The Practice of Collaborative Government

by Bryan Payton
August 13, 2013

Bryan Payton ’15 is an Impact Providence intern working in the Office of Mayor Angel Taveras.


What is enticing about municipal government is not only the lessons learned from a rich history of politics at City Hall, but also how localized the impact that can be made. All too often I see powerful, albeit small, moments of difference.

Throughout my summer, I have participated in a range of activities that create tangible differences in the lives of Providence residents. Ranging from improving financial stability for low-income residents, promoting inclusive access for minority and women businesses, and updating city ordinances to embrace gender identity in its clauses, all of these projects demonstrated to me the role city government has in shaping opportunity for all citizens, even if a municipality does not have the same level of resources or power as a federal or state authority.

One highlight can be seen in the recently enacted RI Marriage Equality law that went into effect last week. A swarm of people participated in the process of marrying the person they love; some of these ceremonies were overseen by the Mayor himself so he could show his support. When City Hall became an open arms extension of fairness in Rhode Island, it was uplifting to see how municipal governments can respond to a need, and deliver on it.

People look to their public servants as the proactive individuals addressing the issues facing the community. I have learned this summer that in order to understand the complexity of solving problems like poverty, homelessness, food access, etc, the collaborative method always works better. City government functions best when it searches for the most innovative solutions used across the country, or finds local organizations to partner with and build on already established community groups. As my summer fellowship comes to an end, I have come to appreciate the practice of collaborative government that works with the community, rather than for it, in addressing needs. It feels good to direct people to services—whether that be starting their own business, finding youth programs for their children, or seeking employment help— that builds on resources already available in the community.