Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Can we venture to solve real problems with real solutions?

Something Ventured and Mark Lee's Graham fails homeless with outdated approach Mayor's new strategies are producing results, benefiting those in need, to my way of thinking, are two peas in a pod.   Both are about problem-solving.   Both are about risk and making a difference.

Something Ventured, for those who have not seen it, is a documentary about how creators and financiers came together to solve problems, to address challenges.   Some challenges, like those addressed by Genentech, are quite profound.

Mark Lee takes Councilmember Jim Graham to task for failing to support policies, programming, and budgets that have a positive impact on people.   Writes Lee,

Government inability to think and act as a business enterprise and measure performance and results rather than program size and dollars allocated is the greatest failure of bureaucrats.

That is a lesson not yet learned by D.C. elected officials. Many local leaders are content to keep doing the same thing over and over, regardless of whether it works or merely illustrates a failure of approach. The politician's reflex is to spend more money, without concern for common sense or critical evaluation.

When it comes to the homeless, no one represents this shortsightedness more than D.C. Council member and Human Services Committee chair Jim Graham.

I wish we had more "can do-itiveness" in the District when it comes to solving complex social and economic problems.   But unlike with VC and the tech world, I'm not sure more money is the solution.   Certainly, I'd like to invest more in evaluation. But I think we need to step back and answer some basic questions such as:

  • What's our goal regarding homelessness?   Do we want less?   Do we want to solve the multiple causes or just address the end result?
  • Who's got skin in the homelessness game?   That is, who is invested in the status quo?   Who's invested in disrupting the status quo?

I'm not interested in overlaying social and economic problems with tech fixes.   But what I am suggesting, as has Lee, is that we stop doing what doesn’t work and invest in something different.

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