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As ASPA enters its 75th Anniversary year, a group of its elected officers, as well as staff and other volunteers, are working to develop its next strategic plan — for which input is still being sought from all of the Association’s members. During a very lively and highly productive three-day meeting from January 10-12 in Chicago, 35 participants focused on laying the groundwork for ASPA’s next strategic plan which will guide the Association’s movement forward for the next 5 years.
The participants included chapter and section leaders, national council members and Association staff, as well as some dedicated volunteers who were simply responding to the open invitation to come to the Chicago planning meeting that had been sent to all ASPA members during the preceding week. Those present unanimously reaffirmed the Association’s historic commitment to be both the most inclusive and the premier organization in the field by being the home for and bringing together practitioners from all levels of government and the non-profit sector, well as students, academics and all individuals who are concerned with the advancement of the public service and the public interest.
It was further agreed that if ASPA is to fulfill its mission, it must continue to be and become an even stronger advocate for good and effective governance, while providing its individual members with increased opportunities for professional development and successful networking and even more access to cutting edge knowledge and research in the field of public administration. Not surprisingly, how this was to be done was the subject of very wide ranging and very thoughtful discussion throughout the meeting and this will continue to be discussed over the next two months.
ASPA’s officers are continuing to actively solicit feedback on these matters from the Association’s entire membership. As ASPA prepares for its leadership transition, President-Elect Allan Rosenbaum is leading the strategic planning effort, with the strong support of current ASPA President, Steve Condrey. Also very actively engaged in providing leadership for this effort are Maria Aristigueta and Susan Gooden, incoming president-elect and vice president respectively, and Bill Shields, ASPA’s new executive director. All of those involved in this effort continue to look forward to hearing further from the membership regarding their suggestions for the new strategic plan.
The meeting kicked off Friday evening with staff updates on ASPA’s finances, membership and communications. ASPA member, Rex Facer, who served as the retreat’s facilitator, then introduced attendees to the weekend’s agenda and initiated a SWOT analysis. This was followed by small group dialogues and discussion about the development and implementation phases of the strategic planning process. Participants focused upon identifying opportunities for ASPA’s growth and the development of future programs and activities that will enable the continued building of the Association.
Among ASPA’s strengths, as cited by participants, are the enthusiasm and commitment of so many of its members, its ability to bring together practitioners and academics, the expertise and broad representation of members across all levels of government, its inclusive nature and its long and proud history . Among the weaknesses cited were aspects of membership retention, the need for more professional development opportunities and the lure of competing scholarly conferences.
As for opportunities, the attendees raised the prospects of revamping the annual conference to more effectively integrate practitioner perspectives, journal bundling, rethinking membership pools, building capacity to take smart risks, offering innovative conference partnerships and strengthening academic and practitioner engagement in the Association. Small group sessions dove into these areas of opportunity in greater detail, especially as they relate to Sections and journals, Chapters, conferences, ASPA’s purpose and its networking with other organizations. Each group later reported its recommendations for enhancing ASPA’s engagement in four areas: practitioners, scholarship, generating new revenue streams and its value propositions.
The groups generated more than 30 suggestions, which ranged from enhanced training opportunities for members, greater Section involvement in the Annual Conference, greater support for Chapter leadership, and an increased ASPA profile as an advocate for those who work in public service and a renewed emphasis upon improving the quality of governance as means to building a stronger America.
The weekend discussion provided an outstanding foundation for the continuing effort to develop the draft strategic plan. The meeting built upon the comments from more than 50 individuals who had earlier responded to the membership-wide invitation for comments and ideas regarding ASPA and its next strategic plan. The draft plan will be made available to ASPA members for feedback, and further input, both electronically and in special sessions to organize at the Annual Conference in Washington, DC. After that time, the National Council will then review, finalize and approve the plan, which then will serve as the guiding document for ASPA’s multi-year priorities and new initiatives.