Identifying New and Innovative Partnerships for North Carolina Sea Grant


Virdin, John

Cedzo, Emily

Ferguson, Marianne

Koboski, Theodore





Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences


The National Sea Grant College program was established in 1966 under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in order to unite universities with public and private sector partners. The program’s goal is to support coastal research intended to yield economic and social benefits. North Carolina Sea Grant (NCSG) was founded in 1970 and designated as the nation’s 12th Sea Grant College in 1976. NCSG works to provide unbiased, science-based information to enhance the sustainable use and conservation of ocean and coastal resources to benefit communities, the economy and the environment in North Carolina. Given its unique position as a producer of objective research and education, NCSG partners with a wide array of different stakeholders in the North Carolina community. In order to expand their current resource base and extend their impact across the state, NCSG seeks new opportunities to engage with external entities with whom they are not already affiliated. The objective of this research is to identify potential industry, non-governmental, academic, and/or state and local program partnerships in which collaboration would be beneficial to furthering NCSG’s mission, increasing the impact and efficiency of their work. The methods of analysis for this project were twofold: (1) to first understand the structure and function of Sea Grant, specifically NCSG and its current partnership framework and (2) to identify and evaluate innovative potential partnerships for the future of NCSG. We performed program evaluation in order to assess NCSG’s current operations, impacts, and reporting. In order to map the current landscape of stakeholders and the capacities at which these partnerships operate, we utilized NCSG’s website and three sets of documents: The National Sea Grant College Program’s list of partners, NCSG’s Program Focus Area Reports from 2010-2013, and the mailing list for NCSG’s magazine, Coastwatch. For details on NCSG’s current thought process on partnerships, we reviewed the minutes of the NCSG Board’s Partnership Advisory Group. Next, we developed and conducted a survey of the NCSG team to assess their most significant existing partnerships and areas where team members wished to see partnerships formed in the future. Through these results we developed new partnership language to help NCSG categorize the capacities of each of the partnerships they maintain and to provide consistency and clarity when discussing these both internally and externally. Next, we performed a gap analysis to identify areas within NCSG’s existing partner network where new, potential partnerships could be formed. By using the new partnership capacity language alongside NCSG’s current focus areas, we assessed past and current partners to find any existing gaps. Through our analysis, several findings were discovered. First, NCSG has engaged with at least 106 unique partners, including both past and present. These existing partners were sorted into partnership category types to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how NCSG’s partnership efforts are distributed. Next, as a result of our gap analysis, we were able to identify three unique partnership category types that are lacking in NCSG’s current partner framework – community groups, non-governmental organizations, and entities in the private sector. Using our newly created partnership capacity language, we were then able to identify gaps in the depth of NCSG’s partnerships. Of these partnership capacity types, NCSG could nurture more financial and outreach partnerships in order to address areas for improvement in their engagement efforts. Conclusions drawn from the methodology and findings can be used to inform next steps that NCSG can take in its collaborative work with partners. The following are the recommendations presented to NCSG with a goal to enhance their past, current and future engagement with partners:

  1. Incorporate new language to classify and define types of partnership capacities to use during internal and/or external dialogue and reporting in regards to engagement practices.
  2. Utilize gap analysis results to identify areas for improvement where new partners should be identified and sought out.
  3. Seven new potential partners for future collaboration and their respective identifying information.
  4. Principles for effective partnerships that represent best practices that can be used to guide NCSG and their partners as they engage. In conclusion, this project utilized program evaluation, stakeholder mapping, survey development and administration, and gap analysis to identify areas for improvement for NCSG to gain more depth and breadth in their future partnerships. As an organization that provides unbiased, science-based information, NCSG will continue to have numerous opportunities to create long-lasting, beneficial partnerships that will deepen the impact of their work in North Carolina. We suggest that NCSG utilize our above recommendations in order to move forward in the engagement processes. Once the NCSG team and Advisory Board review the findings in this report, next steps will be to further examine the seven potential partners we recommended. Team members or Advisory Board representatives should initiate contact with these organizations to explore whether opportunities to pursue partnerships exist. The partnership capacity language can be used to aid the Advisory Board in determining these partners and others for future projects and programs. The principles for effective partnerships can guide the initiation stages of any new partnership while also providing a general framework for engagement with these new entities. In addition, the 106 unique partners identified can be used to update NCSG’s internal list of partners. NCSG should maintain this list and keep it updated as they move forward, in order to better reflect on past and current work carried out with their respective partners. Altogether, NCSG possesses great potential to further extend their reach and increase their impact across North Carolina, expanding on their already tremendous accomplishments.




North Carolina Sea Grant


Sea Grant


Gap Analysis


Partner Engagement


Stakeholder Analysis


Identifying New and Innovative Partnerships for North Carolina Sea Grant


Master's project




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