- – Regional Transportation Symposiums
- – Area Transportation Conferences
- – Training Workshops and Classes
The State DOT, MPO and the Tribal Technical
Assistance Program (TTAP) are often sponsors of these activities.An example is the Michigan Tribal Transportation
Safety Summit (http://www.ttap.mtu.edu/index.php?p=mittss)
hosted in 2012 by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian
Tribe and co-sponsored by FHWA, the Michigan DOT and the
- Network with Transportation Professionals. Participation in these networking
venues has many benefits. They will enhance your understanding of current transportation
issues and increase your and the tribe’s exposure to partnering opportunities. Participation will increase your understanding of how other transportation
agencies work; their key personnel, their policies and projects; and their
sources of funding. You, in turn, educate your colleagues on the tribe’s transportation
policies and funding; and familiarize them with its LRTP and Transportation
Improvement Program (TIP). The process of communicating each other’s needs and
programs should be reciprocal.
- Participate in the transportation decisionmaking process.Other important networking venues are the policy and
advisory committees created by State and regional transportation agencies to
ensure tribal participation in the transportation planning process.
Federal Laws Requiring Tribal Consultation
Title 23 USC - Highways - for impacts on tribal properties by Federal-aid projects.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – for environmental impacts on tribal properties.
National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) – for impacts on tribal historic, religious and cultural properties.
Federal laws require State and regional
transportation agencies to consult with tribal governments on projects and
plans that may impact tribal lands and properties. These laws are listed in the
text box. The consultation process is an opportunity for you, as the tribe’s
representative, to participate in these forums. The consultation, for example,
may involve participation in a MPO or statewide transportation advisory group. Use
these opportunities as networking venues and to familiarize yourself with
State, regional and local transportation personnel; policies and projects; and
funding resources. Take the opportunity to communicate your tribe’s
transportation policies, projects and needs.
Check with the tribal liaison (or similar personnel) of the State DOT
and MPO to determine the committees and events in which tribal participation is
invited and encouraged.
TIP #2: Review the Introduction to Planning module and the Tribal
Consultation module. They provide information on Federal requirements in
tribal transportation planning and consultation. Consider ways to increase
TIP #3: Review the Financial
the Transportation Improvement Program and Developing
a Long-Range Transportation Plan modules. These
cover the many purposes and uses of the LRTP and TIP.
Cultivate Partner Relationships
- Identify networking venues.
- Network with your counterparts.
- Participate in the transportation decisionmaking process.
- Discuss projects of mutual interest.
- Discuss projects of mutual interest. In
the course of your networking, you may discover (or be informed of) interests and
opportunities for collaborating on a specific project of mutual interest to the
tribe. It is in these informal encounters that information is exchanged, relationships
are forged, trust is strengthened and partnerships take root.
- Benefits. The benefits of this first step in Partnerships and
- – Greater understanding of transportation
resources and potential funding.
- – Increased knowledge of the
transportation planning process impacting tribal interests.
- – Stronger ties and trust within your
Step 2: Define a Specific Need.
If you consider pursuing a partnership,
you will need to consider how the tribe will participate, contribute and
benefit. This second step is an evaluation for determining the need for a
- Review internal capabilities and needs. Assess the tribe’s resources and how these resources match
the tribe’s needs. Generally, the decision to enter into a partnership results
from a determination that the tribe will benefit from the partnership either
because of a shortfall in tribal resources or to supplement its existing resources
and strengthen its ability to compete for Federal funds. What resources can the
tribe contribute to the partnership and what will it need from the partners? This
assessment should result in a listing of the tribe’s strengths (contributions to the partnership) and weaknesses (needs from the partnership), shown
Tribe’s Internal Evaluation
Strengths and Needs in Undertaking a Partnership Project
Tribe Strengths (Contributions)
- Committed funding in IRR and FTA Grants (covering 30% of project cost)
- Plans and policies that endorse the project (LRTP and TTIP)
- Labor and manpower for operating the project services
- Grant writing capability.
