Contrasting the Cases of Two Cities in Canada
: Understanding the Factors in Building Confidence in University–City Government Collaborations

  • Joanne Curry

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


As city governments and universities expand their roles in economic development, an opportunity is created to transform a university–city relationship from an operational one to a strategic one and from co-existence to collaboration. Impacted by history and context, there are many challenges to overcome. The goal of my thesis was to understand the “doing of collaboration” and the specific management processes in university–local government collaborations. I conducted a comparative case study of a Canadian University, Simon Fraser University, and two city governments, Burnaby and Surrey. A number of management processes are critical in building a successful collaboration. Two of the most important are the use of one or more liaison people with the appropriate skills, mandate and access to resources and the involvement of representatives at different organizational levels, particularly faculty who provide access to the university’s research capacity. Bilateral city–university committees and a good relationship between the university president and city mayor are useful but not sufficient to deepen the collaboration. The involvement of third-party organizations in the university–city relationship is beneficial. The importance of trust-building processes such as attribution and dispute resolution are heightened if there is a need to overcome a negative historical incident, an isolated geographic location, or tensions over transactional issues.While management processes are important, a shared strategic goal is paramount. This shared goal may not be evident at the start of a relationship. To identify the shared goal, it is necessary to have an understanding of the most valued university roles given the city’s context and aims. Each organization must have sufficient trust to enter into a deeper collaboration and an initial condition of openness, responsiveness, and commitment is necessary. The thesis provides practical advice to cities and universities and reveals how demonstration of value can build over increasingly ambitious projects.
Date of Award22 May 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsSimon Fraser University, Vancouver
SupervisorAmmon Salter (Supervisor) & John Davies (Supervisor)


  • university-city government collaborations
  • management processes in interorganizational collaborations
  • university roles in regional economic develpment

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