Public/Private Partnership


A public–private partnership is a government service or private business venture which is funded and operated through a partnership of a government entity and one or more private sector companies. These schemes are sometimes referred to as PPP, or P3.


Public/private partnerships are necessarily formal in nature. They require all parties to clearly define roles and responsibilities through contracts, resulting in a high level of accountability. Each partner has a clear interest in success of the partnership, and commits to fulfilling their assigned responsibilities to make that happen.

There is a high degree of variability in the shape of these partnerships. In scenarios where a single, large corporate partner is involved, the project may benefit from significant financial resources. If the partnership involves a greater number of small local business partners, the project typically benefits from a strong base of investment from many diverse stakeholders.


Government entities entering into partnerships with private organizations sometimes encounter community push-back, as residents may fear that such an arrangement will privatize a public space, project or resource. This is an understandable concern. Community engagement and transparency are essential components in a success of a public/private partnership arrangement.

Deciding on the best framework for a public private partnership for public space management can be challenging, as every scenario has trade-offs. Engaging a single private partner to manage a group of public spaces is a simpler administrative undertaking, but it can reduce the individuality of a space if not done well. Creating a “kit of parts” model for working with many, small local businesses is another administratively streamlined approach, but it allows for less creative license for designers and program leaders. At the same time, a very open framework, which allows for high levels of customization with many small local partners requires a higher level of staff and financial resources. As the case studies in this section illustrate, there is no “one size fits all” model for public private partnerships. Where successful, these partnerships are creative and transparent in responding to community need and public agency resource limitations.

People St. Program | Los Angeles, CA (Photo: Jim Simmons, Rios Clementi Hale Studios)
Make Way for People | Chicago, IL (Photo: Nelson/Nygaard)