what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

project bids, public services in hard times; and the craft of short stories

Technical problems with blogspot prevented a post today. But my longer silence is due to my work on a bid for a project. I hate this stage when one is trying to construct convincing statement about HOW one would carry out the various required activities of a project. I don’t find writing difficult – I’ve had long practice and the results are there to see on the website and blog. But two aspects about writing proposals I find deeply frustrating and indeed alienating. First that one is generally writing in ignorance of the actual context – and actually prevented (by procurement rules) from actually talking with those for who one would be working. This not only breaches basic rules of consultancy – but creates a distance I can’t cope with. I’m a touchy, feely guy (in some senses) and can only operate in a hands-on situation when I’m getting responses. The second reason I find this stage difficult is that you are supposed to restrict text to HOW statements – not the WHAT. And I always want to jump to the content – not least to convince the evaluator that they would get a good deal if they went with my bid. As the content of bids have equal status with the original terms of reference, companies are reluctant to commit themselves to substantial things – and prefer to throw back in different language what the terms of reference are saying. And this is an EU Structural Fund project – whose administrative and financial requirements are so tough (for generally local companies) that it is not difficult to disqualify companies before their methodologies even reach the evaluation stage! What a game! So watch this space.
I’m just taking a short break (hopefully to get the creative juices working). But I have a few useful references to pass on. Amongst all the mythogising of Greece and Greeks that is going on, a rare bit of commonsense. This particular blog has looked at the various statistics to explore whether the Greeks are in fact as lazy as is being asserted (retirement ages, pension, working days etc ) and finds the myths unsubstantiated (although some people might say "fear the Greeks - particularly when tney come bearing statistics"!).
However what is true is that they don’t declare incomes in order to avoid taxation. And, of course, this is not merely true of Greece – I’ve made the same point about Romania - with the incredible time and money people spend on building their own houses - with local labour whose incomes are never declared!

Yesterday the Scottish Government released an independent report they had commissioned from an interesting collection of people last year on the future of public services in the new tough world . What was impressive was that they asked a retired trade unionist to chair it – and did not pack it with their own people (a couple of my left-wing colleagues were on the commission). And the report – despite some unpalatable messages – has been positively received in most quarters. So at least the Scottish tradition lives on – unlike the tribal politics of England.

Time for a stirring Spanish political song from the old guard

And Simon Jenkins has rediscovered the virtues of the classic civil service.

I’m becoming a fan of the short story art form. William Trevor, Carol Shields, Vladimir Nabakov always hold me in thrall. Hanif Kureishi is an impressive novellist whose acquaintance I am only now making – with his Collected Stories. Now back to the grind!

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