Market HUD more effectively, and in a cheaper way
I heard the Secretary say today we need to collect Best Practices. I agree. The cheapest way to do this is to LET OTHER PEOPLE DO THE WRITE-UPS. HUD can run a Best Practices contest, in say at least 100 categories- whatever we want more of- for free, off a site such as SurveyMonkey.com. Have questions detailed enough so people have enough detail to copy or innovate something similar. Cut and paste the writeups of the winning ideas- and maybe even those that aren't winners- into a document. Add pictures as possible, just like they do in PDR. Edit the text as necessary. PDR already does this. Put this into say an 8.5 x 11 .pdf document. Now comes the smart idea. Upload this into createspace.com. For FREE. They have a cover creator utility. Once it is approved, 48 hours later, order a proof. Be sure there are no mistakes. When there are no mistakes, approve it. The product is now on AMAZON.COM. PDR has a lot of products with great ideas, that were printed in limited runs. Most of those could be on Amazon- for the cost of a little bit of staff time, and a proof, which would be under $10 per.
Createspace.com also accepts .mp3's, for CD's, and .wav files for DVD's. Each has a cover creator utility. Why not collaborate with industry organizations- aahsa.org, servicecoordinator.org, ahma.org, nahro.org, and so on, so that their better presentations, at conferences, become available, as DVD's, on Amazon.com?
The Renaissance did not start because of a lot of new ideas. The Renaissance started because the old ideas were shared far more efficiently, thanks to the printing press. There are many, many great ideas in our industry- and they mostly aren't being shared.
Yes, yes, I know Public Affairs will want a disclaimer, that HUD doesn't endorse products, or contractors. Fine. I've seen joint HUD-industry publications before, so it's obviously possible. If you do nothing else, Secretary Donovan, more than simply sharing the good ideas that already exist, you would accomplish more than any of your predecessors. Cuomo's Best Practices data was great- and it was never shared widely. By way, printing off a Best Practices winner certificate must cost all of maybe 25c, or less. You want a Best Practices winner in each city, in each state, each region, and then nationwide. Rate them as they relate to the 5 year Strat Plan, if you want to, i.e. how they advance the goals in the Strat Plan.
This idea is cheap, cheap, cheap. There was an unofficial listserver, in the late 1990's, that did far less than this, which had people from all over the country, sharing ideas. I notice that the Pennsylvania HFA shares ideas, notices of new products, and so forth, in a once per month newsletter, in a similar way. I am utterly amazed that HUD doesn't do something similar, in each Region. Listservers date back to the early 1990's, the Dept of Justice had one long ago. If we had such a listserver, sharing useful ideas, that anyone-client, HUD staff, whoever, could post to, obviously with the no endorsement caveat for HUD staff, this would be cheap. I know there have been efforts to do this in the past. I tried some of them. They were so restrictive that I couldn't use them. Why not set up HUD groups, at www.yahoogroups.com, for free, to share ideas within specific program areas? This is precisely the collaborative space the Secretary talked about today. A PDR person could compile the useful ideas, perhaps once per year, into an organized product, say "Good ideas in affordable housing 2012", and put it up on amazon[no endorsement implied] for the cost of staff time, only, really.
Createspace is probably not the only site doing this, I mention them only because I am aware of them. Books are "Print on Demand", so they don't care how many sell. A best practices in blended financing, say specific to a state, would be useful, since financing new housing takes multiple sources nowadays. The Secretary could himself perhaps talk about his own great ideas in financing NY projects, in such a product. I run across clients who have an interest in these ideas. All I can do is tell them to google newspaper articles on projects similar to what they want to do, and hope there is a mention of financing. If you don't like Createspace, and prefer having .pdf's at the website, fine. However, printing .pdf's, especially in color, is expensive, at home. Having the .pdf at the website, and also having it on createspace, and similar sites without charge, would be a better solution. There are great resources being used overseas. Volunteers in Technical Assistance used to sell a CD with 100 books on it. Why not collaborate with them, to get their stuff relevant to inner cities, up as a joint product? I have only scratched the surface of what is possible, of course. But we need to do more with less, with far better results, and this is a start.