ASPA 2022 Annual Conference | March 18-22 | Jacksonville, Florida
Call for Proposals, Theme and Tracks

The past several years have witnessed emergent and growing threats against both social equality and public health. The gulf between the “haves” and “have nots” is not new but recent decades have seen it widen dramatically, encouraged by economics, partisan politics, racism, sexism and more. Far too often, policies characterized and put forward as benefiting the middle class and poor have, in fact, provided much greater benefit to the most affluent members of society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened things: Those with the most often have benefited; those with the least often have been the most victimized and fallen further behind. Simultaneously, attacks on democracy and integrity of governance—both in the United States and abroad—have frustrated service delivery, lowered morale, increased burdens and reduced trust in government to an all-time low and further impeded countries’ abilities to combat the pandemic. Where do we go from here?

The questions we are tasked to solve are never ending. Living wage or minimum wage? Universal child care or private systems? Flexible work environments or status quo? Broadband for all or pay to play? Access to health care and at what cost? Fix the bridge or build a road around? Who gets vaccines? Who gets to vote? Most important: Who gets to decide and whose rights and freedoms matter more? Our answers will impact how we define and encourage democracy and equality—and effective public administration as a result.

The 2022 Annual Conference will address the most challenging concerns our society faces right now: Upholding democratic institutions and advancing equality. Practitioners, scholars and students from around the world are encouraged to attend and contribute their research and practice to this critical dialogue. We will need ideas and strategies from a variety of cultures and perspectives to move forward and shore up our threatened systems. Review the tracks and their descriptions below to better understand the discussions we anticipate for this event and submit your ideas by deadline, which has been extended to November 5, 2021!

All proposals are due by November 5, 2021.

Social Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
If 2020 was a year for a racial awakening, it has been followed by efforts to develop a deeper understanding of what social equity, diversity and inclusion means in our communities, countries and around the world. This process is ongoing—indeed, it is already centuries long—and not without bumps in the road. To the good: some cities have approved reparations; some localities have worked to re-imagine what police and community protection looks like; and underserved populations are gaining voices at the table that have not been heard in the past. Unfortunately, aggressive police misconduct against people of color continues; legislators are working to restrict voting rights to block voices they don’t want to hear; and underserved communities continue to fight stigma and stereotype. What are our next steps in this effort and how do we advance this important work? Focus areas include:

  • Structural, systemic and institutional racism and injustice
  • Law enforcement leadership and reform
  • Health care inequities and their impact on the broader community
  • Educational inequities and the digital divide
  • Housing and land use inequities and their long-term ramifications
  • Social inequalities across society
  • Ongoing LGBTQIA challenges
  • Gender issues across society
  • Creating equity for Native Americans and indigenous peoples
  • Diversity in government workplaces
  • Immigration and border issues
  • Inequities in the justice system
  • Administrative burdens and social equity

Managing for Meaningful Public Service
The public sector workforce has had its challenges in recent years and the pandemic has added to them. Nevertheless, as they have in previous crises—from World War II to 9/11—civil servants have responded with courage and creativity as frontline workers, emerging as heroes and heroines who have kept society functioning during a time of great difficulty. Unfortunately, the federal government still faces an aging workforce, lagging skill sets and an overly prolonged hiring process—and now an even more depleted force as would-be public servants choose the private sector and those eligible for retirement take advantage of it. The Biden administration is working to shore up the civil service but it will not happen fast enough and may not last in future administrations. Worse still is the environment for those who serve at the state and local level, where politics hits closer to home, pandemic-related frustrations lower morale and everyone feels the strain. How do we inject meaning into public service again, spark civic engagement and develop best practices to combat these challenges—before the public sector falls apart at the seams? Focus areas include:

  • Trust, corruption and leadership across all levels of government
  • Hiring and retention
  • Volunteerism and civic engagement
  • Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Human resources management policy shifts due to COVID-19
  • Teleworking, caregiving and other workforce challenges
  • Recognizing employees as stakeholders
  • Performance measurement systems and initiatives for government and residents
  • The meaning of merit
  • The role of political conflict on management
  • Intergovernmental dynamics
  • Collaboration among nonprofit/NGO professional organizations and associations
  • Effective use of boards of directors and executive management teams

Effective and Equitable Public Policy and Service Delivery in an Era of Growing Inequality
While effectiveness and equity are core public service values, they mean different things to different people and those definitions change over time—not only for the administrators doing the work but also for the public receiving it. Moreover, today’s public administrators often find themselves implementing policies designed to provide equitable benefits to all, but have been structured to provide the greatest benefit to those least in need. Do they have a responsibility to speak out on such matters? How do they balance political neutrality with the need to build a better and fairer society? What is the impact of our society’s increased focus on social equity, diversity and inclusion, and how do you help your communities embrace these changes? This track will look at program efficacy, equity and ethics, and how these needs have changed in recent months and years. Focus areas include:

