As simple, direct and satisfying as the initial Make It Happen Rhode Island sessions and action plan were, the second version of the Rhode Island Foundation-instigated process designed to guide public- and private-sector action has yielded a much more complex and unsatisfying set of recommendations.
More than 200 business leaders participated in 20 sessions last fall that were then distilled by Fourth Economy Consulting into a report and presentation of “Make It Happen 2.0” made public last week.
In trying to make the case for a unified-yet-broad, cross-pollinating approach to Rhode Island’s future, the consultants have created a monument to modern management theory. A chart produced in the executive summary for future action resembles nothing so much as a dotted-matrix organizational chart, a guide that is more likely to confuse than illuminate. Further analysis by the report does not dispel that impression.
There are many excellent opportunities identified, many already underway. But in the end, the scope and complexity of the “action plan” reveal the difficulty of the exercise.
In a state in which rationalization of public expenditures and regulations refuses to happen, the idea that the public sector can be counted on to deliver this set of actions, much less steer the state in a consistent direction based on them, is a well-meaning pipe dream. Better for the public sector to make the playing field simple, predictable, unobtrusive and lower cost and then challenge the private sector to lead the charge. •