Friday, February 15, 2008


Civil Society, Government, Church - What role do we play?

Ever wonder what the role of nonprofits should be in the mix of government agencies, the business community, churches and other "faith-based" orgs? I have, since April, 2005, ever since I heard Bruce Sievers speak on the topic. It is great grist for the mill.

And so the quest for knowledge continues. Recently, a friend sent me a job opening for an innocuous position for the County of Orange called "Performance Auditor". The job paid well (approx. $90 to $150K) and the job description read like so many others:

This position will report to the Performance Audit Director and be assigned activities such as: management audits, process improvement studies, reorganization studies, cost effectiveness assessments, cost-benefit analysis, best practice analysis, program performance evaluations...

etc. etc. All read normally until...I got to the the requirements section. It read:

The candidate must also understand the role of government in society and how it interrelates with the business community.

Can I have a reality check here folks? Send me your comments. It's essay question time. How many of us can answer that question. What exactly is the role of government in society? But more importantly how is it supposed to interrelate with the business community?

If you get that one correct, try this: compare and contrast the answers posed by a democratic or republican candidate. What would Ronnie say? Should we go with "invisible hand" or do we go Libertarian? Just stay out?

In my day (and that includes the present), job requirements meant "knowledge of a certain software package" or "excellent communication skills".

What about after your first year on the job, at evaluation time? Here's how it might read:

Y.T. has a strong understanding of the role of government in society but needs improvement in the interrelation of government with the business community. We recommend several books on Political Science and perhaps a copy of "Good to Great" on her night stand.

What I'd do to be a fly on the wall for that HR meeting.

File this under: huh?

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1 comment:

Nonprofit Pundit said...

My first thought when I read the key portion of the job description was "OF COURSE it’s in Orange County, the home of the Republican majority in California, what else would you expect??" But then I began to think about the demographic shifts that have resulted in the election of Democratic members of Congress from the original homeland of Mickey Mouse's Magic Castle.

On the other hand, the newest understanding of ‘invisible hand’ theory and links between business and government is: we just outsource all functions previously done by government entities to the private sector on the grounds they do things so much more efficiently. The final legacy of the Bush administration is how easily this can be done without raising any questions.
For example, there is supposed to be an implication embedded in this concept that the private sector also does things more effectively, but we have long since learned that isn’t the necessarily case if we take a closer look. Unfortunately, this version of invisible hand theory bears a close resemblance to the work of the all-powerful Wizard of OZ.

As I feel some certainty on the perspective of the elected officials behind the noted cryptic ideals regarding the “…role of government in society and how it interrelates with the business community” in this posting, I suspect this position is at base similar to an old fashioned contract monitor, but with a few wrinkles.

1: The assumption is that all possible government functions including those connected to the political process and public safety would be more cost-effectively performed by private sector (for-profit) entities.
2: All internal analysis of performance should be done with the goal of spinning off these tasks to a private sector company.
3: All analysis of tasks currently performed by 501(c)3 organizations under contract by the government should be evaluated with an eye to how they might be achieved on a more cost-effective basis by a for-profit entity.
4: Any and all analysis of the tasks now performed by private sector companies in lieu of (c)3 or direct Government functions MUST be given the benefit of doubt on any and all documentation that may somehow, someway, be tied to proprietary information---and hence not subject to scrutiny.
5: It will be presumed that a private sector company is presumptively entitled to earn a profit in any endeavor, and any business practices (including those related to HR concerns) that do not specifically break the law are ipso facto considered acceptable.
6: As Sole Source contracts are far more efficient than those subject to bidding, they require less oversight and hence time should not be wasted on evaluating their performance. This is the case with those granted to (c)3 organizations as well as those given to private sector companies.
7: As private-sector companies always utilize best practices in their accounting standards they will not require any financial scrutiny. The market place will assure their efficient management of the funds in question.
8: (c)3 organizations do not employ high-level accounting systems or staff, and must be presumed to be at a high level of risk of fraud and abuse. Therefore they must have their books audited on a monthly basis.