  • Combating corruption at all levels of government
  • Holding communities accountable
  • Competing values and how to reconcile them
  • Ethical frameworks
  • Legal challenges
  • Integrity in government
  • Professionalism in the field
  • Police and community relations
  • Program and service equity, diversity and inclusion
  • Discretion in street-level bureaucracy

Financial Management and Planning for Uncertainty
For years, public administrators have been serving their communities with limited economic resources due to very expected challenges. COVID-19 has changed that for many cities and localities. For some, thanks to recent federal financial assistance, they enjoy a surplus of funding they can use to catch up; for others, the struggle to pay for even basic needs continues to grow. How do you plan next steps when expectations change regularly? These fluctuations mean financial planners, budget officers and more are stuck in limbo, with all of the pre-COVID challenges still waiting in the wings. This track will share best practices, new models and hopeful research to help financial managers to plan for the future. Focus areas include:

  • Planning for the unexpected
  • State and local budget shifts
  • Managing CARES and ARP Act funding
  • Performance-informed budgeting and reporting
  • Efficient acquisition, contracts, procurement and grants
  • Public debt and financial transparency
  • Pension and retirement systems
  • Financial management despite legislative uncertainty
  • Equity, ethics and accountability in public finance and procurement
  • Fiscal stress and resource deficiencies
  • Financing and sustaining economic development
  • Public performance standards and benchmarking
  • Public-private partnerships
  • Financing better infrastructure

Protecting and Replacing Aging Structures
The United States’ infrastructure continues to age, but there is a glimmer of hope around the corner as Congress and the Biden administration work to fund improvements and state-level aid is directed to some of these needs. Help cannot come too soon though, as structures age and fail and environmental shifts wreak havoc. We are not alone; countries around the world are facing the same challenges. Where can we find successes and how do we choose which problems to solve? This track will help us learn from each other so we can all rebuild. Focus areas include:

  • Infrastructure investment and capital planning
  • Creating synergies between economic development and sustainability
  • Cybersecurity and public use of technology
  • Public transportation in a pandemic world
  • Trends and new requirements for election security
  • Best uses for artificial intelligence
  • Practical steps and leading practices in creating public-private partnerships
  • Contracting for complex products and equity in procurement
  • Strategic procurement in improving agency effectiveness
  • Accommodating the strain burdening public programs
  • Incorporating equity into sustainable community development
  • Public health requirements to fight pandemics
  • The infrastructure of big data

Comparative Government and International Administration
As much as COVID-19 has highlighted the disparities between countries, the rising tide of anti-democratic sentiment around the world also calls attention to our differences—and to the challenges they create. This track will provide a valuable forum to exchange practices and recent research with each other and generate new ideas. From public finance to infrastructure to health care and beyond, there is plenty of space to engage, learn and plan for future possibilities. Focus areas include:

  • International organizations in an era of rising nationalism
  • Implementing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals
  • Populist governance models’ strengths and weaknesses
  • Continued policy responses to COVID-19
  • Sustainable governance in developing nations
  • Emerging models of collaborative governance
  • Democracy and social justice across boundaries
  • Collaboration across professional organizations
  • Sharing best practices and innovations
  • Ethics and corruption around the world
  • The use of force in response to public protests

Good Governance and Democracy in an Uncertain Political Environment
History is littered with examples of democratic systems being tested by opposing forces, but recent months have provided immense fodder for books to come. If effective public administration and democracy are intrinsically linked, what do these disturbances mean for our profession? Are these bumps in the road—somewhat expected and shortly driven past—or do they have further reaching consequences for which we all should be prepared? This track will explore ways in which democracy has been disturbed—from pandemic responses to demonstrations to program and service disruptions—and approaches for stemming the rising tide. It also will explore the manner in which accountable and highly responsible professional administrators have—both recently and in the past—called out political malfeasance, and how to ensure future administrators are best encouraged, supported and (when necessary) protected as they carry out their constitutional responsibilities. Focus areas include:

  • International organizations in an era of rising nationalism
  • Strengthening governmental accountability institutions
  • Agency capacity across levels of government
  • Building nonprofit capacity
  • Federalism in the 21st century
  • Civil service reform
  • Strengthening ethics laws and combating corruption
  • Protections for whistleblowers
  • Nationwide cross-departmental coordination and communication
  • Strengthening inspectors’ general roles across federal agencies
  • Structural injustices
  • Encouraging flexibility across agencies and departments
  • Equitable service delivery across government