ICMA 2017 _Sign_photo by NRC

Top Five Takeaways from the ICMA 2017 Conference

-By Tom Miller-

With well over 3,000 local government professionals in attendance, this year’s Annual International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Conference in San Antonio, TX has been said to be the largest one yet. We found San Antonio to be a lively and welcoming city, the conference exhibit hall to be pleasantly filled with resources, and the all-star list of speakers and sessions to be as illuminating as ever. Though National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) has gone to the ICMA conference for close to 20 years, we always return with fresh takeaways and ICMA 2017 was no exception!

ICMA 2017 _San Antonio Riverwalk_photo by NRC

See our entire ICMA 2017 photo album on Facebook

1. Managers are moved by emotion.

ICMA 2017 _Keynote Sessions_photo by NRC

The opening keynote by Rabia Saddique was laden with raw and touching detail about a life of challenge, battle and success. So many managers spoke about how her stories moved them and helped them see what resilience really means.

 

2. Social connections are the foundation for solutions and professional development.

ICMA 2017 _Networking_photo by NRC

Attendees who get to know one another better because of time spent at the conference find colleagues who have tried an idea, tool or a solution that they can trust and bring home. These connections also prove instrumental to help individuals grow in their careers.

 

3. A whole lot of learning goes on.

ICMA 2017 _Discussion_photo by NRC

There are hundreds of sessions and discussions to participate in at the conference. Attendees ask a lot of questions in sessions and workshops and share their own experiences. So much so that attendees are not the only ones learning and mining great ideas. Instructors often do best by facilitating discussion rather than lecturing.

 

4. ICMA staff and volunteers make it look easy.

ICMA 2017 _Discussion_photo by NRC

Use the ICMA bivouac center in the conference hall and you will see it abuzz with staff working furiously, fueled by coffee and dedication to make sure that all the venues are properly functioning and that members, trainers and exhibitors get where and what they need to make their experience a success.

 

5. The exhibitor hall is a hive of resources and ideas.

ICMA 2017 _Exhibit Hall_photo by NRC

From the ICMA Pavilion to the far corner aisles, the exhibit hall is a candy-shop of innovation for city and town management.  Those who engage in conversation with the many vendors there will inevitably come away with the tools they need to achieve their goals for their community.

Related Articles

National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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PBB Buy-in _Featured Image

How to Get Buy-in for Priority Based Budgeting

-By Angelica Wedell-

We’ve seen how budgeting based on priorities can free up millions of dollars, lead to new partnership opportunities and simply make the budgeting process easier for municipalities. And while that all sounds well and good, getting staff and community buy-in for a whole new system of budgeting is a daunting challenge (to say the least). We recently spoke to a room full of local government finance experts at the ResourceX Priority Based Budgeting (PBB) Summit. They revealed five applicable ways to help bring stakeholders, staff and residents all onto the same PBB boat.

ResourceX crew at the Summit_PBB Buy-in

See the 2017 PBB Summit Photo Album on Facebook

1. Sell the potential.

“To get this program to be successful you have to sell the potential. You have to convince people of the awesomeness of the tool and of all the different things you can do with it. You have to understand what it is, what it can do to take your municipality toward the future, and say, ‘Here’s where we’re going, here’s how we’re going to get there, and this tool is going to show us how to do it.’  If you sell it that way and build that level of excitement, I think it will do OK.” – Mike Nieft, Budget Analyst, Rio Rancho, New Mexico

 

2. Get the community involved.

“Our city manager is implementing employee surveys and we hope to branch out to citizens [to know] what they want and what they want to see. I think that the citizen surveys are going to help us a whole lot to begin the process. That’s going to be very important to even get started with PBB.  This is definitely something I want to get everybody in my city engaged in.” – Monica Garcia, Finance Director and City Treasurer, Roswell, New Mexico

 

