It is often easier to identify community development challenges than to figure out where to start crafting solutions. How can you tell if you need a legislative, regulatory, programmatic, or funding solution? All four building blocks are always at play, but you have to begin somewhere. Here are some simple guidelines that can help you find your path forward:
- If inequitable outcomes are widespread and persistent, you probably need a legislative change. Start by looking at existing laws to identify whether bad laws or the absence of good laws are creating the problem. If an existing law is problematic, you will need to return to the elected officials (city council, county supervisors, etc.) who passed the original legislation and persuade them to revise or replace it. If the issue you’re dealing with calls for new legislation, you’ll need to develop a strategy to get it passed.
- If your community has strong laws that aren’t being implemented, time-consuming and cumbersome city procedures, or agency rules that prohibit something you need, you are likely dealing with a regulatory issue. This means you will need to work with agency staff to change their regulations. Sometimes regulatory issues are linked to problems in the way legislation was written and sometimes the issue is how the legislation is being interpreted. You may need to work with a lawyer to determine the best course of action.
- If the law is well written and regulations are running smoothly but residents still aren’t accessing the benefits, you may have a programmatic issue. Like procedural issues, programmatic issues can stem from the way legislation was crafted or the regulation that created the program, but often programmatic issues result from design, funding, or execution issues. Program staff are often dealing with competing priorities and funding constraints that can hamper their work. The good news is you can usually solve these types of issues through improving relationships, bolstering funding streams, advocating for departments or leaders to shift their priorities, or rigorous evaluation efforts.
- If laws, regulations, or programs are on the books but aren’t being implemented or implementation is weak, you could be dealing with insufficient funding. Elected officials and agency staff often use funding choices to prioritize and deprioritize issues. Sometimes this is an intentional effort to hobble a legislative initiative or programmatic goal, but sometimes the cause is less nefarious, like competing priorities or a budget crisis.