Tribe Needs (Deficiencies)
- Additional funding—60% of project cost
- Skill in operating the transportation service
- Technical assistance and training
- Expertise in managing similar projects
- Evaluate potential partners. In addition to the tribe’s evaluation of its resources and needs, the capabilities of the potential partners should be
considered and evaluated. Much of this will be informed by earlier
observations, networking and informal discussions on the prospect of
partnering. For the purpose of this training, assume three agencies have
informally expressed interest in partnering on a project. One method for
matching partner resources with tribe needs (which were determined above) is
presented in Table 2.
Potential Partner 1 has all of the preferred pre-requisites including access to
funding; skill in operating the service; knowledge of tribal needs and
sovereignty; and successful past performance. Potential Partners 2 and 3 offer
fewer resources but could support in other areas. From this and the earlier
evaluation of the tribe’s capabilities, it appears a project partnership may be
viable and beneficial to the tribe, especially with Potential Partner 1.
Table 2: Partner Evaluation
|Tribe’s Needs for Undertaking the Project
||Capability and Resources
|Access to project funding to cover tribe’s shortfall
|Skill in designing and operating the service
|Technical assistance and training capability
|Expertise in managing similar projects
|Other Critical Factors
|Knowledge of tribal needs and sovereignty
|Past performance in partnering with tribes
|Sound reasoning for partnering on the project
|Willingness to commit to long-term relationship
- Assess legal ramifications. Tribes are sovereign nations. Any decision to partner with another agency
should involve legal review. In this initial phase, written or verbal opinion should
be sought from the tribe’s attorney to assess whether a potential partnership
will or will not impact or compromise sovereignty. Generally and in most cases
tribal partnerships with outside agencies have not diminished sovereignty. However, should the tribe proceed to Steps 3 and 4 in this module, involvement
of the tribe’s attorney should be continuous in the drafting and review of any
partnership agreement, for example, and in discussion with tribal leadership.
TIP #4:For more information
on tribal sovereignty, review the Statewide,
MPO and FHWA Role in Tribal Consultation module.
- Seek agreement from tribal leadership. Your communications with tribal
leadership on the possibility of a partnership is as important at this time as
your earlier networking with the outside agencies. Explain the purpose and
justification for the partnership to them. This may include:
- – Gaps in tribal resources resulting in delay
in executing the tribal transportation program.
- – Reliable expressions of interest in
partnering on the project from an outside agency.
- – Knowledge of each partner’s resources,
needs and capabilities.
- – Favorable initial legal review on tribal
Review the Need to Partner (Internally)
- Review the tribe’s capabilities and needs.
- Evaluate potential partner’s capabilities and needs.
- Assess legal ramifications.
- Seek agreement from tribal leadership.
If tribal leadership agrees with your
proposal, discuss its role. Which leader or leaders should participate in
partnership activities - and why? This should be understood before formal action
is taken with the outside agency.
- Benefits. The
benefits of this second step in Partnerships and Leveraging are:
- – Sharper focus on the purpose of the
partnership and each partner’s contribution and capabilities.
- – Assessment of the impact on tribal
- – Buy-in from tribal leadership.
Step 3: Structure the Partnership.
With a mutual decision to move forward by
the tribe and the outside agency, a framework will be needed for the
- Initiate formal partnership. The formal invitation to partner should be presented in a written document explaining the reason for partnering, the mutual benefits to partnering and the
process, roles, time frame and expected outcome. This is the starting point for
crafting the Partnership Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) or Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU).These documents are similar and discussion with legal
counsel should help to determine which to use.
An example of the key points to be covered is provided here:
Example Partnership Agreement Key Points
Reason for Partnership: Connect regional
and tribal bus lines.
Objective: Identify best
operational design for route extensions.
Process: Sign agreement that
outlines process and steps for achieving objectives.