3. Invest in implementation.

“The better the implementation team is, the better the staff buy-in is.  Sometimes when people are tasked with implementing PBB, they don’t have any support, and it becomes a little bit more difficult.”  - Stuart McEwen, Support Specialist, Resource X

 

4. Make it Real.

“You have to translate PBB into real-life, home economic situations. For instance, I have this much for my mortgage, I have this much for my bills, this much for my vacation, this much for my tires - and I have to think about prioritizing it all. This will help staff and residents make sense of it, and translating the institution from its separate little kingdoms helps in breaking down those silos to get that whole team concept.” – Jay Bohachyk, Acting Manager of Financial Planning, Strathcona County, Canada

 

5. Use it as a tool, not a weapon.

“My favorite quote from Englewood, CO City Manager Eric Keck was ‘This is a tool and not a weapon.’ I think that when looking at budgeting tools, people automatically assume that you are going to go and cut programs, people and funding. But in truth, it’s not a weapon to try and force people into compliance. I think we can better communicate that PBB is just another tool in the toolbox, helping us be more efficient to deliver excellent service to our community.” – Santina Reichow, Senior Budget Analyst, Rio Rancho New Mexico

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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6 Ways Local Governments Can Revamp the Use of Surveys

-By Tom Miller-

Survey Research Revolution Part III

Not every survey question needs to be questioned. But over time, some questions may not have proven themselves useful for your community’s needs. A question’s value mirrors how closely it connects to what you’ll do with the results and why the results matter to improvement. As you review your survey and how you'll use it, think about these six ways to create an instrument that is more streamlined (shorter) and more targeted for action.

1. Identify Your Goals

Before you start, identify goals to focus your survey on the purposes it is supposed to serve. Then look at your questionnaire to detect questions that do not fit. Make relevant deletions or additions. Aim at making your new survey or set of surveys more actionable than what you now have by design or accident.

2. Create a Strategic Framework

Add efficiency and utility by building a plan for data collection, reporting and use across departments. A strategic framework will include consideration of data collection goals and help your jurisdiction prioritize and optimize its efforts for evidence-based decision-making. This framework also can identify secondary data sources and help direct officials to use primary and/or secondary data sources based on availability, importance, resources required for acquisition, timeliness and other factors. The plan should be useful to each department, and when aggregated and tracked, to local government measures of performance quality and policy action.

3. Review the Results

Create a formal system by which survey (and other performance) data are reviewed at all levels of the organization. For departments and the jurisdiction overall, consider periodic workshops led by your survey professionals to discuss results to be tied to action. Make sure that there is a performance management framework through which survey data are brought into the organization.

4. Use Secondary Data

“The future of surveys likely will involve more commingling of the data they produce with information from other sources,” noted Peter Miller, past president of AAPOR. Increase the value of survey results by pairing them with secondary data. You can, for example, connect resident perspectives about safety and police with response times, crime rates and FTE sworn officers per capita. Or you can compare public trust ratings to voting behaviors in local elections or capital expenditures in districts.

5. Conduct Exploratory Surveys

Surveys are important for performance tracking but also help to explain results found in the performance tracking surveys. These “deep dives” could be conducted on years alternating with trend questions used to track performance and can be conducted with traditional methods or a Web panel.

6. Make Connections

To understand results and make them actionable, workshops and deep dives help - but so do conversations with similar jurisdictions across the U.S. “Like” jurisdictions may have encountered the same problems your survey indicates you should solve. Such matches can connect you to jurisdictions of similar size, wealth, ethnic mix and education in your state or, even better, across the U.S. to begin to explore common improvements.

This is part three of five in our series: Survey Research Revolution.

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC. Subscribe to The Civil Review


2017 VOP Winners and Finalists with ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott.

The 2017 Voice of the People Awards Winners and Finalists

-By Angelica Wedell-

National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is proud to announce the 2017 Voice of the People (VOP) Awards winners and finalists!  These awards are only given to top performing jurisdictions that best listen and act for the benefit their communities.

