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September, 2009

Good Things Happen in the Fall

Lots of great things happen in the fall — kids go back to school, there’s tons of great produce, especially amazing Wisconsin apples, the weather is terrific, the leaves are beautiful and……the feds make their grant announcements.

This year I had two nice winners.  The first is a 3-year SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant to expand Milwaukee County’s Drug Treatment Court.  This is a program that intervenes with people who are charged with lesser offenses but who would otherwise land in jail/prison.  The Drug Treatment Court basically defers prosecution if the individual agrees to treatment, case management and a series of other conditions.  This grant will also pay for Medication Assisted Treatment which will really help people achieve and sustain recovery from addiction.

A big part of writing this grant was working with the leadership at Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division and the Circuit Court System to develop a strong, competitive approach.  Good grants come from really competent people working together — as evidenced by this big win.  The investment by all key sectors was essential to putting the proposal together but is fundamental to its implementation.  If the collaboration falls apart, so will the project.

The second happy event is a grant written for the Pan African Community Association to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.  This is the second 3-year grant for PACA, an organization that works with recent immigrants and refugees from African nations, most notably the Somali Bantu – a group that has undergone terrible persecution and now faces great resettlement challenges.

PACA started as a voluntary organization – established residents helping newcomers navigate employment, housing, health care, and the education system.  Explaining American social norms and helping new refugees weave their lives and culture into an urban environment are also huge components. 

But the Fall isn’t entirely joyous — I also failed to receive funding for an innovative program to connect delinquent kids to Milwaukee’s extensive prevention programs.  A really good idea, great collaboration, but didn’t hit the home run.  We continue to look for other funding for this one.

All in all — there aren’t really better words for a grantwriter in the Fall than “we got the notification from Congresswoman Moore’s office….”  Makes for a really nice season.

Discipline

I’m good at a lot of things but not so good at consistency.  You wouldn’t want to hire me to keep a fire stoked over the winter or make sure a fleet of buses get regular maintenance.  What I’m good at is crisis.  Getting a ridiculous amount of work done very fast is my thing.  Writing a big federal proposal involving lots of moving parts, people who disagree, and an unripe concept.  That’s for me.  Taking lots of data and putting out a nice looking report by Monday.  In fact, my old mantra is ‘ if I have a weekend, I can get it done.’ 

So when my web designer told me I should have a blog, I said sure.  I like to write.  I have a lot of opinions.  I’ll do a blog.  Well, I did one…..weeks elapsed.  Then I did another…..more weeks.  Now I realize that my last blog or post or whatever was in July and I realize, I’m not very good at this blogging thing. 

A few days ago I participated in a workshop with two very bright guys from ACLU who are experts in using social networking to organize youth around social justice issues.  Among many key takeaways – if you aren’t blogging at least twice a week, it’s not worth doing.  Obviously, my monthly (or now bi-monthly) posts aren’t cutting it.

So why bother, I asked myself.  I guess the answer is – because I need the discipline of putting my thoughts in order and setting them to paper (or in this case the really small box in my web management system).  I need the discipline of sorting through what’s important to share and finding things that might be worthwhile to people who are working on grants or trying to organize their research.  Most of all, I need the discipline of finding good ways to use my knowledge, successes, and most of all, my many professional failures and mishaps to connect with my peers.

So it’s fall.  Time for getting down to business.  Regular blogging twice a week….right after I go to the gym….:-).  You heard it here.