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The Role of Government Workbook



"The best ideas will win if given an equal hearing"

Often the best and most useful ideas are the simplest ideas. Do you know anyone who doesn't use coat hangers, safety pins or paperclips? What about those little post-it notes? It doesn't take a specialist to come up with good ideas; many problems are solved by ordinary people who don't overlook the obvious.

In Madison, Wisconsin garbage truck drivers were taking over an hour to dump each load and a real bottleneck was occurring at the plant. The city was considering expanding the plant's tipping platform which would have cost millions of dollars. There was no need: dumping time was cut to an average of 15 minutes and fewer trucks did a better job. The solution: stagger the dumping by scheduling half the trucks to start work one hour earlier.

Could you have thought of that?

During the Great Depression eighty years ago, a mechanic and his nine year old son built a suspension bridge across the Snake River out of discarded material from a dump site in Wyoming. They were able to find enough structurally sound iron and good steel cable and with the help of the drag-line rig they made entirely from junk, they were able to construct a bridge which would have cost the government $50,000 to build (in depression-time dollars); money that was not available. The bridge had no trouble passing county inspection and the farmers were eager to pay $2,500 for it . The mechanic, after paying for cement and gasoline, was able to clear $2,000 for his time and labor which helped carry his family through the lean years.

Would this be possible today with our many layers of government?

It helps to be aware of problems that need solving and to be receptive to big ideas.

The Harry Singer Foundation has unbounded faith in the average citizens ability to contribute and that includes young people.

Perhaps you've heard of the youngster from New England who was invited to talk with Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union or the 12 year old boy in the Midwest who mobilized his town to help the homeless, or with the college student who started Teach for America.

Sure, young people are short on experience and may not be the best choice for administrative or leadership roles, but they may well be our best problem solvers. They are not afraid to ask why and why not. They bring a fresh enthusiasm and optimism to problems. They don't believe when they are told it can't be done. Couple them with the experience, prudence and competence of temporarily laid off or retired people and we have a strong resource that the Harry Singer Foundation wants to encourage and recognize.

We urge aspiring teams to keep in mind the following quotations which can be found in the Foundation's brochure:

"Every country is renewed out of the unknown ranks and not out of the ranks of those already famous and powerful and in control"
Woodrow Wilson 1912

"The efforts of Government will never be enough. In the end the people must choose and the people must help themselves."
J. F. Kennedy 1960

"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Robert Kennedy


Although this workbook was implemented in 1994 many of the issues are still relevant today. More workbooks dealing with government are planned for the future.


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