The Voice of the People Awards stand alone as the only award given in local government based on community opinion.  Residents in winning cities and towns either reported the highest or most improved levels of satisfaction compared with all other jurisdictions that participated in The National Citizen Survey (The NCS).

“This was one of the most competitive years for the VOP Awards I’ve ever seen,” said NRC Senior Survey Associate Damema Mann.  “This year’s award recipients showed real commitment to best practices, innovation and bettering quality of life for their residents.”  Mann has conducted hundreds of iterations of The NCS for more than a decade.

2017 Voice of the People Awards Map

2017 Voice of the People Awards Recipients Map

The National Citizen Survey reports resident opinion and satisfaction with local government and services with a scientific, representative sample approach.  Results are then used to inform budgeting, performance measurement and program planning.

The perspectives of the residents themselves determine VOP Awards nominees for the very best of Community Engagement, Safety, Mobility, Foundations of Livability, Recreation and Wellness, Education and Enrichment, Natural Environment, Built Environment and Economy.  NRC judges then review applications submitted by nominated jurisdictions to determine the winners and finalists.

The ninth annual Voice of the People Awards were presented by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and National Research Center, Inc. at the 103rd Annual ICMA conference in San Antonio, TX.

Congratulations to the 2017 Voice of the People Awards Recipients!

 

Pictured: NRC's Damema Mann presenting the VOP Awards to the Winners and Finalists at the 103rd Annual ICMA Conference.

 

Bettendorf VOP WinnerBettendorf, IA.  VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Safety.

 

Boulder VOP WinnerBoulder, CO.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Recreation and Wellness.

Bowling Green VOP WinnerBowling Green, KY.  VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Built Environment.

Brookline VOP FinalistBrookline, MA.  VOP Award Finalist for Excellence in Mobility.

Cannon Beach VOP FinalistCannon Beach, OR.  VOP Award Finalist for Excellence in Natural Environment.

Chanhassen VOP Winner Chanhassen, MN.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Mobility.

Chanhassen VOP WinnerClive, IA.  VOP Award Finalist for Excellence in Built Environment.

Decatur VOP WinnerDecatur, GA.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Community Engagement.

Eagan VOP Winner Eagan, MN.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Safety.

Franklin VOP WinnerFranklin, TN.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Education and Enrichment.

Henderson VOP WinnerHenderson, NV.  VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Natural Environment.

Highland Park VOP FinalistHighland Park, IL.  VOP Award Finalist for Excellence in Recreation and Wellness.

La Vista VOP WinnerLa Vista, NE.  VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Education and Enrichment.

Marysville VOP WinnerMarysville, WA.  VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Mobility and Economy.

O'Fallon VOP FinalistO’Fallon, IL.  VOP Award Finalist for Transformation in Recreation and Wellness.

Paducah VOP WinnerPaducah, KY.  VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Recreation and Wellness.

Paradise Valley VOP WinnerParadise Valley, AZ.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Foundations of Livability.

Pearland VOP WinnerPearland, TX.  VOP Award Winner for Transformation in Community Engagement.

Scottsdale VOP WinnerScottsdale, AZ.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Economy.

St. Charles VOP FinalistSt. Charles, IL.  VOP Award Finalist for Excellence in Recreation and Wellness.

Urbandale VOP WinnerUrbandale, IA.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Built Environment.

Yountville VOP WinnerYountville, CA.  VOP Award Winner for Excellence in Natural Environment.

See the entire 2017 VOP Awards photo album on Flickr.

Featured Image: VOP Awards winners and finalists present at the 103rd Annual ICMA Conference with ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott.

Related Articles

National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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Damema Details Top 5 Tips for the Best ICMA Conference Experience

Top 5 Tips for the Best ICMA Conference Experience

- Damema Details -

For NRC, it’s really not conference season until the Annual International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Conference. We’ve been going to it, as an organization, for well over a decade. Having gone to this big event myself for so many years, I’ve picked up some tips I’d like to share so that you can make the most out of your conference experience.

