Still wrestling with the “portfolio approach”.

My objection to the Newsom administration’s “portfolio approach” is that a “portfolio approach” is a method, not a goal.  So in CA water, I can’t tell what goal the administration is trying to accomplish with their eight years*, besides not alienate anyone who might donate to Newsom‘s presidential campaign in 2026.

Dr. Lund endorses the “portfolio approach” here. The way he makes sense of the concept is by going through each issue area, stating a goal, and showing how to use a “portfolio approach” for that goal. Which, fine.  But that reinforces my impression that the “portfolio approach” only means “do all the relevant good things to achieve all the relevant good goals.”  This is not a useful directive! This is just bland good will. In terms Dr. Lund might appreciate, this is a model as expansive as the system it models.

I should stop fussing about this, because we are committed now and it doesn’t exclude any of my own priorities and it is too ambiguous to be wrong.  I look forward to seeing what the interagency group tasked with enforcing this comes up with. I predict a lot of talk about transparency and collaboration and maybe even synergies from the multi-benefitness!

*I am not being entirely fair. His interest in safe drinking water for communities who don’t have it is explicit and clear.  You know, even if he named only that and pursued that alone for 8 years, that would be a worthy project for an administration. I respect that.


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2 responses to “Still wrestling with the “portfolio approach”.

  1. jaylund

    The point of the portfolio approach is that by broadening the range of solutions, and sometimes the definition of the problem, sometimes problems become a bit easier. Your phone is now a camera, reader, and notetaker as well, and it backs up with other devices. But portfolios are harder to manage. The value of enlarging the model to better address the problem(s) is the point. But there is a limit to human and organizational ability to do this, as is clear in ever realm of bureaucratic existence.

  2. onthepublicrecord

    My other, new, objection to the “portfolio approach” is that it seems like an ordinary good practice. As in, ‘there are three useful things to do to solve a problem, so we will do them!’ This is not mind-blowing. Are we really bragging about it? Does it really define a shocking new way to manage, such that it could be an administration’s whole self-definition?

    I get that it is a contrast to the old, “build more dams” or even “build more dams plus water conservation”. But also, that philosophy has been defunct for at least fifteen years. Moving past that mental anchor isn’t especially something to be proud of.

    I try really, really hard to detect trends and foresee what comes next on this blog. That is hard, and surprising when I manage it (although I am pleased that I had the best predictions on the trade war of our community). So maybe I can’t expect an administration to be ready to foresee things. But I can’t get impressed by a philosophy that 1. should be such common practice that it doesn’t need saying, and 2. is a reaction to a 15 years gone contrast.

    I’m having an “act like you’ve been there before” reaction.