Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, February 23, 2007

There's got to be a better way . . .

If you've missed me lately, it's because I'm still in proposal hell. Non-profit public health and social service agencies spend so much time writing proposals, they barely have the time to do the work they propose. The investment in proposal development and writing is mostly wasted, because only a minority of proposals are funded anyway -- not because they don't deserve to be, but because there are 20 or more applicants for every grant.

The federal government got out of the business of actually making a meaningful effort to ameliorate social problems a long time ago. Instead, the pittance that's doled out through the various HHS agencies goes to "demonstration projects" and "targeted capacity expansion" and "special projects of national significance," meaning that 20 cities get a substance abuse treatment program or a disease prevention program for five years, then the funding gets yanked and the little bit of money goes someplace else. Meanwhile the agencies are in a perpetual chariot race after those ever-receding dollars. When they lose, their clients and communities just get dumped, along with their workers. And most of them, every year, have to lose.

And by the way, the ability to write a good proposal correlates only modestly with the ability to do a good job. The feds intensely monitor the programs they fund, meaning you have to spend 20% on evaluation and reporting, but they don't really care what the data says, they just care about collecting it. But however good you get at doing the program, it doesn't really matter because you'll be cut off in a few years anyway.

This is no way to run a country.

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