Who’s Your Partner? Who’s Your Ally? Exploring the Characteristics of Public, Private, and Voluntary Recreation Linkages


  • Laura Cousens
  • Martha Barnes
  • Julie Stevens
  • Cheryl Mallen
  • Cheri Bradish


Case study methodology, linkages, partnerships, recreation, sport


Growing recognition of the importance of understanding partnerships as they relate to program delivery has emerged among theorists and practitioners in the fields of recreation and sport. However, it appears that the term partnership is used by leaders and managers of local governments to describe virtually all interactions with organizations with which they are involved, regardless of the strength or pattern of the relationships. The purpose of this research, was: (1) to examine the strength of ties (e.g., exchanges, partnerships, strategic alliances, joint ventures) between partners; (2) to explore the patterns of linkages that bind partners; (3) to uncover the amount and types of resources  (e.g., money, equipment, facilities, personnel) that connect partners; and (4) to uncover the values and beliefs that underpin the formation and enduring nature of linkages. Data were collected using a case study approach. In particular, in-depth interviews were conducted with key individuals. Those interviewed for this research included two mayors, four city councillors, and six senior leaders of organizations responsible for recreation and sport delivery in two municipalities. Results suggest that regardless of the type or pattern of linkage, participants identified their relationships as a partnership. Furthermore, in both communities, policy documents did not exist related to the management of partnerships, resulting in a lack of evaluation and unclear expectations related to the values and beliefs of partners. This research has several practical implications for organizations responsible for the delivery of recreation and sport. For example, the importance of identifying the varying types of linkages available, their strategic value, or the resource investment required of each current or potential partner was identified. This research also highlighted the need for practitioners to monitor and evaluate partnerships or linkages, a process largely overlooked, with few organizations assigning an individual to monitor ongoing relationships with other organizations. As noted in this study, establishing enduring linkages in a competitive environment is difficult. Therefore, as practitioners become more aware of the ways in which the strength and the type of interactions guide linkages, it is likely the field will begin to see park and recreation organizations seeking partners with compatible values and beliefs.