Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Ah! A subject I know a lot about. Most collaboration requirements are part of the grant world—that is, funders know on some level that in the real world, many if not most organization are competitors, or, at most, a given organization has more than enough capacity to use all of a given grant or subsidy.
In the real world, collaboration letters are a "you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours" phenomenon—that is, Joe agrees to write Jane letters if Jane will write Joe letters—or payoffs—Joe throws Jane a subcontract with some money attached. That's basically what this: "Inter-institutional collaborations also impose much higher overhead costs than purely internal operations" implies.
“Sustainability” requirements. Whatever the grant money enables you to do has to outlast the grant money.
This is another grant-world concept. In the real world, almost no one checks to see if sustainability has been achieved, largely because it can't be achieved.
Funders are really testing the applicant's ability to make the right noises.
I've come to believe that most strings in bureaucratic institutions are really about this. I think it's because people have this vaguely nice-sounding idea and they only want to fund people who will tell them "Yep, great idea!"
Energy efficiency (from back in ARRA days of the Great Recession) is a potentially good analogy. I recall that a finance administrator used special one-time funds to obtain more efficient electrical equipment. The one-time transition costs were paid by the one-time funds, and the ongoing savings are enjoyed by the college.
Thinking of good uses certainly isn't easy. That's why there are the grant competitions and low success rates.
Re: compliance challenges, I offer this story from my world.
Timeline: early in my engineering faculty career.
Engr Dean: HSLPofDD, it is important to bring in research funds to pay for operations within your computational group.
(time passes ... a grant is funded ... I submit a purchase request ...)
Grant compliance officer: HSLPofDD, you're not allowed to use grant funds to pay for these expenses of running your lab.
Whenever I consider applying for a grant, I always tell myself, "be careful what you wish for", because too often I can become blinded to the the long-term implications by the attraction of the short-term dollars.
Sustainability was the natural result of business people (whose currency for measuring "success" is in $$ when mostly what they grant funds for has an entirely success measure/ currency) launching foundations. No one can easily escape the idea that what made them successful is what makes for success.
The Sustainability Cargo Cult, so pointless in a few ways, so partially destructive in the ways you-all have pointed out here, is the viral injection of corporate thinking meme into the realm of non-profitry. Add to that the grant-by-grant viral injection of specific ideas/memes probabalistically selected from a subset attractive to people who made their "success" in the corporate world, and you get tthe presence of this inappropriate mutation that's sub-optimal for its new environment, methinks.