Creating Space for Engagement
2018 Annual Conference Addresses Who, What, When, Where and How
ASPA's 2018 Annual Conference convened in Denver, March 9-13, around its theme: Mission Focused and Service First: Creating Innovative Solutions. Within this framework, plenary lecturers and other featured speakers were drawn to a similar topic of discussion: constituents at all levels of civic participation are searching for ways to engage with their leaders and it is public administration's role to help them learn how.
From start to finish, speakers on the main stage looked at public administration through their personal lenses, but their four divergent perspectives brought them back to a critical factor within mission and service: engagement. More so, lecturers were focused both on enabling engagement with elected officials, as well as enabling the right kind of engagement.
It was through that lens that innovative techniques and strategies were brought to light throughout the conference, throwing open the doors to new and different possibilities within public service.
Four Perspectives, One Shared Concept
Four plenary lecturers and keynotes captured attendees' attention during the conference, looking at civic engagement and participation, technology, ethics and more.
One of the more notable speakers, Walter Shaub, Jr. (formerly director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics) addressed conference attendees on Monday morning as the 2018 Nesta M. Gallas Lecturer and provided a look at the current presidential administration and its ethical missteps. Outlining an array of decisions that have left many members of the Trump administration in a quagmire, Shaub's point was larger than politics: the ongoing trend of failing to appreciate public service is damaging to its future.
"People enter public service for one reason," he stated. "Because they care. We have to get young people interested in serving."
Shaub repeatedly returned to ethics and transparency in government service, and its role in both serving a mission and inspiring new public servants. "Ethics rules exist to protect [people] against a variety of challenges," he argued. "You cannot accomplish anything if those in office are working for personal gains. They should be working for the people."
In fact, "the people" is where the conference started. The opening keynote lecture, given by Valerie Lemmie of the Kettering Foundation, reflected on how we can help democracy work as it should.
"Citizens do not get involved in what they do not care about, or if they do not feel they have been heard. How do we create these spaces?" Lemmie asked.
She went on to describe how to pursue a healthy democracy and find creative ways to innovate at the local level to create space for citizens to get involved in their own advancement.
"You need to speak [the citizens'] language," Lemmie stated. "The way you talk about the work you are doing matters. You need to name—in terms they recognize—the problems, as citizens see them. And then enable them to help fix their issues."
"Fixing their issues" is where Stone Lecturer Tina Nabatchi of Syracuse picked up the dialogue on Monday afternoon. Her presentation focused on public participation and creating civic infrastructure for it.
"Conventional participation usually takes place at open meetings with open mics, with less than one percent participating on average," Nabatchi stated. "One of the first steps to improving this is to give good process. Treat them like adults. Provide information and choices. [Citizens] need to understand complex processes and we need to explain it. Give them room to tell their stories. Give them room to take action."
Nabatchi outlined a number of processes and systems to encourage participation, demonstrating some of the techniques throughout her remarks.
"Lots of processes are meant to push citizens to a pre-determined outcome. The answer to that is to engage people earlier in the process," Nabatchi observed.
This discussion of systems and processes, including using technology as an aid, intersected with this year's Elliot Richardson Lecturer, P.K. Agarwal, as he discussed innovation and technology in government. Looking at disruption, wealth creation, transformation and the challenges all of these elements bring to the public sector, Agarwal led his audience through a brief history of everything the industrial and technology revolutions have meant for society. From horse-drawn carriages to the Model T, from Uber to drones to driverless cars, Agarwal outlined the ways technology has pushed us forward—and the challenges public administrators must address in order to maintain an orderly society.
"If government does not step up, the private sector will fill the void," he observed. "Machines are going to learn. Who will teach them? This is an ethical issue you must address."
Feature events look at ethics, equity
If creating space for engagement was a common theme on the main stage, "Which space?" and "Created for whom?" became a drumbeat within that dialogue. The Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Luncheon, Section for Women in Public Administration Breakfast and presidential panels all looked at answering these questions.
