By Marc Ott, ICMA Executive Director
I was honored to be elected a fellow by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) last year. This year, I enthusiastically embraced an opportunity to contribute to an initiative NAPA has developed called "Grand Challenges in Public Administration." The idea is to encourage public administration practitioners, academics, students, interest groups, and the public to help identify the top challenges facing government throughout the next decade and to facilitate efforts by the public administration community in finding new solutions.
While the year-long initiative spans all levels of government, I believe we at the local level are in a unique position. Cities, towns, and counties are leading in the innovation space because we simply must. The challenges we face today call for new skills, methodologies, partnerships, and technologies. We, as local government leaders, can more nimbly try new ways of addressing problems that threaten the sustainability of our communities.
I’m looking forward to seeing a robust response from our members and their staffs whose ideas will make this a highly productive initiative.
The academy seeks input on two key questions: First, what problems must federal, state, and local government address over the next decade for American society to reach its full potential? Second, how must management at all levels of government improve to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public programs?
Input and ideas can be submitted to the academy on its Grand Challenges website through April 30, 2019. Then the Grand Challenges Steering Committee, composed of representatives from the public administration, scientific, and media communities, will conduct a systematic analysis of the ideas and announce a final set of Grand Challenges at the academy’s annual meeting in November 2019.
The idea of Grand Challenges came from the notion that today’s government too often finds itself in reactive mode, struggling to adapt to the rapidly evolving environment of the 21st century. The steering committee sees Grand Challenges as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop and drive a future agenda for our government, so we encourage everyone to have a voice.
The defined challenges are likely to have a significant impact over the next decade, initiating experimentation, testing, and evaluation to identify and pilot real solutions. They may result in new collaborative efforts between universities, government, good-government groups, and other private and nonprofit partners.
In addition, new governance structures and processes grounded in multidisciplinary, multisector alliances could be developed to deliver flexible, responsive, technologically adept, and accountable programs. Education and training programs could be updated to help aspiring administrators build entrepreneurial skills that are applied within existing and emerging bureaucratic structures. Social safety net programs could be modernized to address the reality of economic dislocation in the 21st century. And universities could lead new areas of research and development to help understand what works and determine how to build managerial capacity. You’ll be hearing more about the initiative from me during the coming months, and I’m especially looking forward to seeing the ideas that come from the deep experiential knowledge of our local government leaders.
To learn more about the Grand Challenges in Public Administration initiative and to submit feedback and ideas, visit the Grand Challenges website.