First, let's define "sustainability." It's a crucial catchword these days in both private and public sectors. But its definition will vary according to who you speak with.
For grant writers, the word usually is associated with project sustainability—the long-term financing of a program after a given funding period is completed. It's a basic evaluation criterion of grant makers, who would rather see their grant dollars assist an organization in "learning how to fish" rather than be financially fed for a day, to call up the hackneyed but useful proverb.
For HUD, DOT, and EPA, "sustainability" is about livable communities—a topic I wrote about several weeks ago. According to HUD secretary Shaun Donovan, sustainability principles = federal dollars, with HUD's FY 2013 budget restoring funding for Sustainable Communities grants as "part of a silo-breaking, interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities" with the DOT and EPA. According to an Urban Land interview with Donovan, he said that he "would like to insist that sustainability and smart growth principles are integrated into virtually every grant and policy made not only by HUD, but by other federal agencies that affect the built environment," stating that past poor decisions on housing, jobs, and transportation could be remedied by leveraging billions in grant money for the purposes of "rational, sustainable principles."
"Sustainability" is built into the vision and mission of federal agencies and thus in part determines where grant money goes.
And this concept isn't a force at the federal level alone. According to Martha Perego, Ethics Director for International City/County Management Association (ICMA), "Local government leaders have defined sustainability as the predominant issue of the age." (Read more of Perego's "Ethics Matter! Sustainability: It’s a Right-versus-Right Issue" article here.)
Local leaders, do you agree? Leave a comment or email me.
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