July 25, 2014

Stepping Up Our Game

We are in the midst of a full court press in Congress, primarily with Republicans in the House. We really need Republicans on our bill. I know our network is doing a lot of good things with CSBG dollars, but I have to admit I get frustrated with how we talk about it. Rather, I find it frustrating that it takes so much digging around to get answers about what we are doing. At times, it feels that some agencies take for granted how they use CSBG dollars. Many times, when I ask CAPs what innovative things they are doing, they mention Head Start, then silence. The frustrating thing is I know we are doing a lot of good and unique things with those dollars. Perhaps it is such a small part of an agency's budget that many people have lost sight of the significance, the flexibility, the uniqueness that CSBG provides. That makes it difficult for us back here in Washington. We have to sharpen our skills in terms of how we talk about our programs, how we talk about what our agencies do, and how we explain who we are. I think in the last ten years, our message, our description of what we do, the role we play, our mission, our performance in communities, has really atrophied. We are not verbally sharp. We are not as coherent as we need to be. And we need to get better.

The other thing that is clearly apparent is that we have a let go of some Congressional relationships. The fact that a Member may only be in their first or second term does not mean we should not be reaching out to them. In fact, that is just the time to do so. A new elected Member provides a great opportunity for us to develop a new relationship. In fact, it is usually the recently elected Members that seem to be more eager to learn about their community, about programs serving their communities, about the people in their communities. And mist importantly, their legislative agendas are still unformed. That is exactly who we need to be reaching out to, talking with, and influencing. We can provide insight to new Members. We are not taking advantage of those situations. I am finding those relationships do not exist.

This summer’s process has been very insightful and instructive. We have to step up our game.

July 24, 2014

Preparing For Our Meeting With Ryan

We met with Paul Ryan today. I am still thinking about our meeting but I can say we met to talk about CSBG outcomes, about reform, about accountability. This was a big meeting. And it is not the end of our discussions, it is just one more step in the road. Where it ends, I do not know but I like the fact that he is open to talking about our program.

We had a pretty good debate in our office about how one approaches Ryan. What do we say to him, or what can we not say. I cannot say we have a perfect program. I have to be honest. I can say we are trying to do better and that we can do better. With Ryan, honesty works, particularly when he compares our program with other poverty or block grant programs.

July 21, 2014


This summer, I am teaching what will be my last graduate course at Southern New Hampshire University. It really is with mixed emotions that I am teaching this course. More than 50 Community Action folks got their Master’s Degree in Community Economic Development because of the graduate program we set up with Southern New Hampshire. From our standpoint, it has simply been finances and the small staff we have that have prohibited us from being able to fully market this program the last couple of years. Southern New Hampshire is changing their curriculum around. Our involvement with them is coming to an end. So, we have this last course and then a pretty neat thing is coming to an end. I do take satisfaction that people have been helped. That at least 50 CAP professionals got an advanced degree at a very affordable cost. I hope someday, in the not too distant future, we will be able to start some other educational opportunity for CAPs.