We have all heard the old axiom that all politics are local. Recently, I have been in discussions about international responses to major disasters, Specifically, the floods in Pakistan, Haitian earthquake and Indonesia tsunami of 2004. In each of those cases, there were massive international responses to the crisis. Numerous organizations have done tremendous work in attempting to assist disaster victims and the stricken countries. The United Nations, US Military, Red Cross, host country emergency responders and others have all played a role. Interestingly, each of these agencies tend to have a role that involves bringing in enormous capabilities, and yet, often times those capabilities are not coordinated well to what is happening on the ground. That is not a fault of any of the agencies, it is just a result of the complexity of massive responses to tragic events.
But for the people in need, what is happening on the ground is all that matters. When a US Army helicopters rescue people stranded on the tops of levees in Pakistan, those people likely have little concern over who dispatched the helicopter, how it got there, or who is paying for its activity. Understandably, they only care about being pulled off of the levee before it collapses.
So, as government at all levels attempts to deal with the current economic situation, they must remember that all government is local. Disaster response is about an individual on the end of that service. Police response is directed at a local action such as a car wreck or burglary. Health and Human Services programs serve hundreds and yet the individual recipient only cares about their interactions with the programs. Each student in our public schools can be directly impacted by each policy decision made up the line.
All of these examples reflect the great importance that needs to be placed on accurate information regarding services, their impacts and the performance of the programs. Evidence-based decisions and policy, supported by advanced modeling and analysis, can greatly enhance the local impacts of government activities. And these decisions must be made quickly. The person on the levee doesn’t care about the numerous political or financial ramifications of at their rescue. At that moment, their whole world is that levee.