Gloria Hobson Nordin Award winner L. Douglas Wilder, former governor of Virginia, reflected on "for whom" during his remarks at Sunday's luncheon.
"America started off in a little place in Virginia, and then moved west, and further west, until we occupied the land between both oceans," he noted. "I don't think we do that enough today. We are too content with who we are and where we are, rather than say, 'What do we need to do to improve?'
"There's too much focus on party, rather than people. If people are not running the government, we're in trouble—deep trouble. Help your students know there is nothing standing in their way; help them know from whence they came."
"For whom," also was examined during a presidential panel looking at inclusion in public spaces, as panelists discussed which people are publicly recognized for their contributions through public monuments. Panelists looked at the broader issue of how public administrators should go about choosing who and what to commemorate, as well as the underlying issues of history, heritage, power, revisionism and dialogue.
"There is a difference between history, heritage and legacy," stated American Historical Association president Jim Grossman. "Heritage makes you comfortable; history should make you uncomfortable. It is about the past and is constantly revised. Revision means new questions and new narratives. You should never be comfortable."
"A common theme is power," noted American University professor Gregg Ivers. "You have the power to recognize and the power to not recognize. Who decides? Governors? Mayors? The citizens?"
"And what does equal mean?" asked panelist Carla Kimbrough of the National Civic League. "Who decides what is said and what is hidden?"
Equality was also examined during the Section for Women in Public Administration breakfast, when keynote speaker Brenda Allen, University of Colorado Boulder's vice chancellor of diversity and inclusion, looked at divisions within divisions.
"Sexism and racism can both be at play when you interact and intersect," Allen stated. "There are labels that privilege some and prejudice others. Gender, race, nationality, economic status, generational labels—we all have discrimination and privilege."
Allen challenged her audience to dedicate themselves to diversity and be truly committed to it: "Commitment is in your head and heart."
Commitment also was a central theme when four higher education leaders and former U.S. servicemen sat down during a presidential panel to share their lessons learned in military service and how those lessons have translated in the rest of their careers. The panelists brought the discussion back to creating space for engagement, this time through commitment to the team.
"When I joined the UT System, I knew nothing about higher education," University of Texas System chancellor Adm. William McRaven observed. "I had to learn the language. You adapt to them—not them to you. Service to your organization is about something bigger than you. It's never about you, it is always about the team. If you make it about you, you're not leading."
The panelists also discussed equity, directly addressing the lack of demographic representation among the panelists themselves.
"The best team is the most diverse team," stated McRaven. "Four white men don't always provide that. In the military, no one cares about your demographics, for the right reasons. Within higher education, we look beyond your skills and work to change the culture through diversity."
The panelists also recognized the importance of creating space to develop new leaders. "People need support structures," observed University of Texas at Austin policy chair Adm. Bobby Inman. "Focus on selecting your leaders and making sure they are trained properly to do the job. Leadership doesn't always come naturally, but you can help develop the skills."
Creating Innovative Solutions
In between plenaries, breakfasts, lunches, receptions and more, the 2018 conference also featured more than 170 panels, as researchers and practitioners shared with each other recent knowledge gained and innovative ways that data can be put to use.
Including Section-led symposia, hands-on workshops, Founders' Fellows panels and more, the five days of sessions enabled almost 1,300 attendees to bridge the scholar-practitioner divide and engage with each other around how each of them can better enable society to solve our challenges in new and different ways.
While buzz is already building around ASPA's 2019 conference, taking place March 8-12 in Washington, DC, those who were in Denver are just beginning to put some new data, skills and knowledge to use to create new spaces—for new ideas, better research, redirected missions and better engagement that reflects the public we all serve.
"The health of democracy is measured by the quality of its citizens," Valerie Lemmie stated. "Recognize the value the citizens can provide and work with people to find the solutions."
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More Than Thirty Honored with Awards at Annual Conference
More than 30 individuals and organizations were honored with ASPA awards at the 2018 Annual Conference, including the Elmer Staats Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Public Service Award, the Paul Van Riper Award and the Dwight Waldo Award—not to mention the countless Chapter and Section awards and other citations that were handed out in recognition of public administrators' efforts.
