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Fwd: Re: Challenging the Pollution Prevention Technical Assistance model

Forwarded on behalf of Patricia Gallagher. Please respond directly to Ms. Gallagher or p2tech@great-lakes.net.
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Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2002 08:41:01 -0700
To: Listman <listman@wmrc.uiuc.edu>
From: Patricia Gallagher <patg@lanl.gov>
Subject: Re: Challenging the Pollution Prevention Technical Assistance

Burt and others,

I agree that we can improve technical assistance delivery and that we should continually engage the types of organizations Burt listed in his email.  While delivery of technical assistance to small businesses is a challenge, I think it can hardly be called a failure in the US.  There are many, many success stories within the Roundtable membership of TA programs working with small businesses to improve their operations and these success stories argue that the existing model has worked well.  I don't think the technical assistance models employed by business service providers such as the SBDC's are significantly different (with the exception of confidentiality) than those employed by state technical assistance offices, and SBDC-based programs demonstrate similar successes.  NM works on a model steeped in business philosophy and business systems.  We benchmark the quality program in NM....they are also STRUGGLING (not successfully at all) to engage small business in these business-based approaches that you put forward as the model for P2 technical assistance and this business model should be more relevant to them that just environmental issues!  This doesn't argue that a business-based model is wrong, I personally believe it the right model intellectually, but it speaks volumes about small business priorities and difficulties in getting them engaged in environmental improvement or in business improvement models... they are more concerned with daily survival so typical of our short-sighted, reactive, need-it-yesterday culture!

I know that we have engaged several business consultants in the P2 program in NM and trained them in business-based P2 tools.  They have not been anywhere near as successful as some of the more traditional technical assistance providers such as the City of Albuquerque's on-site, hands-on approach.  There doesn't seem to be a real market for such consulting services in small businesses.  We actively marketed our P2 workshops in the realm of a business approach and could never attract enough participants to make the class.  We had slightly more success when working to market this type of outreach with the SBDC's...we would get 4 in a class rather than one....not an overwhelming success, even in my optimistic eyes.  When we worked with small businesses one on one with the quality approach, we were more successful in terms of making P2 part of their business thinking, but it was still hard to get people engaged.  Time and other priorities were the major barriers (duh).  As a quality geek, I really hate to admit this, but many businesses just wanted us to tell them what to do so they could do it and get back to business.  On the other hand, when I tied technical assistance for P2 to regulatory requirements, using good old scare tactics, I could get as many as 70 people in a class in a small town in Wyoming (Green River) (more ungulates than people in the county) ...that speaks volumes to me about making environment and P2 a priority, unfortunately.

It might be an interesting discussion at the Roundtable, but I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water yet, Burt. Looking at other models is always a good idea, and there is lots of room for improvement, but the existing model isn't the failure that some folks on this listserve make it out to be. 

Pat Gallagher
Please respond to Mr. Hamner directly or to P2Tech at p2tech@great-lakes.net

I won't be able to attend the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable
in Portland (www.p2.org), but hey, why not stir things up there anyway.
I have been collecting key reference publications on P2 program
management, and on management of other kinds of programs that provide
technical assistance to smaller firms.  In developing countries such
programs have long been a mainstay of foreign aid, and a great deal of
evaluation has gone into it (unfortunately, not before a lot of money
was wasted in it).

My research leads me to ask if the current standard model of P2
assistance programs, providing onsite support, direct training,
financing, etc. is even the right model.  The International Labor Office
has come to conclusion, after 40 years of global experience with small
business assistance, that direct services to firms is not a good
strategy.  They now promote a market-oriented strategy that supports
intermediary organizations to provide TA on a market basis to target
firms.  They would likely argue that P2 organizations should focus
exclusively on consultants, business advisors, accountants and others
who have longer-term professional relationships with target firms and
who can weave P2 into their business services - if we show them how.
For an excellent paper on this new approach, and lots of great leads,
see http://www.ilo.org/public/english/employment/ent/sed/bds/seminar/.
Download the Reader on Business Development Services, it is really
eye-opening.  I hope at the Roundtable someone will pose for debate the
hypothesis, "Direct assistance to target firms is a waste of time for TA
organizations, we should focus only on intermediaries."  Seriously, the
ILO is the world's most experienced organization providing help to small
firms, and this is what they seem to have concluded after 40 years
trying just about everything.  What evidence do we have that they are

I know P2 program metrics are a hot topic at the moment, but if the
basic model is wrong the metrics won't get better.

Sorry I will miss the show.  Portland has great local beers to maximize
your waist.

Burt Hamner

Pat Gallagher
Hazardous and Sanitary Waste Minimization Project Leader
Environmental Stewardship Office
Los Alamos National Laboratory
PO Box 1663, MS J591
Los Alamos, NM 87545
505-665-8118 (fax)

Jini Cook
List Manager
217.244-6553     jcook@wmrc.uiuc.edu