Annual Conference Breaks Records, Focuses on New Traditions
ASPA's 2016 Annual Conference, held in Seattle earlier this month, welcomed attendees for the premier public administration gathering of the year. More than 1,300 individuals from across the discipline—more than this conference has drawn in 15 years—were on hand to network with each other, attend panels, hear from plenary speakers and learn from each other about public administration's current challenges, successes and research.
The theme for the event, New Traditions in Public Administration: Reflecting on Challenges, Harnessing Opportunities, was the focus of six super panels organized by then-ASPA President Maria Aristigueta to discuss today's current environment. These discussions sparked dialogue that resonated throughout the conference.
One of the most discussed challenges throughout the plenaries and award events was equity—including gender equity, racial disparities, socio-economic status and government service delivery—and the ways in which it is reflected in public policy, as well as how such policies are then administered.
Opening plenary speaker Ron Sims, former deputy director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, praised public administrators for their inspirational work and the ways in which they can change people’s lives, especially as such changes relate to economic disparity.
"Your task in public administration is to get to the science of things. You cannot just rely on theory. Get the data from other disciplines and organize it out of the silo!" Sims declared. "This country needs you. You are the people who are going to allow a government function to work better."
An Energetic Opening
The crowd that gathered for the opening plenary on March 19 was treated to a half-hour performance by Japanese drummers as they welcomed ASPA attendees to Seattle. More than 500 attendees were on their feet as the performance concluded and provided an entertaining way to kick off the conference.
The surprises continued that evening at the Welcome Reception as Chinese Dragon Dancers performed outside the Museum of History and Industry and then led conference goers into the venue. Packed with more than 500 people, attendees enjoyed delicious food, browsed museum exhibits and spent time networking with each other and making new friends.
"We wanted to try something different this year and provide attendees with a true Seattle experience—especially for those who may not have an opportunity to venture outside the hotel," noted J. Paul Blake, one of the individuals responsible for planning the event. "Attendees got to experience a variety of the cultural influences that make Seattle what it is without having to venture outside conference confines."
Workshops, Award Events Round Out Event
More than 150 panels featuring more than 700 speakers were presented throughout the five-day event, most of which focused on what data can tell public administrators about programs’ effectiveness. From immigration reform to managing natural disasters to criminal justice to infrastructure, research topics focused on the data presented and its impact within the discipline. Just a few of the most popular and well-reviewed panels included:
- Strategies for Change: Race and Social Justice
- Learning from Public Administration Journal Editors
- Trust and the Perception of Government
- More Blood from Fewer Stressed Out Turnips
- Toward Intersector Collaboration: The Evolving Nature of Public-Private Partnerships
Attendees flowed from panel room to panel room to sit in on discussions and learn from each other—including those attending the Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Luncheon on Sunday afternoon and the Section on Women in Public Administration (SWPA) breakfast on Monday morning, where special guests Larry Gossett and Tana Senn, respectively, provided remarks, again bringing the discussion back to equity in public administration.
"Women of color earn 56 cents to the man's dollar. This is outrageous!" mentioned Senn, a Washington State Senator and this year’s SWPA breakfast keynote speaker. "Gender wage disparity has been a key issue for me most of my life and I am going to continue to fight for greater equity."
But equity was not the only focus within workshop rooms. This year’s conference featured more student and young professionals than has been seen in recent years, as well as more international attendees. More than 50 countries were represented on the attendee list and this was most evident during the workshops presented. Leading discussions on public administration in South America, Central Asia and the Middle East, these panelists expanded the scope to engage in dialogues around issues critical in those regions, including immigration (and migration), natural disasters, corruption, service delivery and more.
"Leviathan by Proxy"
If equity resonated as a challenge on which many attendees were reflecting, 2016 Elliot Richardson lecturer John DiIulio strove to connect the disparities on everyone’s mind with the state of the federal government workforce today.
"The U.S. federal government has grown dramatically in the past half-century," DiIulio noted. "Every year, we spend about five times what we spent in 1960. And yet, the number of federal employees during the Bush administration was the same as the Kennedy administration. The federal government is a leviathan by proxy."
His discussion went on to outline the data supporting this theory, describing in detail the ways in which the three proxies involved—state and local governments, nonprofits and contractors—serve to inflate the workforce not calculated by the U.S. General Accounting Office, as well as the budgetary inefficiencies that result from these proxies.
