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Celebrating 50 Years of International and Comparative Public Administration

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By ASPA’s Section on International and Comparative Administration (SICA)
February 6, 2023

Fifty years ago, in 1973, ASPA’s first section was created. Initially called the Comparative Administration Group (CAG), the Section on International and Comparative Administration (SICA) brought together ASPA members who were committed to introducing an international and comparative perspective into their public administration practice and academic endeavors.

The rise of CAG (and, later, SICA), along with the growth of comparative and development public administration, was spurred by the end of World War II. A number of factors contributed to the growing interest in this field, including the postwar occupation of various nations, experience gained by scholars and practitioners who had to be abroad during the war, an overall growth of comparative politics and the need for the public administration field as a whole to take a more international and comparative perspective.

“The new paradigm for public administration must be comparative i.e., global, since the solution of the problem to which it addresses itself will require increasing communication between scholars and practitioners in all countries,” wrote Professor Fred W. Riggs, one of the premier comparative public administration scholars and a founding member of CAG/SICA.

The field was further supported by investments from organizations such as the Ford Foundation, which provided CAG with a $500,000 grant in 1962 to study how to improve public administration in developing countries. Under the leadership of scholars such as Riggs and Professor Ferrel Heady, the field of international and comparative public administration was built upon a strong foundation. Today, SICA’s mission continues to be as strong as ever.

“Governments are increasingly facing challenges of global nature that necessitate a collaborative approach to developing solutions and responses,” said Aroon Manoharan, SICA’s Chair-Elect. “The recent decades witnessed rapid globalization and digitalization that have resulted in more interconnectedness and cooperation. The study of public administration with a global and comparative perspective can establish a shared common framework to discuss and learn from international experiences. SICA provides numerous avenues to educate and train students to develop sustainable solutions to public challenges.”

As we now mark SICA’s 50th anniversary, we couldn’t be more excited and more proud of what we’ve accomplished. Some of our most recent and exciting accomplishments include:

  • Launching our Occasional Paper Series, which provides a peer-reviewed forum for SICA members and non-SICA members, including academicians, practitioners, students, instructors and researchers to reflect upon today’s most pressing issues in international and comparative public administration. In addition to the Series’ regular issues that cover a wide variety of topics, we have also created special issues of the Series on topics such as public administration in Latin America (available to read in both English and in Spanish) and global food insecurity.
  • Preparing for our 10th annual Fred Riggs Symposium, which will take place during the 2023 ASPA conference. This annual two-day event brings together scholars from around the world to participate in panel discussions about a key issue facing the public administration field today. This year, the Symposium will be held on March 20 and 21, and will examine “global challenges to governance in the 21st.” In the map associated with this article, you can see the 30+ countries represented by this year’s Symposium participants.
  • Hosting the annual Ferrel Hardy Roundtable at the ASPA conference. Each year, this event brings together scholars for a roundtable conversation about how to address a pressing issue in international and comparative public administration. This year, the Roundtable will address “the role of NGOs in promoting democracy.”
  • Winning ASPA’s Patricia Yearwood Chapter/Section Newsletter Award in 2017 and in 2020.
  • Raising funds to help defray conference registration and membership fees for international students and early-career faculty from regions that typically are unable to participate.

For those who are not yet SICA members, but who are excited about our past and future work, we truly hope that you will consider joining us. We welcome new members at any time. Please follow this link for information about how to join.

“It has been a great privilege to be affiliated with SICA for over a decade. I am thrilled that we are the first section to reach our 50th anniversary,” said Meghna Sabharwal, the 2021 – 2023 SICA Chair. “As we look ahead to the next 50 years, I hope that SICA will continue to grow and serve its members. As researchers and practitioners in an interconnected world, it is vital to identify and learn from the best practices in other countries. I hope that we will also continue to challenge dominant ideologies and perspectives and strive to be an inclusive organization that considers the political, cultural and economic context in which public administration operates.”

To all of our past and current members, to ASPA and its leadership team and to public administrators around the world, we thank you for your support over these past 50 years. Because of you, the future of international and comparative administration is a bright one. 

Author: SICA seeks to bring together ASPA members committed to introducing an international and comparative perspective into public administration practice and academic endeavors. SICA provides a forum for practitioners, instructors, and researchers to share experiences and to reflect on challenges facing the field worldwide. Twitter: @ASPA_SICA

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