Roles: Detail tribe and outside
agency responsibilities and resources they will commit.
Funding: List all funding
sources to cover project capital and annual operating costs.
Time Frame: Define project
phases and expected date of completion.
Expected Outcome: New Regional-Tribal
bus links in 2 years.
- Achieve consensus on objectives.In the first of perhaps many
meetings, the objectives and needs of both parties should be spelled out. The
interest and commitments expressed earlier by the tribe and agency should be
The Partnership Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is a formal agreement between the agencies that memorializes their roles, responsibilities and commitments in the partnership.
- Agree on roles and responsibilities. The weight of partnership
responsibilities should be balanced. The least desired outcome would be for the
tribe to undertake all or most of the responsibilities and the partner, none. The
questions the partners should mutually answer may include:
- – What is the specific role of each party?
- – How will the activities of the partnership be monitored?
- – If one partner believes the partnership is not
performing as expected, how should this be addressed and resolved?
terms and provisions should be spelled out in the partnership agreement.
Structure the Partnership
- Initiate formal partnership.
- Achieve consensus on objectives.
- Agree on roles and responsibilities.
- Identify the resources each partner will contribute.
Identify the resources each party will contribute. The reason the tribe is engaging in the
partnership is to leverage its resources and increase its capacity to successfully
complete the project. In this, there should be a clear understanding, beyond
the earlier informal discussions, on the resources to be committed by each
The tribe may commit, for example, a portion of its IRR allocation and awarded
tribal transit grants. The outside agency may commit a portion of its Federal program
funds and its capability to perform technical project tasks and train tribal personnel.
The partnership may also include a commitment to apply for future Federal grants
together. The agreement, signed by each partner, communicates these commitments
and how mutual interests will be served.
- Benefits. The benefits of this third
step in Partnership and Leveraging are:
- – Initiate formal partnership agreement.
- – Achieve consensus on objectives.
- – Agree on roles and responsibilities.
- – Identify the resources each partner will contribute.
TIP #5: Appendix B: Review
the Partnership Memorandum of Agreement between the Indian Township Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Maine Department of Transportation. It has similar
features to those discussed here.
Practice While You Learn!
In reviewing the Spur Roads-SR103 project on page 3:
- Who are the potential partners for the tribe?
- What common project goal and objective do they share?
- What would be the benefits of partnering with them?
- What could each contribute to the partnership?
Step 4: Manage
the Partnership Process.
This final step focuses on monitoring the
partnership to ensure it succeeds in achieving the mutual objectives of the
- Build trust. Interactions among the parties must be efficient and
open. This is facilitated by information sharing, scheduled meetings, presentations
to leadership, field trips, training sessions and appreciation events. The
objective, in addition to completing the project (on-time and within budget), should
be to strengthen relationships and foster mutual respect among the partners.
- Develop professional work environment. Any work
generated by the partnership should be managed professionally. If grant
applications are generated, minutes recorded, legal opinions issued, analysis
conducted or costs shared, these records should be accessible to either party
at any time. Preserving its records legitimizes the partnership and strengthens
it for future opportunities.
- Evaluate performance. At regular
intervals, the partnership agreement should be revisited and its performance evaluated. The partners should discuss:
- – Were the objectives achieved?
- – Did each party fulfill its responsibilities?
- – What worked well?
- – What should improve?
Manage the Process
- Build trust.
- Develop professional work environment.
- Evaluate performance.
- Capture lessons learned.
- Capture lessons learned.The lessons from the partnership will inform and strengthen the tribe’s
capabilities. Observations on performance should be documented and shared with
tribal leadership as lessons learned.
- Benefits. The benefits of this last basic step in
Partnership and Leveraging are:
- –Completion of the tribal project.
- –Trust and mutual respect to fortify future
- –Lessons learned.
Practice While You Learn!
How can the four basic steps described here in building partnerships and leveraging resources be applied to the Spur Roads-SR103 project on page 3?