Change Is Hard

Two Stories About Institutionalizing New Programs

I picked up an old New Yorker in a waiting room yesterday. It was a 2009 issue that included an article by Jane Mayer, The Secret History, about the CIA after the transition of power. I saw it at the time, but it was good to read it again. I also read another article, Don't Shoot, about a new crime prevention effort targeted at gangs that was tried in 2007 in Cincinnati. The article is for subscribers only, but I found a reprint online. It discusses a program called Ceasefire developed by David Kennedy. It seems very promising, but it will be very hard to institutionalize and replicate across the nation. Which is typical of all reform efforts that don't have a profit motive involved - like all of government.

Some follow up to the article: Good point in a letter response. David Kennedy's organization, National Network for Safe Communities.

More press on Cincinnati: Social networking helped bust gang, Sharon Coolidge,, July 17, 2009. Cincinnati Police Partner With Academics, Ann Thompson, NPR, September 16, 2009. Cops and Communities, The Crime Report, December 3, 2009.

Other tidbits: There is lots of coverage of Chicago from this year. Did you know crime is down since 2008? This title says it well, A link between the bad economy and crime rates? No, not exactly, J. Patrick Coolican, Las Vegas Sun, December 6, 2010.

The other story is from The Danger Room blog at Wired, Hundreds of Army Social Scientists Unqualified, Former Boss Says. Spencer Ackerman is a great reporter, but he falls for the noble sort-of whistleblower narrative. If you can ignore the focus on Steve Fondacaro - the picture doesn't help - it's a good illustration of how hard institutionalizing change is, even in a highly capable and disciplined organization like the U.S. Army. (But they are overseeing civilian contractors in this case) A common problem is that strong personalities are always involved. Have you ever heard of the Human Terrain System? Read about it.