Lowest Common Denominator and Government Funding

3 03 2010

From where I sit, the hardest thing for Governments to achieve in the area of funding for work-force and business development is to avoid the Lowest Common Denominator effect. In a nutshell, the fear of funding schemes being taken advantage of by unscrupulous operators leads to a highly prescriptive approach, usually based around what officials can work out for themselves about what is not their specialist subject. Nett result: providers who specialise in meeting prescriptive requirements deliver programmes which rarely if ever set the world on fire. I may be jaded, but when I get close to these schemes I seem to smell money going up in smoke.

So here is the daring alternative. Remove the prescriptions about what the courses or other interventions have to comprise. Set a financial comfort level for each iteration of a programme (in other words, the quantum we should risk in return for giving the company and the service provider the chance to prove they can deliver some quantifiable outcomes). Allow companies and/or service providers to bid for the money based on the outcomes they predict they will deliver and how these will be measured (in an auditable manner of course). If the outcomes are worth the investment (and the perceived risk), they get access to the money. To the extent they actually deliver the outcomes predicted, they can access further rounds of funding, perhaps in larger quantums, but each time subject to delivering the outcomes. Failure to deliver outcomes needs to be assessed; if there are extenuating circumstances, perhaps they can apply again for a smaller quantum or upon completion of remedial actions; if the failure was because the company and/or the service provider was inept or criminal then this results in their (*not just the entities – directors where appropriate) being unable to access funding in the future.

This approach offers a world where we can dare to do great things with Government Funding. Or perhaps we should just send our people on yet another course on Customer Service that inexplicably fails to improve the experience our Customers actually have!