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The Call for Proposals has closed. Refer to these pages for more conference information it the coming weeks.

Building Resilient Communities

Theme and Track Details

What does building resilient communities mean? We often think of “resilience” as the ability to overcome, grow, adapt and innovate. And, we know that “community resilience” is garnering attention across the public service profession around the globe. But, the definition is complicated, especially given the interconnection of local knowledge, community networks and relationships, governance and leadership, community capital and economic investment, inclusivity, social and economic equity, climate adaptation and environmental justice. ASPA’s 2024 Annual Conference aims to help attendees understand the myriad connections and complex systems involved.

One image that comes to mind is Gumby*, the green claymation character made popular in the 1970s: highly adaptive, bending, twisting and upending around solid objects, always capable of returning to its original form. Current times require creative thinking to build resilience so communities can recover and transform, while maintaining basic functions and identity. The 2024 Annual Conference will provide attendees with the expertise to build “Gumby” communities that can be stretched, shrunk or squished by the forces around them, while also retaining the structural integrity needed to remain whole and thrive.

Most communities have faced intractable problems in recent years and even decades, whether in health, economy, inequity, security or governance. They have needed to twist in unnatural ways and not all of them have settled to their original—or desirable or manageable—form. Some have improved from the experience; others have split into pieces, never to be whole again. Resilient communities are able to withstand the dynamic forces of a global, networked and diverse society. Intractable problems—poverty, environmental crisis, xenophobia, social and economic injustice and the changing nature of work, to name a few—drive a community’s capacity to effectively and equitably govern and serve.

What differentiates in this environment? What makes one community strong enough to withstand crises and bounce back—even bounce back better—while another struggles and suffers, its citizens needing more resources and not being able to cultivate them? Which factors play leading roles and which are tangential? What do communities need to gain to be able to bounce back? What roles must public administration professionals and scholars play in contributing to building resilient communities? How do we nurture relationships across the profession to collaboratively develop resolutions to community challenges?

The 2024 Annual Conference will examine these questions, demonstrating the necessary components of resilience to help all communities become “Gumby” in the years ahead. Six tracks will guide our discussions, all of which will emphasize enduring public administration tasks, plus effectiveness, efficiency, equity and better performance.

We are seeking proposals for sessions, individual papers or topics and workshops that will delve into this theme and its related tracks. These proposals will form the bulk of the sessions presented during the conference and provide attendees with learning objectives throughout the event.

Conference Co-Chairs: Naim Kapucu (University of Central Florida) and Hillary Knepper (Pace University).

*Gumby is trademarked by PREMA Toy Company. References do not imply trademark or copyright.


Good Governance and Democratic Resilience
History contains many examples of democratic systems being tested by opposing forces. Recent developments have added to the catalog. If effective public administration is necessary for democratic resilience—and vice versa—what does it mean when democracies are under attack from all sides? This track will explore what good governance looks like and how to instill democratic values in student learning, practice and scholarship. It also will explore how accountable and responsible administrators have addressed political interference and been encouraged, supported and protected in their roles. Focus areas include:
  • Today’s public servant profile
  • Strengthening governmental accountability institutions
  • Building civil society resiliency
  • Ethics in public service
  • Funding resilient democracies
  • Intergovernmental coordination and communication
  • Correcting structural injustices
  • Resilient performance and evidence-based management systems
  • Populist governance models’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Equitable service delivery across government
  • Effective, equitable election administration

Social Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Social equity, diversity and inclusion (SEDI) plays a powerful role in building community resilience. The impact of all voices working together can make communities more nimble, flexible and better able to bounce back when disasters of any kind strike. Yet not all communities have seen or realized that vision. What role should public administration play in both cohesive and divisive social constructs and how do those constructs impact resilience? This track will explore SEDI in the public sector and identify research and practice contributing to changing the narrative around equity, as well as promising practices that are a model for communities to follow. Focus areas include:
  • Public services in and for at-risk communities
  • Equity for indigenous peoples
  • Health care inequities and their impact on community resilience
  • Housing and land use inequities and their long-term ramifications
  • Performance management for equitable outcomes
  • Diversity in government workplaces
  • Ongoing LGBTQIA challenges
  • Administrative burdens and resilience
  • Urban resilience
  • The effects of immigration and migration on resiliency
  • Equity in higher education
  • Intergovernmental collaboration

