||THE FIPSE ENVIRONMENT
It is difficult to understand the full significance of FIPSE's work without having a sense of the environment within FIPSE itself. In many ways, staff interactions with applicants and grantees were effective because of the underlying culture of FIPSE. Although many of FIPSE's values can be discerned from the preceding pages, the bullets below summarize them.
- Responsive. The comprehensive scope and field-responsiveness of the FIPSE guidelines did not portray FIPSE as an all-knowing federal program. Staff members were participants in an inductive knowledge-building process in which the applicants were major partners. Applicants and FIPSE staff came together with the expectation that they could learn a great deal from one another.
- Democratic. The relatively flat organizational structure and truly collegial work environment encouraged considerable communication among FIPSE staff members about groups of projects that addressed similar problems. As a result of these discussions, program officers often gained insights from their FIPSE colleagues about projects they monitored, insights that they in turn passed along to the project staffs, thereby enriching the interaction.
- Engaging. From the beginning, FIPSE leadership expected all FIPSE staff members to participate actively in shaping agency goals and procedures. Because they were involved in writing proposal guidelines, defining categories for grouping proposals and projects, evaluating proposals, and presenting proposals to the FIPSE board, program officers were intellectually and emotionally invested in the funded projects. As a result, they adopted a very proactive posture in their interactions with project directors.
- Outcome Oriented. Because FIPSE began with a strong commitment to institutionalizing innovations and improvements, the agency was always directed toward the achievement of project goals. Consequently, much of the interaction between staff and project directors focused on project outcomes and evaluation plans.
- Supportive. As a federal grant agency, FIPSE was required to provide project oversight and insist on project accountability. In addition to carrying out these generic monitoring functions, FIPSE staff members understood that their role also included providing proactive support and assistance to project directors. Everyone at FIPSE knew that the innovators and change agents managing these projects faced innumerable obstacles, and that they deserved all the assistance that FIPSE staff could give them.
- Interactive. The proposal-selection and project-monitoring processes had many built-in opportunities for interaction-at the preliminary stage, in the full proposal stage, during the feedback to both successful and unsuccessful applicants, during site visits, and at the project directors meetings. Moreover, as we have described, many interactions forged alliances extending far beyond the scope of the original projects.