If something is intuitively a good thing to do…then it probably is?

You must have heard the report earlier this week about how New York City reported no violent crime in a 24 hour period for the first time in living memory. This article in The Economist postulates why the broader trend of declining violent crime in US cities has happened.

It refers to ”Operation Ceasefire” a project initiated to cut gang violence in Boston, Massachusetts. One of its core tenets was that:

the most violent gang at any given time would be relentlessly targeted by police until it was effectively neutralised, followed by whichever gang then rose to the top of the list. This creates competition among gangs to refrain from lethal violence

The conditions are nurtured so that gangs compete to not be violent. Wow. It is disarmingly simple. A politician must love it! It is almost a magic bullet: getting tough on a visible target and generating a virtuous cycle for the better at the same time.

Interestingly the article also takes umbrage at the culture of cost benefit analysis. Here the social impact of initiatives such as Operation Ceasefire are expressed in financial terms as well as social (or environmental). This is interesting on this side of the Atlantic because in Wales the Communities First programme is adopting the Results Based Accountability framework as a way of evidencing its impact on a range of social indicators in the most disadvantaged communities in Wales.

The Economist concedes that though the impact of what it calls “betterment programmes” can be difficult to evidence, there should be scepticism about demands for “scientifically valid evidence”. In essence, it argues, if something is intuitively a good thing to do then it probably is.

Might this be something we in Wales would do well to remember? It should also serve to galvanise the community development sector which in the face of public sector cuts is under unprecedented pressure to demonstrate its value for money.

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