Honoring practitioners and academics alike, awards were presented to pay tribute to research, public service, social justice, publications, service to ASPA and lifetime achievement.
Just some of the honorees included:
- Gloria Billingsley (Donald C. Stone Award)
- Agatha Caraballo (Donald C. Stone Award)
- Mary Guy (Dwight Waldo Award)
- Marc Holzer (Paul Van Riper Award)
- Adm. William McRaven (National Public Service Award)
- Paul Posner (Elmer Staats Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Public Service)
- Susan Raufer (National Public Service Award)
- Gen. Mark Welsh, III (National Public Service Award)
- Gov. L. Douglas Wilder (Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Award)
You can find a listing of ASPA's award winners and a link to our awards brochure online here.
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Webinars, BookTalks and Student Series on the Horizon
ASPA's professional development webinars are ongoing throughout the year. Averaging 75 attendees per webinar and free to ASPA members, these e-learning opportunities provide you with valuable insights and information at your fingertips. Visit our website to stay informed about all upcoming webinars, BookTalks and Student Series.
ASPA has held six webinars since the beginning of the year, all of which have been posted to our archives. Make the most of this resource both to advance your own learning and, where appropriate, share content with your classes to supplement your syllabus.
America's Crisis and Public Administration's Ethical Dilemma: Homeless LGBT Youth in the 21st Century
April 19 | 1 p.m.
Richard Greggory Johnson, III, University of San Francisco
Sean McCandless, University of Denver
Lorenda Naylor, University of Baltimore
Kris Norman-Major, Hamline University
Jama Shelton, CUNY Hunter CollegeK
Held in partnership with Public Integrity, this webinar will look at the rise in numbers of homeless LGBT youth and their effects on our society and public administration. Register today.
BookTalk: Entrepreneurial Leadership and Financial Stability in Nonprofit Organizations
May 3 | 1 p.m.
Carolyn Mattocks, "I Can Do Anything"
Using case studies, this book explores social entrepreneurship, social enterprises and financial stability.
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Provide ASPA with Your Annual Conference Feedback
If you were in Denver, please make sure you complete our surveys to tell us about your conference experience.
Our session survey provides ASPA with valuable feedback about speakers, topics, relevance and quality of the individual sessions that were presented in Denver. Please complete this form for each ASPA session you attended so we can best segment and use the data to plan for next year's panels. Each form should take you less than two minutes to complete.
Our conference evaluation survey asks for your feedback about the plenaries, exhibit hall, Career Fair, program book and overall conference experience. It should take you less than 10 minutes to complete. Those who provide contact details at the end of the survey will also be entered to win a free 2019 Annual Conference registration!
Fewer than 200 attendees have filled out our surveys so far. As researchers, and those who rely on research to execute programs, we hope you have a keen appreciation for how important these evaluations are. Please take a few minutes to provide your feedback! Contact us with any questions.
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Public Service Recognition Week Six Weeks Away
The 2018 Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), May 6-12, is six weeks away. How is your organization, Chapter or Section celebrating public servants?
Organized by the Public Employees Roundtable, this annual event is a great opportunity to tout the important work public administrators and other public servants perform. No matter how you celebrate public service, now is the time to start planning—and make sure you keep ASPA informed about your event or celebration so we can include you in our coverage of this year's Week.
If you are in the D.C. area, there are several events taking place this May, including a 5K (which you can do virtually!), a Washington Nationals baseball game and a Public Service Town Hall, sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service and the Volcker Alliance. Check out the PSRW website for details and add any of these events to your calendar! You can also follow this year's activities on Twitter through #PSRW and post your own tributes using that hashtag.
Not in D.C.? You can still be involved! Keep ASPA informed about the events you're holding in your city or with your Chapter and we will help you get the word out! Get excited and plan now to celebrate the public servants in your life!