"Leviathan by proxy routinely botches critical efforts. What’s worse, proxies lobby Congress for programs they are then paid to administer. These proxies rarely lose, which is why government growth has continued as it has. Big national government—whether at the state or local or federal level—is still big, national government. The growth of leviathan by proxy is much harder to constrain and harder to diagnose and fix than if we had an adequate number of federal bureaucrats."
While many in the audience agreed with DiIulio's comments, they were not entirely accepted as attributable to public administration and his discussion generated a debate on the part of conference goers as to whether public administration could shift the workforce back within government walls.
"What you are talking about may be true, but it is not a public administration issue," noted one attendee during the Q&A period. "Rather, it is a public policy and election issue. We cannot do anything about the size of government if those individuals elected to office continue to operate under current protocols."
Circling Back to Successes, Challenges, New Traditions
The dialogue around equity was pervasive through to the end of the event when, during the closing plenary, the Virginia Tech Flint Water Study Team accepted the 2016 Public Integrity Award. The water study team has been on the front lines in testing Flint, Mich.’s water for lead levels in the wake of the water crisis there. Team representative Laurel Strom, a Washington State native, made remarks.
"When we witnessed the dangerous actions of public administrators at local, state and federal levels, we felt it was our duty to get involved," Strom noted, specifically calling out the Environmental Protection Agency for the ways in which it disregarded the problem. "This award, like many others, is not for us but for the residents of Flint, 40 percent of whom are below the poverty line, who suffered and were dismissed by government agencies. By honoring us you are honoring the Flint families."
And so the 2016 Annual Conference came to a close as attendees acknowledged the tremendous actions taken by a team largely made up of graduate students—the next generation of public administrators—as they fought, and continue to fight, for equity and justice.
It is a grand tradition, highlighting both current successes and challenges, and one that will continue to come into play throughout the discipline in the coming year and those beyond. As opening keynote speaker Ron Sims noted: "We are in a century where there will be definitive winners and losers. Public administrators can take us from where we are today to where we need to be."
More Than Thirty Honored with Awards at Annual Conference
More than 30 individuals were honored with ASPA awards at the 2016 Annual Conference, including the Nesta M. Gallas Award, the Elmer Staats Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Public Service Award and the Public Integrity Award—not to mention the countless 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:
- Admiral Thad Allen (Nesta M. Gallas Award)
- J. Paul Blake (Donald C. Stone Award)
- Ann Braga (Donald C. Stone Award)
- Stephen Condrey (Elmer Staats Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Public Service)
- Larry Gossett (Gloria Hobson Nordin Social Equity Award)
- Andrew Kleine (National Public Service Award)
- Norma Riccucci (Dwight Waldo Award)
- Capt. Joseph Stenger (National Public Service Award)
- Kendra Stewart (Donald C. Stone Award)
- Virginia Tech Flint Water Study Team (Public Integrity Award)
You can find a full listing of both ASPA and Section awards presented during the event online here, and on the ASPA website shortly.
Provide ASPA with Your Annual Conference Feedback
If you were in Seattle, there are now two surveys in the field you can complete to evaluate your conference experience.
New this year, ASPA has circulated a panel survey encouraging attendees to evaluate the individual panels they attended. Please note: this survey is not to be confused with a more general conference evaluation. Rather, this survey is specifically for attendees to provide feedback about the individual panels they attended and review speakers, topics, relevance and quality of the presentation. Participants are asked to please complete a panel survey for each panel they attended so ASPA can best segment and use the data. Click here to complete the short questionnaire now. It should take you less than two minutes for each panel you wish to review.
We are also asking attendees to evaluate the entire conference. Surveying your experience with the plenaries, exhibit hall, Career Fair, program book and overall conference experience, this questionnaire should take you less than 10 minutes to complete. Those who provide contact details at the end of the questionnaire will also be entered to win a free 2017 Annual Conference registration! Click here to fill out the survey.
We appreciate your feedback and look forward to hearing from you regarding your experience in Seattle! Contact ASPA's Chief of Communications, Karen Garrett, with any questions about the questionnaires.
Deadline This Week: 2016 Young Scholars Workshop in Cape Town
Calling all Ph.D. students, post-doctoral fellows and young professionals! The application period for the 5th International Young Scholars Workshop in Public Policy and Administration Research, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, July 20-23, 2016, will close April 1, 2016.
This workshop aims to provide young scholars working in public policy, public administration and related subfields with an academically rigorous platform for the presentation of research and scholarly exchange. Research in all areas of public administration and policy are eligible, however the 2016 workshop will focus on research that advances understanding of global disparities in public policy, public administration, nongovernmental organizations and the communities they serve.
