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Writing Opportunities: Paying it Forward

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

By Thomas E. Poulin
August 7, 2021

This article is based on a few simple presumptions which I believe would be difficult to refute. As a rule, the members of ASPA are devoted to providing a high quality of life for the communities they serve. To achieve this, most have assertively pursued technical, academic and experiential learning, largely supported by their organizations, their peers and their families. While failure might be linked to an individual, success is virtually impossible without some form of active or passive collaboration. Having benefited from this collaboration, from this formal and informal support, I challenge those in public service to “pay it forward” by finding writing opportunities to share their wealth of knowledge with others.

When you write, you have the opportunity to create the future. You have the ability to share or mold a vision. You have the opportunity to ask poignant questions, igniting a professional debate which might clarify, solidify, or help to evolve a shared vision of professional excellence in your discipline. You have the ability to share best practices in the field which might be used by others to benchmark performance, helping them to professionalize their own workplace.

Others can learn from both your successes and your failures, accelerating their own progress and overcoming their own challenges, side-stepping any pitfalls you may have encountered. You have the ability to share institutional research so practitioners might engage in evidence-based management, leading to more effective, more efficient service delivery. As scholar-practitioners, you might help to build a bridge between the professional arena and the academic community contributing to research, which has more practical value to working professionals. The potential benefits of professional writing opportunities are seemingly boundless, for authors, for readers and for the communities we serve.

Academics have their own publishing arena—peer-reviewed journals. As working professionals, you should strongly consider contributing to professional publications, helping to refine the knowledge of your discipline.  These publications are those directed at working professionals or students hoping to enter a discipline. While some authors are working professionals, others are academics studying the field. Both are sharing information or advice which might be used to advance professional practices. The professional publications of ASPA are PATimes Online and PATimes, but you will find a myriad of professional publications which are discipline specific covering topics such as public management, data management, public safety, transportation, education, human resource management and government finance—the list is far too long to cover here.

The target audiences of these publications are working professionals. The editorial selection process is based upon an editor’s determination that the topic is timely, of interest to his or her readers, is well written and that it provides a compelling argument. The compelling argument can be based on research, but in professional publications is more likely to be based on a combination of professional experience and insights. The writing style used in such publications is often comparable to the professional writing style many of you use at work. Typically, articles in these publications range from between 750 to 1,500 words—it varies by publication. Most professional publications provide interested authors with editorial guidelines. If considering writing an article, you might wish to explore this type of information, ensuring your article might be of interest to the publication and any materials submitted fit their presentation expectations.

I appreciate we all live busy lives, seeking to find a satisfactory work-life balance. It always seems impossible to add anything else to this juggling act. Replacing a current activity with another one is always a challenge. Still, leaders have a dual role. They operate the system which is, but they also serve to create the organization of the future. Writing provides a means for you to capture the knowledge, skills and abilities you have acquired over the years through personal efforts and the support of others. Writing affords you the opportunity to pay this forward, helping public sector organizations continue to provide the most effective, most efficient and most responsive services possible.

Each of us might play a small part in building the future—a part so small it might seem insignificant. When we see a large building, we sometimes forget the value each individual brick brings to the design, but every contribution is important. Writing provides you the opportunity to contribute your “brick” to the organizations of the future, and each brick, each contribution, brings great value to the whole.

Author: Thomas E. Poulin, PhD, MS(HRM), MS(I/O Psych.), is independent scholar and HRM Consultant. focusing on leadership development in the public sector. He served in local government for over thirty years and as full-time faculty in public administration-related programs for more than ten. He served as President of the Hampton Roads Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration from 2019-2021. He may be reached at [email protected]

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