Independent Evaluation Would Have Saved the Day

Last week brought the news that a friend in the technology-based economic development community resigned his position at a high-flying state program amidst press reports that the economic and financial results had been inflated. There are several interesting implications of this event, not the least of which being that we all need to have parachutes ready at any time – this is a risky business where politics and perception are more meaningful that facts and data. However, my friend has learned a lesson that others can benefit from – had he done independent evaluations and audits of his programs from the beginning, the likelihood of his departure would have been diminished. But, in-house accounting, while cheaper, is always more subject to scrutiny by legislators and the press, and can be faulted for less than stellar practices. The third lesson is for the rest of us. This program has been trumpeted around the country for several years as “best practice.” The clear danger is that “best practice” may really be “best marketed.” In other words, managers who are great at touting their results and telling their story, whether or not there is verification of the results, often claim all the airspace. This is a case of “buyer beware” – ask for the data.

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