These are the top five can’t-miss things to do while you are at the ICMA Conference.

Damema Mann is a survey research expert who has managed hundreds of projects at National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) for well over ten years. She loves working with local governments and helping them improve their communities through data.

1.  Study up on the local area.

See what the biggest attractions are.  You might see something fun, like the Bronze statue of Fonz in Milwaukee.  Take a look at the weather and make sure you are dressed for it.  And I can’t say this enough: bring comfortable shoes!

 

2.  Use the conference app.

This app has become a truly comprehensive tool.  You’ll be able to see who your fellow attendees are, who the speakers are, where to find exhibitors, when and where all the sessions are.  You can even create your own schedule.  Make sure to pack chargers if you plan to use your phone or tablet at the conference.  You can also engage digitally on Twitter using the conference hashtag.

 

3.  Go to the sessions.

You will get a wealth of knowledge from leading experts in the field.  You’ll hear from other managers and local government employees who are facing similar challenges and have found unique solutions.  You never know where your next great idea will come from, so make sure to attend as many sessions as you can.  It’s also great to participate as a panelist in a session.  NRC holds multiple sessions every year, so let us know if you would like to speak with us next year.

 

4.  Network at the social events.

There are so many different kinds of events at the ICMA conference.  Pick the ones that are right for you. There is a 5K, yoga, golf, tours of the area, and of course the evening receptions and gatherings.  These events are great opportunities to see former colleagues and also to meet new folks.  You are all in the same business together of helping local governments move forward.  So you have a common interest, and I see friendships forged and reinforced at this conference every year.

 

5.  Visit the exhibit hall.

You can come see NRC in the ICMA Pavilion.  The other exhibitors are great too.  We’re all giving away free swag at our booths.  You can get gifts for your co-workers, friends and family.  And there’s free food in there every day.  So stop by and say hello.

I look forward to seeing you at the next ICMA Conference!

 

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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Angelica's conference survival pack

The Complete Conference Survival Pack

- By Angelica Wedell -

Conference season is here! Which means it’s time to pack your bags and prepare to dedicate some time to professional development and networking. While attending these big events do wonders for your career, a marathon of jam-packed schedules, traveling stress and limited free time can wipe you out. Fortunately, a little extra preparation can help ensure your health and stamina will make it through the season, from welcome receptions to closing ceremonies. So here are the top ten things you’ll need to complete your conferencing survival pack.

1. Swag bag

Exhibitor halls always have fun goodies for you to bring home to the office, your kids or even your dog. But not all conferences provide a good bag to carry all your new loot. So just in case, it’s a good idea to pack your own bag for all your swag, essentials and the rest of your survival kit.

2. Light jacket or sweater with pockets

Even if the forecast reports hot days and warm nights, you’ll be glad to have a jacket. Most conference venues keep the air conditioning on full blast when they are expecting to house thousands of bodies, so it can feel rather chilly inside. And even when the weather report is sunny, you’ll want to be prepared for unexpected storms. Also, if your business attire does not have pockets, a jacket or sweater can be a great way to add them.

3. Portable cell phone charger

Whether you are Tweeting up a storm with the conference hashtag, taking photos of presentation slides, recording memo notes or taking business calls, your phone is sure to get a lot of use throughout the conference. A small cell-phone charger can save the day when there are no outlets in sight and your battery is about to die.

4. Hygiene refresher kit

Conference days tend to be long with little free time. You may not have a chance to run back to your hotel room to freshen up after sweating throughout the day. A few personal hygiene items are key to keep in your bag: deodorant, chapstick, lotion, a comb, gum or mints, and tissue for your nose. Personally, I do everything I can to avoid garlic and onions so I can meet new people, face to face, with confidence.

5. A pen with a clip

You will definitely want to have a pen on you for notes and exchanging information with your colleagues. And pens are even better when they have a clip, so you can attach them to your bag, your pockets or your notebooks. No more rooting around the bottom of your swag bag for ten minutes looking for something to write with!

