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July 2010 Links: Community Economic Development Projects, Partnerships, the Dunning-Kruger Effect, the Street Outreach Program, and More

* Dean Dad on Partnerships from the perspective of a community college administrator:

You don’t really appreciate how difficult collaboration is until you contrast it to running your own stuff. Every collaboration needs a “go-to person” at each site, sometimes grant-funded, sometimes not. Every collaboration has its own calendar, which is usually an amalgam of the various partners’ calendars and the preferences of the funding agency. Every partnership has its own ‘benchmarks,’ its own reporting protocols and requirements, its own sunset provisions, its own local ‘matching’ requirements, its own acronyms — what is it about granting agencies and acronyms? — and its own assumptions about how the constituent institutions actually run. Those assumptions are frequently, and maddeningly, wrong, but it’s considered bad form to say so.

Sound familiar? It should.

* This story is not from The Onion: Plummeting Marijuana Prices Create A Panic In California. See more about similar stories in Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

* Nonprofit Advocate Carves Out a For-Profit Niche, which concerns how a business can sometimes use a nonprofit to avoid taxes and make real money.

* Loan Giants Threaten Energy-Efficiency Programs. This is an excellent example of how government can end up working at cross-purposes, especially when one purpose (energy efficient) is particularly important but the bureaucrats in other parts of the government don’t care.

* The New York Times’ “City Room Blog” wrote this post: “White Population Rises in Manhattan,” which quotes Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, as saying that “conflation of luxury development and good strong public housing stock” means that “that the borough is becoming a place for very, very wealthy people and enclaves for poor people and that middle-income people are finding it impossible to stay here.”

If you want to make Manhattan—or any city—more affordable for a wide array of people, the only way to effectively do so is to increase the supply of housing. Anyone genuinely interested in the issue should take a look at the graph that appears in Virginia Postrel’s “A Tale of Two Cities.”

* Gates Foundation gets low marks in relations with non-profits, according to the Seattle Times. I hate to tell you, but if most foundations surveyed the nonprofit and public agencies they gave money to, they’d probably get the same response. And if you surveyed funders about their grantees, the funders would probably be unimpressed.

* The Office of Community Services’ (OCS) Community Economic Development Projects shows an interesting trend: last year’s RFP had an Letter of Intent (LOI), then the final. This year, they just want the final application. I might call that progress.

* Boogie down!: the FY 2010 Railroad Research and Development – Safety Evaluation of HSR Bogie Concepts is here.

* Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is: what happens when you’re too incompetent to judge that you’re incompetent? One of my (former?) friends taught the LSAT—the Law School Admissions Test—and called this the stupid person’s paradox: that you’re too stupid to realize that you’re stupid, which he often ran into with students who had high GPAs in very easy majors and then wondered why they were terrible at the LSAT and/or couldn’t read effectively.

I like that name better than the “the Dunning-Kruger Effect,” which finds that “our incompetence masks our ability to recognize our incompetence.” I wonder if understanding the effect makes us less likely to susceptible to it, or merely makes us implicitly smug that we’re smart enough to understand it and “they” aren’t, but in actuality we suffer just as much.

I find this bit of the article especially compelling:

DAVID DUNNING: People will often make the case, “We can’t be that stupid, or we would have been evolutionarily wiped out as a species a long time ago.” I don’t agree. I find myself saying, “Well, no. Gee, all you need to do is be far enough along to be able to get three square meals or to solve the calorie problem long enough so that you can reproduce. And then, that’s it. You don’t need a lot of smarts. You don’t have to do tensor calculus. You don’t have to do quantum physics to be able to survive to the point where you can reproduce.” One could argue that evolution suggests we’re not idiots, but I would say, “Well, no. Evolution just makes sure we’re not blithering idiots. But, we could be idiots in a lot of different ways and still make it through the day.”

* Yet another article on how it’s impossible to fire teachers.

* Thoughts on DIY U deserves to be more widely read.

* Is the Internet rotting our brains? In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr answers “yes.” I’m not so sure.

* Dan Savage on “sexting.”

* The Street Outreach Program is back, with 85 grants of up to $200,000 a pop. If you’re going to write one of these, consider reading Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children and alluding to the novel; a large section deals with street youth, as they’re often called in the grant writing biz.

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