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ASPA on the Move

This article appeared in the Aug/Sep print issue of PA TIMES.

Meredith Newman

One of the traditions that ASPA has perfected is the annual transition of officers. I have had the privilege of serving first as vice-president elect with Harvey White, as vice-president with Don Klingner, as president elect with Paul Posner and as president, with Erik Bergrud and Tom Liou. I recall long-time ASPA leader Becky Schergens urging a number of us during an ASPA Midyear Meeting to ensure that each of our respective agendas as officers be complementary and mutually reinforcing. I believe we are accomplishing this goal.

In Paul’s last column, he speaks about the “healthy synergy of a wonderful band of officers, excellent ASPA staff and a vital network of volunteers.” Under Paul’s leadership, a new policy engagement process is in place. ASPA’s voice is increasingly heard in high level deliberations in our nation’s capital. I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank Paul for his leadership, friendship and extraordinary contributions to ASPA.

ASPA’s voice is also becoming increasingly prominent in the international arena. ASPA has a rich legacy of international outreach consistent with its globally relevant mission. Richard Stillman underscored Public Administration Review’s (PAR’s) transfer of knowledge around the world during his Stone Lecture at our 2010 Annual Conference in San José–learning from and speaking to the whole world.

This brings me to “ASPA on the move” and to the emphasis during my term in extending ASPA’s visibility, mission and relevancy globally–with the purpose of exchanging smart practices and academic research amongst us. ASPA has earned its reputation nationally, at all levels. Expanding ASPA globally builds upon our rich experience and expertise as we engage with public administrators in new ways at home and abroad.

Regarding smart practice, one of these smart practices is the Certified Public Management program. Professional Development Task Force co-chairs Howard Balanoff and Ken Matwiczak have an active agenda. One exciting initiative is the development of an ASPA-sponsored professional development certification program. Executive Director Antoinette Samuel has prepared a draft policy paper in collaboration with the Task Force with the vision that “ASPA would be recognized as the organization that exemplifies ‘excellence in public management’ through a formal, internationally recognized professional management credentialing program…The CPM would be adopted as the anchor program.” The paper will be submitted to National Council for approval of the “concept” at the ASPA Mid-Year Leadership Meeting next month, followed by an implementation timetable going forward.

Mary Hamilton and Pan Suk Kim have led a very engaged Action Team on International Outreach. They have submitted an application package requesting the formal establishment of an ASPA International Chapter. The purpose is, in part:

“To help foster growth of a practice-oriented global public administration network focused on challenges and best practice solutions of interest to public administrators from many nations…Once ASPA has approved the International Chapter provisionally, the chapter will begin development of what will likely be the major service provided by the chapter–the ASPA global public administration network…By supporting open transnational dialogue…the chapter will be able to offer a wide range of options to its members and to public administration professionals and scholars around the world.”

As the saying goes, we have come a long way. These two initiatives are amongst the most recent, ongoing activities that ASPA volunteers, staff and officers are actively engaged in. At the celebrated age of seventy, our society is strong. With an annual budget of $1.5 million, 80 chapters, 24 sections, 12 MOUs with international partners, over 8,000 members at home and in over 70 countries, an effective governance structure (23 National Council Representatives, including a Student Representative and International Director), five Strategic Imperative Groups, our three Standing Committees, and a dedicated staff of seven professionals, our mission remains focused on the advancement of the science, art and processes of public administration.

Our track record of successful conferences is impressive. The San José conference attracted over 1,000 participants. In addition, SECoPA, the Texas ASPA/CPM conference, the ABFM conference, the Public Management Conference, the Third Minnowbrook conference, the 6th TransAtlantic Dialogue, the PATNeT conference, the Sino-US Conference on Public Administration, the upcoming International Conference on Public Administration in Canberra, to name a few, as well as our chapter and section-sponsored events, engage our members and colleagues in cutting-edge scholarship, smart practice, and dialogue.

ASPA’s publications are among the best in the world. Our flagship journal Public Administration Review consistently earns a top-three impact factor, renews at an outstanding 97 percent, and boasts an international readership that rivals the United States. Our new book series, the “ASPA Series in Public Administration and Public Policy,” recently released its 10th book.

