Creating Successful School-Business Partnerships

By Mara B. Huber and James A. Williams

In this climate of dwindling resources and increasing expectations, educational partnerships are suddenly on the radar. Gone are the days of casual dalliances with college and business partners resulting in endless luncheons, photo opportunities, and flexible pots of money. In their place loom long-term commitments, shared accountability, and very real resources tied to partnership outcomes.

If you find your palms sweating at the thought, you are among the large number of reluctant partners in need of support.

We have all grown comfortable with the thick layer of gray that surrounds educational partnerships. Regardless of outcomes, we know there are few tangible repercussions when initiatives fall short. Viewed as peripheral to our primary job responsibilities, partnerships often are left to fizzle before their potential is realized.

The truth is that many partnerships are doomed to be underwhelming based on the sheer scale of intercultural and interpersonal differences. The worlds of public school, higher education, nonprofits, and business are all so profoundly disparate that one can almost hear an audible sigh of relief when grants run their course or programs are terminated.

And yet the promise of collaboration remains sweeter than ever. Programs and resources needed to fulfill our respective missions can be found just next door. Universities seek students and research subjects; agencies need youth to support; and schools seek professionals and services for their students, making us all key players in one another’s productions. 

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