Often local governments struggle to implement sustainability programs due to lack of manpower and/or funding. However, many municipalities have overcome constrained budgets and shrinking staffs by seeking out partnerships to deploy and maintain sustainably projects. Dubuque, Iowa, is one city where strong partnerships have led to meaningful sustainability efforts.

In 2006, the Dubuque City Council formed a 40-member citizen taskforce to define a vision for a sustainable city, according to a case study released by the Sustainable Cities Institute. The result was “Sustainable Dubuque,” an initiative to promote environmental, economic and cultural prosperity.  Programs have included pilot programs to monitor utility consumption, a green business certification program and public transportation for seniors.

The Sustainable Dubuque plan, however, needed the help of other agencies to succeed. Partnerships allowed the program to flourish, and the lessons taken from those relationships may be applied to similar programs, according to the case study. Some of these partnerships, and the applicable principles include:

Partner: Greater Dubuque Development Corporation
Lesson: It is important to get the private sector on board with sustainability efforts
Because of its involvement with the GDDC, which helps promote businesses and cultivate Dubuque’s economy, Sustainable Dubuque has been a team effort between public and private entities from the beginning. According to the report, due to the partnership with the GDDC, “Sustainable Dubuque has moved forward much more quickly with the support of local businesses than it would have otherwise.”

Partner: Sustainable City Network
Lesson: Learn from community partners already engaged in sustainably efforts.
The Sustainable City Network is a business-to-government media publishing company focused on supporting sustainability initiatives across the county. The network partnered with Dubuque to host an annual two-day sustainability conference that draws nearly 500 attendees.

Partner: East Central Intergovernmental Association
Lesson: Leverage knowledge and resources from multiple communities
The East Central Intergovernmental Association is an Iowa council of governments that serves as the metropolitan planning organization and regional planning authority for several eastern Iowa communities. The collaboration benefitted both groups by promoting sustainable practices in the region and in Dubuque’s limits. Programs spurred by the partnership have included the petal project, a green business certification program, and managing an energy efficiency revolving loan fund for local businesses.

Partner: Smarter Sustainable Dubuque
Lesson: Private-public partnerships increase resources to help achieve common goals.
This private-public partnership with IBM’s Watson Research Center examines Dubuque’s utility and transportation infrastructures and practices. Pilot programs have been launched to understand water and electricity and consumption as well as visualize transit system habits – resulting in a free transportation option for seniors.

"I'm often asked by visitors and leaders from other communities… ‘What's the key to your success?' As simple as it sounds, it's partnerships...” Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol said in a statement, “We are focused not on whose idea something is, but rather, how we can work together to turn a good idea into reality."

To learn more about how partnerships can help municipal sustainability efforts, read the full report.