Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Should Our Efforts Be Broad or Deep?

I have seen that question raised at least three times in the past week, albeit on different topics.

One place was at a focus group for the City of Kenosha, Department of City Development on Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). I was asked to attend one of these sessions because the original recipient of the invitation could not go. It was an eye-opening session about the city’s efforts to use available money to provide decent housing, a suitable living environment, and economic opportunity in Kenosha. The CDBG national objectives must meet three criteria. The funds are to be used to 1) benefit low and moderate income persons, 2) prevention of slum and blight and 3) respond to an urgent need.

The focus group, one of several being held by the city, was given an overview of past efforts and had the chance to comment on its strengths and weakness. We then were asked to identify future needs, and of course, several were named. Finally, we were asked to rank the future projects and that is where the question of broad or deep came up. Should the city continue to focus in depth on programs that already exist or broaden its efforts into new areas?

I saw the same question, phrased almost the same way, about the $475M set aside for Great Lakes Restoration projects. In clicking around today, I found this question and a poll on the website Great Lakes Echo, which was the first time I saw this website. Great Lakes Echo is a project of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University. Org.

Check out the poll. Place your vote. The question is whether the $475M should be spent for many small projects, several big projects, or one huge project. In the tally this morning, the majority of the vote was for deep rather than broad. Almost half the voters said fewer than 10 projects should be funded, and there were two votes for funding only one big project. That, by the way, pretty much parallels the response at the city focus group. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing and not dilute our efforts, most people said.

The third place the question was raised for me this week had to do with personal finances. And there were only two of us voting. And we agreed to do deep rather than broad. So three out of three scenarios agreed that deep is better than broad. What do you say?

Actually, in the ideal world I would say broad with deep pockets.

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