Innovative Human Resource Management
Public sector employees are not immune to the workforce and workplace challenges that have developed or been exacerbated due to political, health and economic forces. Are employees enabled to do their job? Do they feel motivated to do well? Are they recognized for being successful? Do they have an opportunity to provide feedback about their role and do they feel comfortable doing so? Is the workplace flexible enough to accommodate the needs of the emerging workforce? The answers to these and other key questions loom large as the public sector continues to struggle to attract and hire new employees. Resilient communities depend on the professionals administering them. What are we doing wrong and what are we doing right? This track will look at questions related to labor relationships, workforce management, professional development and more. Focus areas include:
  • Innovative HR strategies
  • Organizational public service citizenship
  • Engaging employees
  • Performance management and productivity
  • Retention strategies during challenging times
  • Cultivating resilient leadership
  • Employee satisfaction and motivation
  • Diversity in the workplace
  • Public pensions and retirement programs
  • Funding a resilient workforce

Environmental Management and Effective Technology
Environmental management touches almost every public policy and administration challenge in some way, including social equity, financial management, disaster preparedness and intergovernmental systems, making it an important focal point for communities striving for resilience. How communities use technology to support environmental management and other programs effectively will make or break their resiliency over time. This track will look at what environmental management means today, what communities are facing and how to integrate the right tools to make it efficient, effective, equitable and affordable. Focus areas include:
  • Natural resource management
  • Environmental policy
  • Water and land policy and management
  • Smart growth and green and livable communities
  • Sustainability and economic development
  • Big data
  • Infrastructure management
  • Performance measurement
  • Climate, migration and immigration
  • Artificial intelligence

Emergency Preparedness, Public Health and Disaster Response
One hallmark of a resilient community is its ability to recover quickly and successfully from disasters and crises. It requires coordination with various federal, state and local entities, as well as between sectors and stakeholders. Emergency managers have an opportunity to use post-disaster environments to create and enhance resiliency. But more often than not, disaster recovery leads to inequitable outcomes and exacerbates the vulnerability of those most at risk. Planning for recovery prior to an event is crucial to ensuring a successful recovery process. Yet many communities do not have the resources to do it well. What new information can we bring to disaster management and what can we learn from emergency managers who have lived through the storm? Focus areas include:
  • Innovative and resilient building strategies
  • Budgeting for resiliency
  • Homeland security and complex attacks
  • Advancing public safety and trust
  • Immigration, border security and refugee crises
  • COVID-19’s strain on the public health system
  • Evaluating and enhancing the public health system
  • Health and medicine
  • Performance management approaches
  • The role and use of social media in a disaster
  • Co-production of resilience strategies
  • Climate change and community resilience

Global and Comparative Perspectives
Both the pandemic and a rising tide of anti-democratic sentiment around the world have highlighted the disparities between and among countries. As public administrators, our role is to analyze success stories, fit applicable ones into our models and find effective ways to build resilience, no matter the country of origin. This track will encourage exchanges of practices and recent research, and generate new ideas from global and comparative perspectives. From public health to governance models to infrastructure to climate change and beyond, there is plenty of space to engage, learn and plan for future possibilities in building resilient communities. Focus areas include:
  • The global role of nongovernmental organizations
  • Implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals
  • Democracy and social justice across boundaries
  • Collaboration across professional organizations
  • Lessons learned for global public service delivery
  • Emerging models of network governance
  • Sharing best practices and innovations
  • Performance management around the world
  • Comparative public finance
  • Building global “Gumby” communities