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A Note from Our Director ...

Dear Colleague -
Welcome to our web site – dedicated to excellence in local government.  If this is your 1st introduction to our Institute, the following is a brief history of our organization.
For the past 30-plus years, I've had a passion for studying high-performance organizations.  I read whatever I could put my hands on.  I attended seminars.  And, whenever possible, I visited those organizations and interviewed their leaders.  All of this was aimed at discovering what had made them so successful.  Up until 1994, that research was devoted to growing a thriving consulting practice in the land-use planning and economic development fields.  Then, at the age of 50, I began a 2nd career.  Working with a group of like-minded individuals, the Cordillera Institute was founded.
If you remember, the early 1990s were tough years for local governments.  The economy was climbing out of recession.  Our senior governments had run themselves even deeper into debt.  As a result, local governments were expected to take on more responsibilities and to do it all with less revenue.  Something had to change.  And, it did.  Local governments everywhere began to innovate – to find ways to do more with less.  But, most were operating at a disadvantage.  While there was abundant information available on improving the performance of businesses, relatively little was available on improving the performance of local governments.  Our Institute was founded to fill that information gap.
We did that by establishing our Research Program to scour the local-government world for success stories.  Whenever we found them, we shared the findings with our Members through the Information Exchange Program and by publishing them in our Journal.  As a growing number of our Members began to search for benchmarks, we established the Performance Improvement Program.  This program enables local-government agencies to compare their performance with their peers and to share the best practices uncovered during the comparisons.  For more on each of these programs, see the sidebar to the right.
Until 2005, all of our efforts were geared to serving our Members.  Then, in late February 2006, we launched a new publication, designed to serve the full local-government community.  In each issue, VFC (View from the Cordillera) covers some aspect of excellence in local government.
It may examine 1 of the success elements;
it may present a case study;
it may introduce a resource (an individual, a group, a publication, etc.) which is advancing excellence;
it may advocate a new direction for local government; or
it may identify a wrong turn in public policy and offer an appropriate remedy.
After just 11 months, it was being read by municipal leaders on 4 continents.  To become a subscriber to VFC, see the sidebar to the right.
There's a reason for that rapid growth in readers.  It has to do with what has become of so much of our major media.  Instead of giving us the straight news, more and more major-media outlets are giving us opinion pieces which they try to disguise as unbiased news.  Moreover, a growing majority of those opinion pieces are intended to advance a particular agenda as well as the persons and organizations who support that agenda.  As more and more people come to recognize what the major media are doing, they are turning to other sources of information.  Fortunately for them and for everyone else, the transformation of the major media has been accompanied by the growth of an alternative media – publications which address the issues that the major media either ignore or choose to sit on; publications which provide the other side of the stories that the major media try to spin.  We're proud to count our publication as a part of that alternative media.
If you're wondering how being a part of the alternative media will advance excellence in local government, it's a question of priorities.  Before we can have excellence in local government, we must have a thriving local-government sector.  Local government is the best institution yet developed to serve our local communities and the people who live and work there.  Because of its very size and its close ties to the communities it serves, local government tends to be more efficient, more effective, and more accountable than senior government.  Those qualities – efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability – are the key elements of excellence.  But, every time government becomes less local, 1 or more of those qualities is diminished.  Should local government be eliminated, the possibility of achieving excellence in what remains of government will be little more than a pipe dream.
Yet, in the very agenda which the major media do so much to promote – the government-first agenda – there is no future for local government.  That's because 2 primary objectives of the government-first agenda are to grow senior government and to centralize its authority, first by merging all smaller local governments into mega-cities or mega-regions or mega-school districts and, then, by replacing those no-longer-local governments with a series of senior-government field offices.  There are many examples of those local-government-eliminating mergers in every English-speaking democracy.  More often than not, these mergers are being pushed by senior government.  How long will it be before the 2nd shoe drops?
If you are not a subscriber to View from the Cordillera as yet, you may obtain a free copy of a recent issue.  And, you can keep up to date on what we are covering by registering for our complimentary summaries of that publication.  To respect all the other demands on your time, each summary is just 1 or 2 paragraphs in length.  So, you can scan it over a cup of coffee.  Of course, if you want more information on any of the material covered in 1 or more of the summaries, you may order the full text of any issue.  To receive a free copy, to register for the free summaries, or to order the full text of any commentary, see the sidebar to the right.