6. A notebook

No writing utensil is complete without paper. Even if you prefer to take notes on your phone, laptop or tablet, a notepad always comes in handy. I often run into people who forgot their business cards, but they still want to give me their information. If you have a notepad ready to go, forgotten cards are no problem!

7. Business cards and a holder

Don’t forget your business cards! They are still the easiest and most professional way to exchange information at a networking function. Keeping them in your pocket works, but it’s better to carry them in a card holder. This way you can organize your own cards, cards you collect and always have them at the ready.

8. Foldable flats

If you are like me, you will feel nothing but loathing for your professional heels by the end of the day. Conferences require lots of walking and standing – the perfect recipe for fierce foot fatigue. A pair of foldable flats are a great solution when you need a change of shoes. They aren’t bulky, they look nice, you can put them cleanly in a plastic bag and tuck them into your survival pack.

9. Hand sanitizer

Any event involving a large crowd mingling in the same place is a playground for germs. It’s all the more important to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer to help avoid the conference crud.

10. A water bottle

It doesn’t take long for the thirst to set in at a busy conference. After lots of talking and walking and sweating, the break nook that only serves coffee and soda simply won’t cut it. A small, refillable water bottle will fit in your survival pack and keep you much more happy, healthy and hydrated.

I’ve been to tons of local government conferences on behalf of National Research Center, Inc. (NRC), and I always appreciate a well-thought-out pack. Do you agree with my list? What else is in your conferencing survival kit?

This article originally appeared on ELGL.org.

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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opposite views_pixabay_CC0

Local Government Employees and Residents Don’t Always See Eye to Eye on Big Strategic Issues

- By Tom Miller -

What would you do if you discovered that your employees have different priorities than the residents they serve? Or what if your residents think more poorly of some aspects of the community than do your employees who help to improve those community qualities?

These aren’t just hypothetical questions with impossible answers. The National Employee Survey™ (The NES™) includes a set of questions about service quality and community priorities that are asked of residents on The National Citizen Survey™ (The NCS™).

Recently, we examined the answers of residents and employees from 11 jurisdictions in 9 states. Employees gave their answers while completing The National Employee Survey, which addresses employee perspectives about the local government workplace; residents responded to The National Citizen Survey, which covers many dimensions of the quality of community life. Each group was asked the same 22 questions about the quality of services and public trust and questions about the importance of eight key facets of community priorities on anonymous self-administered surveys. Almost 5000 employees participated along with over 9000 residents (representing random samples of community adults).

When we look at evaluations across places to compare employee and resident perspectives, the two groups, on average, give similarly positive ratings to community quality of life, the natural and built environments, health and education, the reputation of the community and the confidence they place in their government.

However, many assessments of community life reveal a disconnect between resident sentiments and the opinions of the employees who do the public’s work. Let’s look first at assessments of community quality.

Across the 22 questions evaluating community quality asked of both residents and employees, 10 show the largest discrepancies of opinion between employees and residents. Employees rate their own services and overall community direction higher than do residents. Specifically, employees rate higher than residents the services these employees provide, the value of their services for the taxes residents pay, the job the jurisdiction does at welcoming citizen involvement, the quality of the jurisdiction as a place to work and the jurisdiction’s overall direction.

Areas in Which Employees Give Better Ratings than Residents

Residents, on the other hand, give better ratings not to services or the government but to community characteristics and, curiously, the honesty of the local government. In particular, residents think better of the community as a place to live, a place where they feel safe, the ease of travel, the sense of community and leaders’ honesty. The last more positive rating comes from this question: “please rate the following categories of [your government’s] performance.” “Being honest.” One may wonder if the employees know something the residents don’t.