And our work is ongoing. If you haven’t already done so, I recommend that you read Jim Svara’s symposium in PAR, 69 (November/December 2009). The three articles offer perspectives on the past, present and future of ASPA and public professionalism. One disturbing finding is the low cross-membership between ASPA and our sister associations. For example, only 27 percent of NAPA Fellows, and only 18.1 percent of faculty from the top-10 public management programs, are ASPA members. We are currently addressing this issue.

Another trend in association membership is the growth of specialized organizations compared to general ones. As the authors note:

“ASPA is swimming against the current as a pan-generalist association dedicated to promoting public professionalism. ASPA’s weakness is its greatest asset. Only ASPA can elevate public professionalism dedicated to: Serving the public with excellence; Advancing the public interest; Promoting equity; Securing sound governance; Strengthening democracy.” (Svara presentation to ASPA National Council, April 10, 2010).

The authors conclude, “How can there be a robust and encompassing public professionalism without ASPA?” The answer is clear that there cannot be.

ASPA members and colleagues are intimately engaged in addressing these challenges and advancing excellence in public administration theory and practice. We have an opportunity to tell our story and to have self-confidence in our ideals, which is less difficult now that government is, as U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry notes, becoming cool again.

We know what public service, public-private interactions and nonprofit management looks like and is experienced up close and personal, whether we are working in service to the public in Seattle or San Marcos; or engaged in research and teaching in Yonsei University, Seoul, or University of Nebraska at Omaha.

For example, emergency personnel and first-responders daily practice and express the values that we share in public administration– professional judgment, discretion on the ground, and managing the conflicting accountability relationships in which they function. As part of our research into emotional labor in crisis response (with Mary Guy and Sharon Mastracci), I had the opportunity to interview Florida Urban Search and Rescue Teams on their return from Haiti. Their stories are compelling, and remind us that we have the obligation and opportunity to affect people’s lives, one by one, citizen by citizen, and that our work and focus is about people and the person-to-person, citizen-state interactions, especially during times of crisis.

Consistent with this perspective, we are proposing a joint collaborative initiative with ASPA’s South Florida Chapter to co-sponsor a symposium in the spring for the purpose of constructing a public policy and public administration infrastructure for a reconstructed Haiti. We have an opportunity and obligation to provide leadership in an area where ASPA has considerable expertise and experience. Chapter President Glenn Joseph has taken the lead in this endeavor in close collaboration with ASPA’s International Director Allan Rosenbaum. As Allan notes:

“Among [the longer term issues for Haiti] are the development of a governmental system that is responsive, accountable and effective in the delivery of not just emergency services, but the routine services that Haiti’s citizens will want, need and deserve as the reconstruction process moves further along…The goal of this [symposium] will be to develop a [framework for a] practical set of proposals and recommendations for the establishment of a decentralized, responsive, accountable and efficient system of regional and/or local governance for the Republic of Haiti.”

Much of our work in public service (whether we are in an academic and/or applied setting) goes unheralded. Whether we are working within a context of public trust or cynicism, we are called upon to deliver public goods and services–practitioners to citizens in need, academics to our students, pracademics to both.

As I said during the officer installation in San José, please join me in working energetically towards ASPA without borders–whether those borders are between practitioners and academics, within our country (federal, state and local “borders”), or outside our country (ASPA’s relationships with our counterparts internationally)–and in advancing our expanding relationship networks and the state of our field. These include attention to the human processes of governance, a point that Camilla Stivers persuasively raised during the Third Minnowbrook Conference hosted by Syracuse University last fall.

We will celebrate our profession in Baltimore during our next annual conference March 11-15, 2011, the theme of which is “Public Administration Without Borders,” under the conference program direction of Maria Aristigueta and Geert Bouckhaert. I am committed to working collaboratively with each of you to advance ASPA’s mission; to strengthen our practitioner, academic, pracademic and student relationships; and extend ASPA’s reach, visibility and relevance nationally and internationally.

The upcoming NECoPA conference represents an important new initiative within the United States. Similarly, our recent joint membership in the international associations of IIAS and IASIA facilitates our dialogue with our global colleagues. With our ongoing engagement with local, regional, national and international members and partners, we can ensure that ASPA remains on the move.

ASPA member Meredith Newman is the Society’s president and a professor and director of the department of public administration at Florida International University. Email: [email protected]

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