#27 – Building relationships with local governments and nonprofits; with Dr. John Diamond, Dr. Sarah L Young and Dr. Thomas Bryer.

Posted by: on April 18th, 2023

How would you describe the relationship between academia and practitioners, in the field of public administration and non-profits?

My guests today take a deep dive into this conversation. Dr. John Diamond, Dr. Sarah L. Young and Dr. Thomas Bryer are actively engaged with this question. We begin and end with the idea that relationships between these sectors hold great potential. We explore examples. We talk about what holds us back from making these relationships. But most importantly, we talk about how these relationships come about.

The show notes provide some good stopping points along the way if you wish to dip into this conversation. They also provide links to some of the references provided in the episode.

So, do we want these relationships, and if so, why? What are we willing to invest in terms of time, social capital and energy to realize them? This conversation is a beginning point to explore how we bridge the divide in our worlds to create better, stronger communities.


John Diamond, Professor Emeritus, Edge Hill University, Lancashire, England.

Thomas Bryer, Professor, School of Public Administration, Central Florida University

Thomas Bryer is professor in the School of Public Administration and director of community-engaged scholarship at the University of Central Florida. He is also professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities at Kaunas University of Technology in Lithuania and visiting professor in the Institute for Social Responsibility at Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom. He served as a Fulbright scholar in Lithuania from 2015-2017 and a Fulbright specialist in Russia in 2018.

He is the author or editor of 8 books, with three more under contract. Among these is: Higher Education Beyond Job Creation: Universities, Citizenship and Community. (2014) and Promoting Civic Health through University-Community Partnerships: Global Contexts and Experiences (2021).

He is co-editor of a book series for Palgrave Macmillan: “Rethinking University-Community Policy Connections.” Prior to his career in academia, he worked for a nonprofit government consulting organization, the Council for Excellence in Government. Bryer can regularly be found teaching workshops and webinars for the International City County Management Association on various topics, including combating disinformation, creating a social media policy and plan, and building relationships with local universities. He can be contacted at thomas.bryer@ucf.edu

Mentioned in podcast episode: Tom Bryer, The Effective Local Government Manager author of Chapter 6, ” Achieving Effective Community Leadership in the Future.”

Sarah L. Young, Associate Professor & Director of Research for KSU CARES

Dr. Sarah L. Young is an Associate Professor in the School of Government & International Affairs at Kennesaw State University. She also serves as co-Director of the Master of Public Administration Program and the Director of Research for KSU CARES, a campus support program for students who experienced foster care or homelessness. Dr. Young’s research uses systems-based approaches to study the intersection of nonprofit and public management, academic and social equity, and public crises.

Dr. Young earned her Ph.D. from Florida State University’s Askew School of Public Administration and Policy and her M.B.A. in nonprofit management from the University of Tampa Sykes College of Business. Dr. Young is on the editorial boards of the academic journals Teaching Public Administration and Journal of Public Affairs Education. Her research is published in Public Administration, Nonprofit Management & Leadership, American Review of Public Administration, Journal of Public Affairs Education, and other leading academic journals. Dr. Young has accrued almost $2.0 million in funded grants and routinely serves as a subject matter expert in national and international news outlets like Nonprofit Quarterly, Medium.com, and the London School of Economics’ Policy and Politics column, among others.

Dr. Young has won multiple awards for her leadership and scholarship. In 2022, she and her co-authors won the American Society of Public Administration’s 2022 nonprofit scholarship award. Additionally, her recent article, “Erased: Why faculty sexual misconduct is prevalent and how we could prevent it” went viral on social media, catalyzing a movement that united 15 of the leading academic journals, along with numerous associations and institutions, to address faculty sexual misconduct. For this work, Dr. Young won the university’s leadership award in 2021 and the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration – Journal of Public Affairs Education outstanding article of the year award in 2022.

To learn more about Dr. Sarah Young, please visit www.NonprofitPhD.com or @Nonprofit_PhD on Twitter.


Definition of critical friend

The Institute for Local Government

5:20 Why relationship building? How are the parameters shaped? Can we create equal partnerships?

11:25 The relationally intelligent manager is the manager who is aware of the diverse array of stakeholders within their orbit.

11:48 There’s a known gap in the relationship between local governments and local universities.

14:15 There’s no major footprint in terms of what it’s supposed to look like for a university to work with a community.

15:12 Communities need to dictate what communities need.

17:05 Conferences are not particularly interested in the world outside our discipline…it’s important I think to think about our conference as a way of genuinely meeting people.

21:16 A few conferences are better at blending academics and practitioners, e.g., SXSW EDU and AERA

24:19 We have to be, comfortable breaking out of whatever shell we might have within ourselves to to engage sometimes awkward conversations.

27:55 We have partnered with the City of Orlando, with Orange County, with some nonprofit organizations, faith organizations to help deploy these air quality monitors throughout the, region..

32:36 We brought a group of students to live down on White Oak Pasture’s Farm for the summers…And it turned out that there was a water infrastructure issue with the local government … the water infrastructure for the county was literally tapped out..

34:35 How do we maintain ourselves…be open to random randomness…not to prejudge, predetermine what the relationship might look like and being open to what comes out of the gut …

37:40 Barriers to relationship can be quite significant

41:21 Why do academics hold back? It’s about the extent to which the culture ..is supportive ..and how academics balance the workload between teaching, scholarship research and, what we’re talking about.

43:26 How this issue is viewed in different parts of the world…

46:31 What is the felt or actual discretion researchers and professors have to engage with community?

49:13 The Walking School Bus example .. relationships don’t start with bureaucracies.

53:29 We created essentially a portal that allowed nonprofits to, to interact and put in requests with the university.

56:28 We’re, given very strict guidelines on what is necessary to make tenure. And that’s the, golden goose in academia…

57:30 What we need to do is, present ourselves as fellow members of a shared geographic community.

1:01 So … what this looks like is a combination and an integration of experiential knowledge and expert knowledge stripping away the artificial walls that separate us..

1:07 Informal vs formal process … the experience of the community can be quite different for some members.

1:08 Building trust and relationships; actions of the local government may be in conflict with some members of community. How can we help?

1:10 Small “p” political conversations. The importance of neutrality.

1:19 What does your ideal invitation look like?

About Nancy J. Hess

I help leaders pioneer extraordinary change through high engagement and whole systems approaches that focus on HR and People.