Contact ASPA chief of communications Karen Garrett with event information or questions.
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Spring Edition of PA TIMES Magazine Released
The Spring 2018 edition of PA TIMES Magazine has been posted to the ASPA website. Make sure you download your copy, which features the latest public sector news and trends.
This edition focuses on workforce management. Authors include:
- Mallory Barg Bulman (Partnership for the Public Service)
- Evan Berman (Victoria University of Wellington)
- Alex Pattakos (Consultant)
- John Pearson (Retired Civil Servant)
- John Salamone (Office of Personnel Management)
Also including a One-on-One with Santa Clara County chief procurement officer Miriam Singer, a Section Spotlight featuring the Section on Health and Human Services Administration, important member news and more, this edition is packed with content. Download your copy today and catch up on the latest research and thought leadership within public administration.
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Call for Articles: Black Girl Civics
You are invited to submit an article to a new edited book titled, Black Girl Civics: Expanding and Navigating the Boundaries of Civic Engagement, edited by Ginnie Logan and Janiece Mackey. The book will be published by Information Age Press as part of the Adolescence in Educations series edited by Ben Kirshner. Abstracts of 500 words are due April 11, 2018 and full chapters (4,000-6,000 words) are due Nov. 1, 2018. Click here for more information.
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Call for Papers: 2018 Transatlantic Dialogue—Deadline Extended
The 2018 Transatlantic Dialogue (TAD 14) will be held at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, June 6-8, 2018. The theme of this year's conference, jointly organized by EGPA and ASPA is, "The Disciplines and the Study of Public Administration—Transatlantic Perspectives". TAD 14 will bring together a diverse group of scholars who draw on different theoretical and methodological perspectives to share their latest research and discuss challenges confronting governance and democratic society on both sides of the Atlantic. This conference aims to study in depth the contribution that the many disciplines that constitute public administration (PA) as an inter-disciplinary endeavor can contribute to the advancement of PA theory and practice, and explore the commonalities as well as differences between Europe and the United States in the ways in which the various disciplines are employed in the study of PA. The deadline for proposals has been extended to April 13, 2018. Click here for more information.
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Public Administration Research Conference at the University of Central Florida
The 12th Annual University of Central Florida (UCF) Public Administration Research Conference will be held at the UCF main campus on April 13, 2018. Featuring a keynote address by Camilla Stivers and nine panel sessions, the conference is organized around the theme, "A Return to 'Governance in Dark Times'? Creating Spaces for Citizen Dialogue, Encouraging Engagement in Public Life and Ensuring Government Transparency and Accountability." Registration includes a parking permit plus breakfast and lunch on Friday, and a welcome and networking reception on Thursday, April 12. Additional conference information is available online. Register today.
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National Forum for Black Public Administrators Annual Conference
Registration for the National Forum for Black Public Administrators' (NFBPA) annual conference, FORUM 2018, is open. Taking place April 18-22, 2018 FORUM attracts more than 1,000 African American public officials for an intensive skills building and professional development program. FORUM brings together NFBPA members, corporate executives, elected officials and students for four days designed to promote success in public service. Click here for more information.
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Georgia State University Conference: April 26-27
Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies will be hosting a conference, "Public Finance and the New Economy," April 26-27, 2018. The field of public finance is faced with challenges and opportunities arising from the new economy, sharing economy, data analytics and artificial intelligence. The Andrew Young School invites papers that examine how these changes affect the public sector, as well as how the public sector is adapting. Click here for more information.
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ABFM 2018 Research Conference Announced for October
The Association for Budgeting and Financial Management invites you to submit a paper or panel proposal for its annual research conference. This year's conference will be held Oct. 4-6 in Denver. Though papers have traditionally focused on U.S. state and local government budgeting and financial management, organizers welcome papers on federal budgeting, as well as papers with an international or comparative perspective. Please submit all paper and panel proposals by May 1, 2018. Click here for more information.
