Wednesday, December 16, 2009

With progressives in charge, this is what you get

In 2007, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) held a seminar for the nonprofits vying for a piece of $78 million in funding. Grant seekers were told that in the next funding cycle, they would be required — for the first time — to provide quantifiable proof their programs were accomplishing something.

The room exploded with outrage. This wasn't fair. "What if we can bring in a family we've helped?" one nonprofit asked. Another offered: "We can tell you stories about the good work we do!" Not every organization is capable of demonstrating results, a nonprofit CEO complained. He suggested the city's funding process should actually penalize nonprofits able to measure results, so as to put everyone on an even footing. Heads nodded: This was a popular idea.

There are two lessons here. First, many San Francisco nonprofits believe they're entitled to money without having to prove that their programs work. Second, until 2007, the city agreed. Actually, most of the city still agrees. DCYF is the only city department that even attempts to track results. It's the model other departments are told to aspire to.

But Maria Su, DCYF's director, admitted that accountability is something her department still struggles with. It can track "output" — what a nonprofit does, how often, and with how many people — but it can't track "outcomes." It can't demonstrate that these outputs — the very things it pays nonprofits to do — are actually helping anyone.

"Believe me, there is still hostility to the idea that outcomes should be tracked," Su says. "I think we absolutely need to be able to provide that level of information. But it's still a work in progress." In the meantime, the city is spending about $500 million a year on programs that might or might not work.
This includes San Francisco's signature initiatives. Is Newsom's pet project, Care Not Cash, "meeting its goals" as his office claims? Hard to say: "We neither investigated the number or percentage of clients participating in support services by individual service, nor attempted to assess the outcomes of clients participating in services," the controller's 2008 audit reads. This means the city paid for support services for more than 2,200 homeless people, but never tracked how many were actually using the services. It also never checked whether those who were using the services were helped by them. While Care Not Cash has undoubtedly found housing for some people, it has no evidence to suggest that their lives are better because of it, or that they're not still spending time on the streets getting into the same trouble they got into before
That's just two of the fine examples of progressive idiocy and craven politicians in general and unions running that city; go read it all.

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