The Problem: The federal government is lost in the muddy swamps of bad bureaucracy where pushing paperwork overwhelms any effort to look around the country and find programs that deliver results people care about.
The Bigger Mess: The federal government has no way to identify proven practices, take them to national scale or help communities share best practices and learn from each other.
The Big Idea: The problem is not the solutions. We have the solutions. The solutions are the best practices found all across America. The problem is Washington D.C. gets in the way of solutions.
Some of my favorite best practices include:
- Probation reform in New York City works through neighborhood opportunity networks -- local community-based organizations that deliver a continuum of services that help people on probation turn their lives around. It’s working. Crime and violence are at historic low levels in part because re-arrests are going down - dramatically. Prison wings are shutting down because New York City is sending fewer people to prison. Long-ignored neighborhood programs are now recognized and funded for helping turn lives around.
- In California, National Guard academies are turning around the lives of high school dropouts - successfully. These young people are finishing high school with new self-respect, discipline and hope for the future.
- In Philadelphia, a street art program is turning lives around as young people and former convicts are helping to beautify neighborhoods they once damaged.
- In Colorado, an innovative program is preventing teenage pregnancy.
- In North Carolina, a promising program aims to reduce domestic violence.
- Corporations are providing mentors to struggling students or teaching computer programming to high school drop outs.
- We can find student mediators in Iowa middle schools and “violence interrupters” in Chicago neighborhoods.
- The free community college movement is shining bright in Michigan and Tennessee.
The bonus: When we multiply solutions, cost savings also multiply.
- Require every federal department and agency to look outside Washington D.C. to identify relevant best practices around the country and describe in plain language how their budgets support best practices that deliver results.
- Identify best practices with existing federal staff and by reaching out to village, town, city, state, regional and tribal communities, organizations, businesses and governments.
- Establish a 2-year freeze on new programs, new funding and new staff that does not support proven or promising practices or respond to emergency, national needs. Stop funding programs that do not deliver results.
- Begin to move headquarters staff and resources out of Washington D.C. to support best practices throughout America.