Areas in Which Residents Give Better Ratings than Employees

Now, let’s see what the two groups think about the importance of community features. When we ask about eight key community facets – economy, safety, natural environment, mobility, built environment, community engagement, education and enrichment, and recreation and wellness – a large majority of both employees and residents indicate that each is essential or very important. For both groups, the economy and safety represent the most important aspects of community (ranked 1 or 2). For residents, the natural environment and mobility come next (rank 3 and 4), but education is more valued by employees (rank 3) and the natural environment comes in at number 7 out of 8. The built environment comes in as the least important community characteristic for employees, but recreation and wellness receives the lowest rating of importance among residents. Still, even the least important community characteristics are thought to be important by close to three-quarters of each group.

Community Priorities of Employees and Residents Differ

Imagine how useful it may be to the training of employees and communication with residents if this kind of reconnaissance could become the platform for discussions about what makes for great places. Because these data represent averages across many communities, your community will have its own profile, revelations and opportunities to get on the same page, or at least to understand the perspectives of these symbiotic local groups.

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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Robert McNamara_Library of Congress_Public Domain

The Vietnam War and Performance Measurement

-By Tom Miller-

A self-confessed "stats guy," Tom Miller examines the consequences of Robert NcNamara's use of performance metrics to support policy decisions.

 

As I was watching the new series The Vietnam War from PBS, I found myself fascinated by Robert McNamara’s penchant for performance metrics, which he brought from the Ford Motor Company to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ defense department. Extolled—and derided—as a “human computer,” McNamara had earned a reputation as an expert at measuring corporate and government processes to improve efficiencies.

In local government, we too have a deep interest in measuring performance, using hard data to tell our stories of success and challenge. While the Vietnam series is a documentary about the motivations and waging of that war, it also is a history lesson about how we make policy decisions.

Like McNamara, at least in this small way, I am a stats guy. Data-based decisions are better, in my thinking, than are decisions that come only from the gut and the knee. I know I’m not a “whiz kid” or one of the “best and the brightest,” but I resist the shibboleths that proclaim statistics the enemy of common sense. Yes, you can lie with statistics, but you can lie even better with words.

My bow to numbers made, it also is clear to me that performance data alone or the wrong performance data can misdirect vital policy conclusions. A quote from USAID’s Rufus Phillips in Episode 2 of the Vietnam series offers a relevant illustration and a caution to all of us in the performance measuring business:

“Secretary McNamara decided that he would draw up some kind of chart to determine whether we were winning or not and he was putting in things like numbers of weapons recovered, numbers of Vietcong killed . . . very statistical. And he asked Edward Lansdale who was then in the Pentagon as head of special operations to come down and look at this and so Lansdale did and he said, ‘There’s something missing.’ And McNamara said, ‘What?' and Lansdale said, ‘The feelings of the Vietnamese people.’ You couldn’t reduce it to a statistic.”

The PBS series is filled with implied criticism of the exclusive use of numbers to draw conclusions about the success of the war (and separately, it vilifies the lack of transparency from the government and military).

Like the war efforts of mid-Twentieth-Century America, local governments that work the front lines of performance management these days are intent to measure what matters, but unlike the federal government of the last millennium, today’s jurisdictions toil to be fully forthcoming with their findings.

Yet it also is true that for modern-day jurisdictions, secondary data alone that inform the status of processes (potholes filled, park acreage) or the proxy outcomes of government interventions (travel time across town, numbers of crimes) are likely to miss the fundamental point of government policy decisions. We need to understand what the people think of their lives and community. And the best way to know what the people think is to ask them.

This article originally appeared on ICMA.org.

Featured Image: Robert McNamara_Library of Congress_Public Domain

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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The Leaky Pipeline: Women in Local Government Leadership

- Research by Guest Contributer Sebawit Bishu, Ph.D., University of Colorado, Denver - Summary by Tom Miller-

For almost ten years, National Research Center, Inc. has supported faculty and student research by providing at no charge aggregated sets of jurisdiction data (no results of individual jurisdictions are published or shared) from The National Citizen Survey™. Our database of over 500,000 individual residents’ opinions represents a rich bank of ore for scholars willing to dig in. In the spirit of uncovering important lessons from research, we are posting the latest research from a new Ph.D., Sebawit Bishu, from the University of Colorado, Denver.

