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Practitioners and Scholars of Public Administration United

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

By Scena Webb
August 11, 2017

As a public servant for over 30 years, it surprised me to learn that there are about 37 countries with a total of about 70 schools that offer college-level courses in public administration. Yet, there seems to be a disconnect between those who work in the public sector and those who work in universities and teach public administration.

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In 2011, Bushouse wrote an article, “Crossing the divide: Building bridges between public administration practitioners and scholars” where the argument was made that theories were not enough to adequately address the practical application of actually doing the job of a public administrator. A few years later, in 2013 a group of researchers, Chun-Yu, Yen-Chun and Wu conducted research they titled, “A sustainable collaborative research dialogue between practitioners and academics” where they found common ground between people working in the field and research scholars. Collaborative discussions on organizational behavior rose to the top of the list.

“When you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown; you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” Jack Walsh, Former CEO of General Electric.

In prior articles, I discuss the need for coaching in the workplace and creating collaborative teams focusing on diversity and inclusion as the new mastermind working groups for organizations. In this article, I want to challenge you to consider taking the next step, to reward strategic planning that incorporates using diverse mastermind groups to set goals and milestones toward enriching the corporate culture through scholarly research.

shakeFor example, I understand how time sensitive the daily routines can be for someone who works in the field. There are demands on time that don’t allow for much research. On the flip side, traditional professors who teach public administration may rely heavily on research to pass on current information to students because they are not practicing, but rather teach full time. Again, I advocate for considering the mastermind groups in the organization that can report through briefings research on ways to effectively execute change in organizations. This action has potential to bring research-based knowledge to the organization through the lens of the mastermind groups who are employees.

As a reminder, mastermind groups are not a new phenomenon. Napoleon Hill wrote about them over 70 years ago in his book, “Think and Grow Rich” and the opportunity to create this group within your organization is amazing. Consider this quote by Jack Walsh, “When you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown; you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” Former CEO of General Electric.

Take the challenge to create several mastermind groups inside your organization comprising a diverse group of talented individuals. Charge this group with the mission of bringing relevant research to your senior leadership that can be incorporated into the strategic mission. Developing this practice unites practitioners and scholars in the field of public administration.


Author: Scena Webb has been in leadership positions for over three decades in the military, education, community involvement, and federal government service. She is an author and can be reached at [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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