Nonprofit Partnership: The Boston Music Education Collaborative

John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard)



Case Study Sector

Community Building

When a Boston-area philanthropist decides to help renew and reform the music curriculum of the Boston public schools, she looks to three well-established Boston nonprofits as logical partners. The Boston Music Educational Collaborative (BMEC) would draw on the complementary strengths of a music school (The New England Conservatory of Music), a performing arts institution (The Boston Symphony Orchestra) and a high-tech educational institution (the WGBH Educational Foundation, flagship public television station). The partnership, logical on paper, proves rocky in practice when the institutions must jointly decide who will serve as BMEC's executive director and how to cope with a financial crisis which threatens to force them to pledge their own funds. Staff for all three, and the collaborative's own staff, find the situation difficult. Complicating their own difficulties is the ambivalence of the system toward which help is to be directed: the Boston Public Schools. The case is designed to highlight the ways in which varying institutional goals and constraints complicate the workings of partnerships.



  • Partnership
  • Strategy


  • Northern America

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