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Network Leadership Training Academy Now Accepting Registrations
Building cross-sector partnerships between organizations and communities to address complex social problems is both a valuable and challenging experience. While many people are eager to implement these types of partnerships, there are few venues for developing the skills needed to be successful. To address this gap, we invite you to join the 6th Annual Network Leadership Training Academy (NLTA), May 16-18. Hosted by the Center on Network Science at the University of Colorado Denver's School of Public Affairs, this three-day interactive workshop will develop skills that reflect the adaptive and innovative needs of managing and being a member of a diverse group of stakeholders. Event registration will close May 4. Be sure to register early; space is limited and this event usually sells out. Email [email protected] with any questions and click here for more information.
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SAAPAM 17th Annual Conference
The South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM), in collaboration with the Department of Public Administration within the faculty of economic and management sciences at North West University, will be hosting its 17th Annual Conference at Mmabatho Palms in the North-West Province, May 8-11, 2018 under the theme, "Building State Capacity for Democracy's Developmental Mandate." The four-day conference will provide a platform for international and local academics, students and practitioners to share innovative ideas on democracy and state capacity. Click here for more information.
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Announcing: 22nd Biennial Forum of Government Auditors
Today's audit environment is rapidly evolving due to technology trends, advances in data and analytics, and hurricanes and other natural disasters. The 22nd Biennial Forum, taking place May 9-10, will feature presentations on these and other issues by leaders in the accountability community, academia and the private sector. Featured keynote speakers will include Gene Dodaro (Comptroller of the United States), Steve Ballmer (Founder of USAFacts), Michael Horowitz (Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice) and Dianne Ray (Colorado State Auditor). Click here for more information.
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2018 SECoPA Annual Conference Call for Proposals
The 2018 Southeastern Conference for Public Administration (SECoPA) will take place Sept. 20-23, 2018 in Birmingham, AL. The website is live and submissions are being accepted. All proposals are due May 15, 2018. Click here for more information.
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2018 Teaching Public Administration Conference this September
The 2018 Teaching Public Administration Conference will take place this Sept. 10-12, in conjunction with the UK Joint University Council's Public Administration Committee (PAC) Annual Conference in North Umbria, UK. Preliminary details are posted online, including the call for proposals. All proposals are due May 30, 2018. Click here for more information.
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The Future of Public Service Symposium: May 31
Suffolk University, with ASPA, is hosting a symposium this May, "The Future of Public Service: Advancing the Civil Society through Partnership Government." Taking place May 31, this dialogue will explore the next frontier of public service: partnership government. It will focus on a broad vision of public service grounded in the principles of the civil society, the common good, service to others and social equity, exploring the need for public service organizations and other actors to recognize and embrace the interdependence that is necessary to succeed as partners in an era of fundamental challenges to the role of government itself. Click here for more information.
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2018 Sino-U.S. International Conference This June
The ninth Sino-U.S. International Conference on Public Administration invites you to submit your paper abstracts for this year's conference, taking place June 15-17 in Beijing. Hosted by Suffolk University, Institute of Public Service; Rutgers University—Newark, School of Public Affairs and Administration; ASPA; and the Chinese Public Administration Society, the theme for this year's conference will be: "Implementing Public Policy Toward Good Governance." This conference focuses on public policy creation and implementation toward good governance around the world. Click here for more information.
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2018 IIAS Congress: June 25-29
The 2018 Congress of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS), taking place June 25-29, 2018 in close collaboration with the Presidency of the Tunisian Government and ENA Tunis (National School of Administration), will focus on the theme of administrative resilience.
Resilience refers to the capacity of public administration to provide appropriate responses to shocks, risks and disasters of any kinds.Click here for more information.
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University of Delaware Announces The Biden Challenge
The University of Delaware is proud to announce the Biden Challenge: How to Revitalize the Middle Class. Participants will engage in panels and idea exchanges at the University of Delaware on the future of employment and education, the role of innovation, budget priorities and infrastructure investments. The Challenge will take place on Sept. 28, 2018; proposals may be submitted to [email protected].
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