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Tensions in public-private collaborations discussed

Feb. 2, 2007

KALAMAZOO--When a local hospital threatened to relocate to an area outside the city unless its location in a low-income neighborhood could be made safer and more attractive, the city marshaled forces with public and private entities to revitalize the neighborhood.

Such efforts are an example of the kind of public-private economic development partnerships that will be explored by a visiting communication scholar Wednesday, Feb. 7, as part of Western Michigan University's 2006-07 Visiting Scholars and Artists Series.

Dr. Joann Keyton, professor of communication at University of Kansas and an internationally recognized communication researcher, will speak on "Uncovering the Public-Private Tensions in the Collaborative Process" from noon to 1 p.m. in 3508 Knauss Hall. Her presentation, sponsored by the WMU School of Communication, is free and open to the public.

Keyton will address strategies of communication and influence that occur when communities decide that "something" needs to be done to resolve an issue and collaborate with private groups, including local business leaders, to do so. In many cases, the stakeholders in these partnerships have differing motivations and strategies, which create and reinforce tensions between the two.

"The outcomes in the Kalamazoo collaboration were public goods befitting society as a whole, and creating those outcomes did not create significant personal or private monetary gain for any one partner," says Keyton.

"However, in economic development that requires an infusion of capital and resources, 'who owns' the outcome is diffused. The public doesn't own or control the new business, although the economy is benefiting from it. So who gets to have input? Who should have input?"

Keyton's presentation will analyze a case of economic development collaboration that involved 2 states, 16 counties and more than 300 municipalities and she'll discuss what communication processes did and didn't work in that effort.

Keyton, a WMU alumna, has had research published in numerous communication and management journals as well as written college textbooks on group communication, research methods and organizational culture. She is the editor of Communication Currents, a new online journal of the National Communication Association, as well as the associate editor of the journal Small Group Research, and former editor of the Journal of Applied Communication Research.

For more information contact Dr. Julie Apker, WMU assistant professor of communication, at julie.apker@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3140.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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