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Technology of Change

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

By Sarah Sweeney
January 26, 2024

I recently began a course of study in public innovation and was asked to consider what that phrase means to me; which if I think about what public administration is and the importance of social change, I replied from my own experience and expectations. Public innovation is the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those we are here to serve. Changing or developing policies that impact service delivery, we need to break the ceiling of limits currently in place which inhibit building effective and efficient models of care. It is crucial that as public administrators we are able to clearly identify barriers our communities encounter, and foster solutions that are vital to future development. But we cannot do this in a vacuum. We should reach out to our community partners to help review local infrastructure for any necessary upgrades or needs to better serve our community. Even more, we need to look to those we serve for feedback on what can be improved to accelerate the development and health of society. Reliance on the lived experience of those our programs are designed to serve can only aid in future development and innovation our society so desperately needs. We should recognize that working from the roots of social movement can take time but the energy expended is worth the effort.

During the initial learning process of this course we discussed the intersection of policy, culture, product and building what we value. Our instructor reviewed how technology across time has influenced how we interpret the world today and look forward toward innovation. Spanning across generations we can observe and reflect on what has been successful and what has failed in terms of healthy development in society. As leaders we have a unique opportunity to evaluate how our local policies effect the health and vitality of our communities which can be influenced by the culture of the people and neighborhoods in which they reside. Public service agencies are essential to the health of our communities and as public administrators we are tasked with ensuring these benefits are in the best interest of our constituents. If there are gaps in services it is fundamental we ask for public feedback and improve or adjust the way in which we provide services.

Toward the end of my initial session, a question emerged about our learning intention, and I thought it a fitting time to consider where I want to go as a leader in my profession. I decided that I wanted to be open to learning new models of systems theory to better identify how I can help make necessary changes in my community. I would like to emerge more confident with tangible skills that can be utilized intentionally for program success and innovation. So what does this mean for my future in public administration, and how can I develop myself and those around me to become the leaders we need in society today? Through continued professional development and mentorship there is opportunity to become the leaders our society needs. Focused efforts in dynamic leadership skill building and testing out new theories, while having an open mind to improvement or feedback, will allow us to grow in confidence as leaders.

If I were to provide a guidebook to improve leadership in your local community, I would first suggest that identifying the service gaps in effective management of local social programs for the most vulnerable would be a place to begin. Public administration, while an established field, has much room for development in today’s technological world. The way in which we communicate virtually and personally has changed so dramatically that we can no longer rely on how we “used” to operate, but rather innovate the way we do business. Our field of practice is at a prime time of development and in a pivotal space for growth and opportunity. As local leaders, we are tasked with encouraging our colleagues to rise up and take advantage of the wealth of experience and knowledge within our practice and push forward toward innovation and development of our communities. I charge you with the responsibility of holding ourselves and each other accountable, pushing the envelope and growing beyond the limits of services we currently offer, in order to develop into what our clients deserve and need to be self-sufficient.

Author: Sarah Sweeney is a professional social worker and public administrator in Washington State.  She may be contacted at [email protected]

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One Response to Technology of Change

  1. James L Vann Reply

    February 4, 2024 at 6:16 pm

    “Public administration, while an established field, has much room for development in today’s technological world.” Excellent commentary Sarah. Hopefully, the younger tech-savvy generation entering PA will become drawn to applying technology for innovation and recognized performance outcomes. Btw, Marc Holzer has an excellent recent article on this in Chinese Public Admin Review.

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