Accepted participants will receive a registration fee waiver, lodging accommodations (double occupancy with a fellow young scholar), local transportation and daily meals for four days. Participants must cover their own airfare travel expenses and secure their own visa (if required).
Please review the Call for Applications with additional details. Applicants must complete the Online Application Form, which includes summary information about their research papers and a recent resume.
ASPA is pleased to partner with the Graduate School of Rutgers University at Newark and the Conference of Minority Public Administrators for this initiative.
Public Service Recognition Week One Month Away
The 2016 Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), May 1-7, is one month 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 make "good enough for government work" a positive statement encompassing the terrific work public administrators and other public servants perform. No matter how you celebrate public service, now is the time to get planning—and make sure you alert ASPA 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 throughout the spring, including a D.C. United game, a 5K Run/Walk and a Washington Nationals game. Check out the PSRW website for details and add one 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.
Get excited and plan now to celebrate the public servants in your life!
Contact ASPA's Chief of Communications, Karen Garrett, with event information or questions.
National Capital Area Chapter Hosts Booktalk with Bill Eggers Tonight
ASPA's National Capital Area Chapter will be hosting a Booktalk tonight at 6 p.m. at George Mason. Attendees will hear from guest speaker William Eggers, coauthor of The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Entrepreneurs Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems, for a presentation and lively discussion about his book, thoughts and other findings. Eggers is the Public Sector Research Director at Deloitte Services and is an internationally recognized authority on government reform, a columnist and author of seven books. Eggers is responsible for research and thought leadership for Deloitte's Public Sector industry practice and has advised governments around the world. Register online here.
2016 ABFM Conference this October in Seattle
The Association for Budgeting and Financial Management (ABFM) reminds you that its conference will take place Oct. 6-8, 2016, in Seattle. It has recently announced a pre-conference symposium on public budgeting and financial management in Asia, which is being planned for Oct. 5. Practitioners and academics are invited to submit a panel or paper proposal by March 31, 2016, to be included in the symposium. Proposals should be submitted directly to Professor Lu of City University of New York and Professor Zhao of University of Minnesota. Please include in the subject line: Symposium On Public Budgeting and Financial Management In Asia.
Register Now for the 39th Annual Teaching Public Administration Conference
The American Society for Public Administration's Section on Public Administration Education announces registration is open for the 39th Annual Teaching Public Administration Conference (TPAC), Balancing Theory and Practice in Public Service Professionalization, taking place May 24-25, 2016.
TPAC provides a forum for demonstrating and discussing teaching opportunities and strategies, building awareness of the contemporary environments related to public administration education and collaborating on career development strategies. The forum is designed for public administration educators, practitioners and students. Sessions will cover teaching and technology, multicultural education and career development.
You are also invited to register for an intensive half-day, pre-conference workshop on "Everything You Need to Know and Understand about Teaching Technology for Public Administration," taking place May 23.
For more information, visit https://spaa.newark.rutgers.edu/tpac.
2016 Northeastern Conference on Public Administration Call for Proposals
The 2016 Northeastern Conference on Public Administration (NECoPA), taking place Nov. 11-13 in Harrisburg, has announced its call for proposed papers, panels and posters. The theme of the conference, which is hosted by Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs, will be Public Administration in the Era of Collaboration. Please submit your proposal (250 words) as an email attachment together with a title, biographical sketch and contact information. Submissions should be sent to conference Chair Dr. Bing Ran. All proposals must be submitted by June 1, 2016. Visit the NECoPA website and follow NECoPA on Facebook for updates and more information.
George Mason Immigration and Refugee Seminar
George Mason University, in conjunction with Mississippi State University, the University of Zagreb and the University of Split, is proud to offer an advanced training seminar that explores emerging social issues surrounding immigration and refugee studies. Faculty members, post-doctoral researchers and graduate students are welcome to apply. Graduate-credit options are available. The seminar is limited to 25 participants, so applicants will be served on a first come, first served basis. Contact Tonya Neaves for more information.
