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Master's Professional Reports Abstract



Implementing Welfare-to-Work Through Public-Private Partnerships
Harrick, Gregory Thomas
REPORT 1999 H2355 Public Affairs Library

This report formulates a hypothesis that public-private partnerships can improve welfare-to-work outcomes at the local level. Empirical analysis of this subject is impractical since national welfare reform is less than three years old. Before such analysis is possible, it is necessary to understand the historical and theoretical framework of welfare-to-work programs and public-private partnerships. Finding viable strategies to help move welfare recipients into work is a timely and important public policy issue. Welfare recipients need jobs before they reach their time limits and lose their benefits. Businesses need employees as a result of the labor shortage caused by low unemployment. Nonprofit service agencies, churches and other community-based organizations need to adjust to the changes in the welfare system to better serve poor residents. Throughout the country, public-private partnerships are attempting to meet the complementary needs of these groups.

This report begins with a historical overview of welfare in the United States. It describes the evolution of the modern welfare system and the major welfare-to-work programs of the past sixty years. It examines labor market trends and economic policies that affect caseload and employment levels. It also charts the devolution of welfare responsibility from the federal level to state and local governments. Historical lessons are relevant to today.

The theoretical section of the report illustrates the rationale for public-private partnerships and the challenges associated with them. It emphasizes the importance of developing cross-sector, complementary relationships between entities in order to achieve common goals. The public, private and independent sectors have diverse roles in partnerships but share responsibility for the overall initiative. The practical application of welfare-to-work partnerships is demonstrated through the development, activities and accomplishments of three public-private partnerships in Wisconsin, Indiana and Texas. Although the partnerships share common characteristics, they differ considerably in their formation, leadership and strategies.

The report concludes by providing specific recommendations related to the development and implementation of welfare-to-work partnerships. The recommendations are as follows: Find a leader that all members will follow;

  1. Be realistic about the goals of the partnership;
  2. Define members' roles before getting started;
  3. Foster trust and commitment among members;
  4. Set clear objectives and priorities;
  5. Adopt evaluation policies;
  6. Identify and secure funds early on;
  7. Use work-first and skills-building approaches;
  8. Improve service coordination via partnership networks;
  9. Involve employers in partnership meetings and activities;
  10. Prepare for unfavorable economic condition.
The recommendations are drawn from the historical, theoretical and practical lessons presented in this >report. They are intended to help public-private partnerships implement welfare-to-work at the local level.