If you would like to learn more about how our local governments can survive – and thrive – I look forward to welcoming you to our team.
And, as always, we welcome your comments.
David Barber
Director
Cordillera Institute
(416) 293-9300
DBarber@cordillera-institute.org
http://cordillera-institute.org/
Research Program
Since our founding in 1994, we have studied many high-performance organizations to learn what makes them successful.  From this research, we have distilled a set of principles, paradigms, policies, programs, and practices which are the key elements of their success.  And, the search continues.  We are always interested in finding another success story in local government.  Will it be yours?
While much has been written about the achievements of larger cities, very little is available on small and medium-sized municipalities.  Yet, many of the real gems of local-government performance are found among these less-publicized organizations.  These innovators have not received the recognition they deserve.  Moreover, other local-government agencies, which want to improve their own performance but are unaware of what has been accomplished already, are left to choose between re-inventing the wheel or living with the status quo.  We want to change all that.  And, your organization can participate.
Information Exchange Program
Here is where our Members turn to meet their specific information needs.  Whether you have a quick question or a complex research assignment, this program can provide the answers.  It draws on a network of some 6,000 innovators in the field of performance improvement for local government.
The Information Exchange Program is built around the Information Network and consists of the following services:
the Network Listing Service;
the Network Access Service;
the Information Order Service; and
the Information Request Service.
This variety of services should enable you to obtain the information you require, using the options which best suit your budget.
Performance Improvement Program
The Performance Improvement Program offers 2 key initiatives proven to improve the performance of local-government organizations, from the largest city to the tiniest village or rural municipality.  You can read more about these initiatives by clicking on the following links.
the Local Government Performance Checkup; and
the Comparing & Sharing Initiative.
Each of our Municipal Members is eligible to participate in the Local Government Performance Checkup.  (If you are not yet a Municipal Member, you may participate by becoming one.)  This initiative enables participants to quickly and easily establish performance baselines for 11 key municipal functions.  Those baselines can be used to set performance goals and to measure progress toward achieving those goals over time.
For those local-government agencies wishing to use performance comparisons to drive performance improvement, we offer the Comparing & Sharing Initiative.  It empowers participants to use the comparisons from the Local Government Performance Checkup to identify the good practices that others are successfully applying.  It then gives you the opportunity to adapt those better practices to improve the performance of your organization.
To Become a Subscriber
You may become a subscriber to VFC (View from the Cordillera).  Just send us an email with the word 'Subscribe' in the subject line.  Be sure to include your name, title, and organization.  When we receive your order, we will email you a confirmation of your subscription and an invoice for your records.  A basic subscription (50 issues) is just $50 per person.  That's only $1 per issue.  If your elected officials or management team would like to subscribe as a group, enquire about our special group subscription rates.
To Receive a Free Copy
You may receive a free copy of a recent issue of VFC (View from the Cordillera).  Just send us an email with the word 'Free' in the subject line.  Be sure to include your name, title, and organization.
To Register for the Free Summaries
You may receive the free summaries of VFC (View from the Cordillera).  Just send us an email with the word 'Register' in the subject line.  Be sure to include your name, title, and organization.
To Order Any Issue
You may order the full text of any issue of VFC (View from the Cordillera).  Just send us an email with the word 'Order' in the subject line.  Be sure to include your name, title, and organization as well as the volume and issue number or the title of the issue(s) you want.  Each copy is only $5.  If you are ordering multiple issues, enquire about our discounts.
To Access Our On-line Publications Catalog
To access the on-line catalog of publications available from our archives, just click here.
To Inform Your Colleagues and Associates
If you would like to share VFC (View from the Cordillera) with your colleagues and associates, we will be pleased to send them a complimentary copy, together with a note acknowledging your referral.  Just send us an email with the word 'Refer' in the subject line.  Be sure to include your name, title, and organization as well as the names, titles, organizations, and email addresses of those to receive the package and we will do the rest.
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