The Politics of Higher Education: University President Ideology and External Networking
This episode features Tom Rabovsky and Amanda Rutherford (Indiana University, Bloomington) discussing their article titled "The Politics of Higher Education: University President Ideology and External Networking." This article is currently available on Early View and will be published in Public Administration Review, Issue 76, Volume 5. Link to PAR Podcast
Theory to Practice
Hal G. Rainey, Editor
Regulatory Transformation: Lessons from Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
As economies and citizen priorities continue to evolve, governance practices must also adjust to changing circumstances and public expectations. Daniel Esty (Yale University) explores the important topic of regulatory transformation, drawing from both the academic literature and his recent experience heading Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The article makes the case for a focus on vision and execution as the critical starting points for good governance in the 21st century, drawing on best practices from the world of management. It then addresses some of the constraints faced by government organizations in this evolving era. Finally, the article identifies five core elements of regulatory excellence: integration, innovation, incentives, investment and implementation. Link to PAR Early View
Do Leadership Training and Development Make a Difference in the Public Sector? A Panel Study
Although significant progress has been made in developing leadership theory and understanding the traits, skills, behaviors and styles that make a good leader, progress in bridging the gap between theory and practice using models of leadership training and development has been slow. Brett Seidle (Naval Surface Warfare Center), Sergio Fernandez (Indiana University, Bloomington; University of Johannesburg, South Africa) and James L. Perry (Indiana University, Bloomington; University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong) attempt to answer the question of whether leadership training and development programs in the public sector improve leader and organizational performance. The findings indicate that a combination of coaching, classroom instruction, feedback and experiential training has a significant impact on leader performance. In addition, organizational effectiveness improves for organizations whose leaders received the intervention. This article enhances our understanding of the impact that training and development can have on leader and organizational outcomes. Link to PAR Early View
Understanding What Shapes a Polycentric Governance System
Recent research has shown that communication networks involving governmental and nongovernmental actors self-organize based on how risk is perceived. According to the "risk hypothesis," actors embedded in governance systems in which there is widespread risk of defection tend to form bonding structures, whereas those in low-risk systems form bridging structures. A parallel strand of research proposes to study complex governance systems composed of multiple actors and the decisionmaking forums in which they interact. In this article, Ramiro Berardo (The Ohio State University) and Mark Lubell (University of California, Davis) couple these research threads and show how bonding and bridging structures form when stakeholders participate in three complex governance systems of varying institutional strength. Findings suggest that the prevalence of one type of structure over the other depends on contextual variables such as the stability of the institutions and the occurrence of environmental focusing events that demand quick policy responses. Link to PAR Early View
Regulation by Reputation: Monitoring and Sanctioning in Nonprofit Accountability Clubs
Nonprofits seek to enhance their reputation for responsible management by joining voluntary regulation mechanisms such as accountability clubs. Because external stakeholders cannot fully observe nonprofits' compliance with club obligations, clubs incorporate mechanisms to monitor compliance and impose sanctions. Yet including monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms increases the cost of club membership for nonprofits. Joannie Tremblay-Boire (Georgia State University), Aseem Prakash and Mary Kay Gugerty (University of Washington) ask: what factors account for the variation in the strength of monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms in voluntary accountability clubs? An analysis of 224 clubs suggests that stringent monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms are more likely in fundraising-focused clubs, clubs that offer certification (as opposed to only outlining a code of conduct) and clubs with greater longevity. The macro context in which clubs function also shapes their institutional design: clubs in OECD countries and clubs with global membership are less likely to incorporate monitoring and sanctioning mechanisms than clubs in non-OECD countries and single-country clubs, respectively. Link to PAR Early View
New on PA Times Online
Every Tuesday and Friday, ASPA publishes a curated collection of original content that covers public service, management and international affairs.
For issues being published in the second quarter of 2016, we welcome submissions that focus on millennial changes and implications for governance models. Send us your submissions now! The deadline is rolling; contact us for more information.
Check out our recent articles and columns:
Overregulation, Opportunity and Corruption
Facing a Data Gap in Decisionmaking, Local Governments Look to Cross-Sector Partners
New on the ASPA Blog
Looking for interesting commentary on news events and contemporary issues? Check out the ASPA Blog, which features a collection of authors writing on everyday life from the eyes of a public manager, student or young professional.
Featured recently on the Blog:
The Flint Water Crisis: Betrayal and Racism
Holding On to Our Dignity
Find your next career opportunity at publicservicecareers.org. This online job board is the perfect resource for making a career change or landing your first job in the public sector. It lists dozens of positions in academia, government and the nonprofit sector. Below are examples of current listings.
Communications Intern – City of Falls Church, VA
Doctoral Fellowship – MDRC, New York, NY
Business Consulting Staff – Moss Adams, Seattle, WA