Dr. Bishu did her own data collection, relying on in-depth interviews of men and women who hold the position of Chief Administrative Officer in Florida jurisdictions. She was motivated by existing research showing that “women leak through the pipeline as we move from the Assistant to the CAO position to the Assistant/Deputy CAO position at 37.8 percent and following that to the CAO position at 15.6 percent.”  In her interviews, Dr. Bishu sought to uncover “systemic discriminatory practices and unconscious biases [that] shape the paucity of women in senior executive and leadership positions in the workforce (Sabharwal, 2015).”

The research suggests a few fundamental reasons for the decline of women in the highest manager position compared to positions farther down the management stream. Compared to the men she interviewed, the women in local government more often were the primary family caregivers as well as leaders in the workforce.  The need to navigate both home and work responsibilities meant that the women administrators had to seek jobs that permitted more flexibility than would be available in most CAO jobs. Furthermore, their husbands were the primary breadwinners so moving the family to advance the careers of the female CAOs was much more difficult.

Dr. Bishu concludes, “With more men engaging in “reproductive” roles that involve care giving and more women participating in “productive” roles of engaging in the workforce, gendered career outcomes may soon be less along gender lines and more along competing demands of “production” and “reproduction”.

Sebawit Bishu PhDSebawit G. Bishu is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs (SPA). Her research interests are on equal employment opportunity and diversity issues in human resource management in the public sector, gender and representation in public organizations and social justice and equity issues in urban transformation.

 

 

The Leaky Pipeline: Women in Local Government Leadership
By Sebawit Bishu, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Denver

As of 2017, women represent 15.6 percent of the total Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) membership of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA, Web Page). Moreover, 61% of local jurisdictions across the United States have never had female administrators (ICMA, 2014). Compared to women’s presentation at the highest appointed administrative position in the federal government (Senior Executive Services) at 34 percent, female CAOs are severely underrepresented in local government leadership. ICMA membership data shows gender parity at the Assistant to the CAO position at 53 percent. Nevertheless, it appears that women leak through the pipeline as we move from the Assistant to the CAO position to the Assistant/Deputy CASO position at 37.8 percent and following that at the CAO position at 15.6 percent. CAOs in the council-manager form of government are appointed by elected officials to oversee the day-to-day administrative operations of local governments including human resource, budget, and policy oversight. While there are several factors that espouse the underrepresentation of women in senior executive and leadership positions both in the private and the public sectors, this article highlights findings from a research that traces factors that shape career choices of male and female CAOs in local governments in the United States. By doing so, the study intends to uncover the enabling factors that help stop the leaky pipeline for female CAOs that make it to the top.

The Leaky Pipeline
The leaky pipeline metaphor helps explain women leaking out of the career ladder as they climb up organizational hierarchies (Bishu and Alkadty, 2016 and Zeng, 2011). Prior studies that investigate the leaky pipeline metaphor identify that systemic discriminatory practices and unconscious biases shape the paucity of women in senior executive and leadership positions in the workforce (Sabharwal, 2015). Using qualitative research method, this study utilized in-depth interview data with 20 male and female CAOs from the state of Florida. The study aimed to understand gender differences in career choices and the factors that shape career related decisions of male and female CAOs. It was designed with the intention to understand factors that shape career decisions of male and female CAOs that are currently in local government leadership positions. While the study is conducted with the intention to identify gender differences in career paths and choices, it also distinguishes factors that appear to help stop the leaky pipeline for female CAOs that make it to the top.

The Study Population
Interview data for this study was collected from 20 male and female CAOs that are currently leading local governments in the state of Florida. Of the 20 CAOs that participated in the study 12 were male and 8 were female. Table 1 below provides a summary of characteristics of the study population. During the one-to-one interviews, participants were asked to provide information about their career paths and the factors that shaped their career related decisions that lead to their current role as a CAO.


