Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Our Chamber and PRDC should rethink their mandates

I’ve been asked if I think PRDC is doing anything worthwhile. Yes, it is. PRDC runs a good service for local business. It has a well stocked business resource centre and good employees hired to assist local businesses get established in this area. However, when reflecting on that, I scratch my head while wondering if those business things might be done more appropriately by the Chamber of Commerce that shares office space in the same building with PRDC. (...continued)

In the summer of 2003, writing in See/Hear, a newsletter for the Blind and Deaf, Jim Durkel expanded on the idea, a place for everything and everything in its place. Durkel used the French phrase of professional chefs, "mise en place" (meaning "put in place" or "prepared ahead of time") to describe a type of organization where the first step is to measure all the ingredients and line them up in the order in which they will be used.

He wrote, "This kind of organization is important for all children, especially those with visual impairments. Thinking about an activity before it happens, thinking about what materials will be needed, reviewing the steps that will be needed to complete the activity, then gathering all the materials ahead of time saves time and effort."

So when a thing is out of place, you may be lucky if it is simply two things with each in the spot reserved for the other. But often, it can be the start of a chain of misplaced items that becomes an untidiness and eventually turns into a true mess.

Things that need doing are similar. If someone is slacking off or absent and another is picking up the slack, it is very likely that person will not be left with sufficient energy or time to give full justice to his own work.

Now here’s the thing: The Chamber of Commerce, a business group that is privately organized and funded, spends a lot of effort advocating to tell government how to run things. By comparison, the PRDC is a publicly funded body and its best and most effective efforts are in telling private business how to conduct business affairs. When we were setting up that centre, did we somehow get their roles reversed?

So, with both doing good work is some role reversal a big problem? Yes it is. These are two local organizations that are taking leadership guiding roles in development. In that regard, we need for them both to rethink through what should be their appropriate mandates as well as to develop a proper understanding of what should be their respective roles.

The private and public sectors should be differently motivated. While the private sector is correctly driven, guided by competitive business concerns, legislation and the bottom line, public sector organizations should cast a wider view in the community to measure their successes.

For example, studies are commissioned by both private and public sectors. When private business commissions a study, it should seek to get the best study at the most competitive price. However, while quality and competitive bid should be important considerations for work commissioned by public bodies, other local community considerations are also proper.

Every healthy community needs a developed research and use of findings sector. But you will never develop your local talent in that community sector if you continually award such work to outside contractors.

Short term pain for long term gain is a consideration that local public bodies like PRDC and our municipal councils should bear in mind. It is not a matter of awarding contracts to locals out of favouritism. But, in cases where it will help us to develop and foster long term health and growth in a community sector, supporting our own will likely prove in the community’s best interest and we should accept a little lower quality or a bid that is a little higher.
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