Tuesday, July 2, 2013

From Scarcity to Abundance: Resource Liberation Through the Power of Shared Services

Peter Diamandis’ book “Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think” promotes an idea that is imperative for our time. The idea is that scarcity is contextual – it may be true that certain resources are scarce, or it may be that they’re simply inaccessible.

Says Diamandis, “imagine a giant orange tree packed with fruit. If I pluck all the oranges from the lower branches, I am effectively out of accessible fruit. From my limited perspective, oranges are now scarce. But once someone invents a piece of technology called a ladder, I’ve suddenly got new reach. Problem solved. Technology is a resource-liberating mechanism. It can make the once scarce the now abundant.”

Priority Based Budgeting as a Resource-Liberating Mechanism

People and money are among the resources that we feel are scarce these days in local government. We don't have enough money to maintain our services. We don't have enough people to do the work. We seek tax increases because inherently we feel we need more and more to do the job.

But what if we actually had all the resources we ever needed? What if our scarcity problem was also contextual? What if we found out we had more resources than we need to build hugely successful communities? Is it possible that our people and our money (human and financial resources) are literally tied up, locked into providing services that may be of lesser priority, and/or services that other service providers (public and private) are willing and able to provide?

Through the lens of Priority Based Budgeting, communities are finding ways to free those resources and re-allocate them to new and extremely important programs and initiatives. They’re also finding the other community resources able to share in the pursuit of achieving Results. 

Douglas County, Nevada – Creating Funding for New Transportation Infrastructure

There is no shortage of studies documenting the significant backlog in improvements necessary to bring the nation’s transportation infrastructure to where it needs to be. The dramatic failure of Washington’s I-5 bridge was a devastating reminder of the vulnerability we all face with this problem.

So how is it that a County in one of the most severely punished economies in the U.S. (in the State of Nevada) is able to find the resources to fund over $1 Million in new roads?

Douglas County, Nevada has successfully identified new solutions to fund long-awaited transportation infrastructure needs with their shift  to Priority Based Budgeting. See Douglas County newsletter article "Priority Budgeting Leads to $1 Million for Roads."

“For the past decade, the County has spent approximately $300,000 per year on preventative road maintenance, but with the Board’s actions to shift funds from lower priority services next fiscal year the County will now spend approximately $1.5 million on preventative road maintenance. Another $3-4 million per year is needed to maintain County roads at their current condition.

After five years of budget imbalances, position eliminations and reductions in services, Douglas County has set itself on course to invest taxpayer resources in high priority services that add value to residents.”

Douglas County, Nevada has reallocated resources to increase transportation funding my millions of dollars – all local dollars at play!

Fort Collins, Colorado – A Community Partner, Tackling Job Growth in the Region

Like so many other cities in the nation, Fort Collins is determined to improve the health of their local economy. So how is it that the City is making some of their most stunning progress in job creation, by stepping back their need for control and ownership of services directed toward this end, and stepping up their role as a partner among many?

City of Fort Collins, Colorado has partnered in a start-up incubator project to launch small businesses and super-charge the local economy. The Rocky Mountain Innosphere (RMI) started in 1998, (as a recent article in the Coloradoan pointed out) “connecting startup companies with advisers.”

RMI provides entrepreneurial startup companies with resources such as assistance with raising capital, access and connections with academic and government institutions, a network of advisors and mentors including several who are in residence, discounted professional service providers and educational and networking opportunities for realizing business success.”

Kevin Duggan from the Coloardoan newspaper writes, “the Innosphere works with 30 to 35 client companies a year, providing education, mentoring from business executives and networking. It connects companies with potential investors and the capital they need to grow.

Most interestingly, RMI is not a city program, although the cities of Fort Collins and Loveland are contributors to the partnership. “The incubator is a private nonprofit corporation. Its operations are funded through private donations and annual contributions from the state government, Colorado State University, local banks, Loveland and the City of Fort Collins.”

If anything, RMI is the holy grail of the “shared service model” where local government is one of many providers, but not the sole owner.

City of Boulder, Colorado – Investing in Energy (with no new money to invest)

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City of Boulder, Colorado has focused resource reallocation opportunities to fund high-priority energy initiatives in the City. Applying PBB to "new programs" - Boulder was the first to apply PBB to the consideration of programs that didn't exist before; running them through the PBB model to see what Quartile they might be in, if they were initiated. It's a tremendous application. And as demonstrated in this year's budget, new investment, new resources are allocated to high priority programs planning the City's "energy future."

Where did they get the money to start these new programs - "nearly 10% reductions were applied to low-quartile, low-relevance investment areas.”
-->See Boulder budget recommendations here.

Boulder has also compiled a multi-year perspective on their application of PBB, to demonstrate how they've reduced and divested themselves of lower priority programs over the years, and reinvested in new or expanded higher priority programs - it's outstanding!
In the Information Age, it's the flood of information and data that has an unintended consequence of creating complexity and confusion. Governments are so large, and so complex (there are so many people doing so many different things, and we spend so much money on things that we don't have the capacity to understand all at once), that we have the potential to overlook the abundance of resources truly at our disposal.

We have non-profits, NGO's, public and private sector resources that are tackling the same problems and the same issues that we in local government feel we need our own services to tackle – those other entities are brand new resources that we've perhaps never considered. Communities implementing PBB are identifying those resources! 

Quoting Diamandis (again), imagine a giant orange tree packed with fruit. If I pluck all the oranges from the lower branches, I am effectively out of accessible fruit. From my limited perspective, oranges are now scarce. But once someone invents a piece of technology called a ladder, I’ve suddenly got new reach. Problem solved. Technology is a resource-liberating mechanism. It can make the once scarce the now abundant.”

Our special thanks to Douglas County, Nevada, the City of Fort Collins, Colorado and the City of Boulder, Colorado for inspiring this article. 

To learn more about Local Government Innovation and Priority Based Budgeting from CPBB and the nation's leading local government practitioners, be sure to attend the upcoming... 

Center for Priority Based Budgeting 2013 Annual Conference


"A Summit of Leading Practices"

July 9 & 10, 2013  Arlington, Virginia   Hilton Crystal City Hotel




Brought to you by the Center for Priority Based Budgeting (CPBB) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), in partnership with the Alliance for Innovation (AFI).


The 2013 "Summit of Leading Practices" is the ONLY conference where ICMA's Leading Practices for Local Government Management come together under one roof. 

The 2013 CPBB "Summit of Leading Practices" Annual Conference is strongly supported by 
Quartile 1 sponsor SAFEbuilt, Quartile 2 sponsor ClearPoint, Supporting Sponsor Beehive Industries and Exhibitors OpenGov and Revelstone Labs. Thank you sponsors!

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