International Engagement Policy*

As a leading professional association for public service, ASPA has made international engagement a key organizational priority, achieving a variety of objectives reflecting its mission and membership composition. International engagement brings together a broad and engaged cross-section of public service professionals—scholars, practitioners and students—that transcends geographic boundaries. It also provides greater opportunity for meaningful exchanges—both formal and informal—between U.S. and non-U.S. organizations and scholars and enhances ASPA’s international visibility and reputation. ASPA remains committed to establishing and continuing partnerships with organizations that share its mission of advancing excellence in public service, domestically and internationally.

Engagement takes different forms, including memoranda of understanding with non-U.S. organizations; jointly hosted or sponsored conferences convened in different countries; and scholarship and information produced through such channels as professional journals, PA TIMES magazine and e-learning programs. These activities make ASPA stronger and we are committed to continuing them.

Despite the many benefits, the environment and context within which ASPA undertakes engagement can present considerable challenges. Limits on academic freedom, threats to fundamental human rights and the undermining of democratic processes conflict with, and are antithetical to, ASPA’s core values and Code of Ethics, which all members agree to uphold. Balancing the values and Code with strengthening the breadth and depth of cross-national scholarly exchange requires an intentional and thoughtful approach to how ASPA wishes to engage going forward and the commitments the National Council intends to uphold.

A. International Engagement Values and Their Alignment with ASPA’s Core Values and Code of Ethics
The Council finds the following seven key values to be fundamental to effective and principled international engagement. Identified by the ASPA President’s Committee on International Scholarly Engagement and contained in its January 2023 report, these values are inextricably linked to ASPA’s four core values of accountability and performance, professionalism, ethics and social equity. The values also are embedded within one or more of its Code of Ethics’ principles. Specifically:

