Sights and Insights from #SECoPA2013

TSU public administration faculty member and TN-ASPA past president Meg Streams offered some news from this year’s annual Southeastern Conference for Public Administration, held from September 25-28 in Charlotte, NC.  Membership in SECoPA comes with ASPA membership in the District III states, which include Tennessee, and the group holds a regional conference each year – our own TN-ASPA chapter hosted the conference in Nashville in 2008:

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Allegorical statue representing Commerce (including head of Alan Greenspan!), one of four at the intersection of Trade and Tryon in Charlotte, NC.

“ASPA members, practitioners, scholars and students from around the Southeast enjoyed our annual opportunity to join together for learning and networking at this year’s SECoPA (full program). Charlotte was a great venue, and the conference co-chairs from the Central Piedmont Chapter of ASPA ensured that everything went without a hitch in this energized city.  Panel topics covered a broad range, with policy-specific elements such as ‘Inside the Administration of Justice’ and ‘Green Horizons:  Choosing an Effective Future for Environmental Policy’ as well as elements common to all kinds of public administration such as ‘Public Employee Turnover’ and ‘Ethics in the Public Sector.’  I presented work with my co-authors Walt Matwijec and Lisa Lankford, ‘Determinants of workforce engagement at a public authority,’ as part of a panel on public employee motivation and leadership; TSU PhD student in public administration and TN-ASPA member Kenyatta Lovett presented part of his dissertation research, ‘The diffusion of governance in state economic development,’ in a panel on Economic and Community Development.

“The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are of great interest to public administrators, as they have been at the forefront of local government performance management for a number of years.  At one panel, speakers from the City and County shared insights and background on this performance management approach, based on Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard and the adoption of a managing for results approach throughout every element of local government. The performance evaluation segment of the effort has in the past been based on the PART model (Program Assessment Rating Tool, a design which became part of Federal performance management during the George W. Bush administration and was in effect at that level from about 2004-2008).  A shift is in the works this fall for the City and County to a new approach for program evaluation, tying performance information more closely to budget processes.  For example, a service need, recognized through data tracking and measurement, can ideally be linked to changes in budget allocation for new positions – and then the impact of those new positions can be evaluated subsequently for their impact on the measures.  Goals also include moving to a system that will provide real-time rather than annual information on performance so that challenges can be addressed more quickly.  A theme of the value of measurement with an emphasis on collaboration with departments in the development of measures was clear, even though of course “there’s no perfect measure.”  In another panel, a Federal perspective on performance management efforts was provided by Rebecca S. Ayers of the Office of Personnel Management.  With her co-authors she has been looking across agencies at Senior Performance Councils, and how they are implementing the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (this Act updated the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, the over-arching approach to performance management at the Federal level initiated in the Clinton-Gore era).
photo of Bolatbek Abdrasilov

Bolatbek Abdrasilov of Kazakhstan’s Academy of Public Administration addresses SECoPA attendees.

“Two distinguished speakers addressed the luncheon events. North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Sharon Allred Decker discussed a new public-private partnership which will take on some of the traditional agency functions in state economic development.  International public administration was also on the agenda – Bolatbek Abdrasilov, Rector of the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, offered a fascinating look at ongoing civil service reform and development in a republic of the former Soviet Union.  He discussed how new partnerships with educational institutions around the world and groups such as ASPA are connecting the Academy with leading trends in public administration education and civil service preparation.  These efforts are in contrast to the past environment, he described, when the formal study of public administration was prohibited in the Soviet era – deemed as a responsibility of the Party rather than a scholarly activity.

“Some great news from the conference is that next year it will be even more convenient for those of us in middle Tennessee – the conference will take place in Atlanta.  Stay tuned for information on how to register and submit proposals!”
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