  1. Promoting Dialogue and Understanding. This value is consistent with the Code of Ethics’ principle to advance professional excellence, defined as “strengthen(ing) personal capabilities to act competently and ethically and encourag(ing) the professional development of others.”
  2. Protecting Academic Freedom. This value is consistent with the Code’s principle to demonstrate personal integrity, defined as "adher(ing) to the highest standards of conduct to inspire public confidence and trust in public service.”
  3. Respect for Human Rights. This value is consistent with the Code’s principle to strengthen social equity, defined as “treat(ing) all persons with fairness, justice and equality and respect individual differences, rights and freedoms; promot(ing) affirmative action and other initiatives to reduce unfairness, injustice and inequality in society.”
  4. Supporting the Development of Scholarly Capacity. This value is consistent with the Code’s principle to advance professional excellence, defined above, and the principle to advance the public interest, defined as “promot(ing) the interests of the public and put service to the public above service to oneself.”
  5. Respect for the Self-Determination of Communities. This value is consistent with the Code’s principle to promote democratic participation, defined as “inform(ing) the public and encourag(ing) active engagement in governance. Be(ing) open, transparent and responsive, and respect(ing) and assist(ing) all persons in their dealings with public organizations.”
  6. Protecting the Safety and Dignity of Colleagues. This value is consistent with the Code’s principles to strengthen social equity and demonstrate personal integrity, both defined above.
  7. Accuracy, Fairness and Transparency in Decisionmaking. This value is consistent with the Code’s principle to fully inform and advise, defined as “provid(ing) accurate, honest, comprehensive and timely information and advice to elected and appointed officials and governing board members, and to staff members in your organization.”
B. ASPA International Engagement
  1. It is Council policy that ASPA will employ these seven key values in the context of its current and prospective international partnerships. Understanding that circumstances associated with individual partnerships are varied in complexity, the purpose of employing these values is to ensure clarity, transparency and intentionality in our relationships. Doing so is critical to advancing ASPA’s core values.
  2. For current or renewing partnerships, ASPA shall determine the manner in which the partnership aligns with the key values and, where appropriate, seek ways to integrate the values into it. These components may include, but are not limited to, memoranda of understanding, events and programmatic activity, and publications.
  3. For prospective partnerships, ASPA shall determine the manner in which the potential partnership aligns with the key values, discuss them with the potential partner, document areas of agreement and acknowledge those that present a challenge.
  4. The Council is charged with approving formal relationships with non-U.S. organizations. As the Council considers such partnerships going forward—and the activities associated with them—it shall focus intentionally on what a specific partnership means within the context of respecting or advancing the key values.
  5. Where there are distinctive challenges or conflict with the key values, the Council shall determine whether the proposed partnership should be approved or if the benefits envisioned could be accomplished through other means. In cases of approval, the Council shall, in a transparent fashion, note how it arrived at its decision and how the partnership shall appropriately balance the goals of the activity with the key values.
  6. Conferences and meetings—both in person and virtual—often are a central activity of ASPA’s partnerships with other organizations. The key values will be taken into account when making decisions on the development and implementation of these events, including site selection. It is the Council’s intent that the key values also will be taken into account by ASPA for its own conferences and meetings, and included in RFPs for prospective locations.
  7. Those responsible for the development and execution of current and prospective partnerships, both at the elected leadership and staff levels, will familiarize themselves with the key values and their descriptions, as articulated in the January 2023 report. This is essential to ensuring an informed, reflective and intentional approach to engagement.
C. ASPA Stakeholder Engagement
  1. As a means to educate its members and receive feedback, ASPA will promote this intentional approach to international engagement, as well as its key values, through existing programming and external activities, including both U.S.- and non-U.S.-based conferences and events.
  2. These policies and guidelines pertain to ASPA as a national organization and its activities. Recognizing the self-directed work of ASPA’s Chapters and Sections, ASPA will share these policies and guidelines with them and invite them to consider how the key values might be incorporated in their own work.
  3. This policy will be posted publicly on the ASPA website,, accompanied by the January 2023 report and a list of current partnerships and associated activities, as applicable. The webpage will detail how individuals can provide general comments and/or concerns on aspects of ASPA’s implementation of, and commitment to, the key values. The National Office shall respond to such correspondence within no more than 30 days.
  4. Prior to finalizing renewing or prospective partnerships, ASPA will report such developments to its membership through appropriate communications channels. Members and stakeholders will be invited to provide comments via email as part of a “public comment” period to be defined. Generally, this period shall be no less than 30 days.
D. Memoranda of Understanding
  1. In 2015, the National Council approved policy governing the establishment of formal relationships with non-U.S.-based institutions. Specifically, it provided the guidelines for the creation of memoranda of understanding (MOU) with likeminded organizations. In so doing, it outlined several working definitions of an MOU, including “an informal agreement between two organizations regarding their roles as they agree to work together;” “an international instrument of a less formal kind. It often sets out operational arrangements under a framework international agreement. It is also used for the regulation of technical or detailed matters” (United Nations); and “a document that records the details of an agreement between two companies or organizations, which has not yet been legally approved” (The Cambridge Dictionary).
  2. It is the Council’s intent that if the MOU is intended to share information and open communication, it must be followed up with the agreed commitments. If its intention is to generate goodwill and cultivate friendships, another mechanism would be more appropriate.
  3. The approval process for entering into an MOU with a cooperating association is the following:
    1. Purpose
      1. An MOU will be signed between ASPA and a cooperating association for a specific initiative, such as a conference, research endeavor or other collaboration.
      2. The MOU will outline specific roles of the relationship and commitments made by each party.
      3. The MOU will state the expected outcome of the partnership.
    2. Procedure:
      1. ASPA will utilize the ASPA MOU template for all written agreements.
      2. A letter of request must be sent to the designated ASPA staff member responsible for MOU management. The letter should include the intentions and expected outcomes of such an MOU. It also should include a brief description of the proposed cooperating association.
      3. The Executive Director will bring the proposed MOU to the officers for approval and, if approved, to the National Council for consent.
      4. If approved, the ASPA National Office will draft an MOU for the partnership and submit it for signature. The Executive Director is the authorized signer on behalf of ASPA, though an elected leader may serve as an additional signer for commemorative or similar purposes.
      5. Copies of the signed document will be submitted to and maintained by ASPA. A list of MOU arrangements will be provided on the ASPA website.
    3. Format. The National Office maintains the MOU template.
    4. Term Limits
      1. The MOU must explicitly list the end of the MOU’s term. The standard term will be four years from the date of the signature, unless stated otherwise on the document.
      2. ASPA will not validate MOUs that are continual; a new MOU must be signed once the initial four-year term has expired.
    5. Alternatives. It is understood that certain occasions require a symbolic gesture of cooperation or partnership. In these situations, an MOU is not appropriate as it is not aimed at achieving a specific outcome. The following alternatives can serve as a gesture of friendship and professionalism: certificate of appreciation or letter of support.
*This policy can be found in ASPA's Policies & Procedures. Click here to find that document on our website.