Table 1: Description of study participants

Gender Role Socialization
Interview data showed clear gender differences in the factors that shaped CAOs career related decisions. First, in comparison to male CAOs, the study finds that gendered economic and household roles shape career related decisions of female CAOs. Clear gender differences are observable in two areas of household roles and responsibilities. First, the data shows differences in male and female CAOs’ economic roles at home. It indicates that all married male CAOs that participated in the study are primary breadwinners in their families. In contrast, all female CAOs, except for two, are secondary or co-breadwinners in their families. Of the 12 male CAOs that participated, 8 have spouses that stay at home to provide care to their families. Two male CAOs have spouses that are engaged in the workforce and the other two do not have care giving responsibilities. In contrast, all participating female CAOs, except for one, have spouses that are fully engaged in the workforce. In addition, all female CAOs that participated in the study are primary care caregivers to their families.

Barriers
Results from this study underscore two dominant issues that shape the career paths and choices of female CAOs. It reports that female CAOs bear unequal burden of family-related responsibilities while playing executive roles in their organizations. Qualitative interview data show that all female CAOs that participated in the study are primary care givers to their families, while their male counterparts appear to have the support of their spouses as primary care givers. Beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of care giving, by nature the CAO roles and responsibilities pose significant challenge to anyone that plays this role. Hence, making it even more difficult for women that navigate the dual role of care giving and fully engaging at work. Besides challenges of playing dual roles at home and at work, the secondary bread winning role that most female CAOs in the study assume has a direct implication on choices they make related to their careers. Female CAOs in the study report that because of this role, they are limited to geographic locations where their spouses pursue their careers. This is a critical barrier to female CAOs’ career advancement because, the CAO profession calls for flexibility in seeking opportunities in other geographic locations. Hence, for women that are secondary bread winners in their families, career opportunities become even more limited.

Navigating the Barriers
This study finds that in the efforts to navigate dual roles at home and at work, female CAOs make choices in their personal lives and related to their careers. The study finds that female CAOs make choices to delay forming a family or having children and are selective to career opportunities that allow them to play dual roles at home and at work. The study also reports that in the effort to navigate dual roles, female CAOs stay in geographic locations where they can receive support from others including family members and friends. Finally, it finds that most women that make it to the CAO position appear to take within the organization promotion routes. Hence, leveraging opportunities that allow them to navigate their roles at home and at work.

Left Behind and Future Trends
Finally, this study uncovers the barriers that female CAOs face while navigating career choices. It also identifies specific factors that appear to help stop the leaky pipeline for women that make it to the top. The study mainly highlights how gendered social roles shape the lived experiences of women at home and at work. Women that become CAO find themselves in a position where they have to make choices that impact their personal lives, such as delaying having a family or pursuing career opportunities in geographic areas where they are able to receive help from their social support network. Women also seem to position themselves in organizations where they can pursue promotion opportunities. The overarching message of the findings from this study is that, the path to the CAO position is met by several obstacles that appear to leak out women from getting to the CAO position. Hence, only women that are able to navigate the obstacles they face are able to get to the end.

In closing, while this study shows that gender role socialization shapes the lived experience of female CAOs in the workforce, it is also important be cognizant of the changing trends in the workforce today. With more men engaging in “reproductive” roles that involve care giving and more women participating in “productive” roles of engaging in the workforce, gendered career outcomes may soon be less along gender lines and more along competing demands of “production” and “reproduction”.

 

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National Research Center, Inc. (NRC) is a leading full-service survey research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local governments, health care providers, foundations and non-profit organizations.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our media page for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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ELGL Pop Ups

The Many Tweets of 2017's ELGL PopUps

– By Matthew Deragisch

We love conferences. We love connecting with our peers and learning from the speakers' experiences. However, it can be challenging to pull away from the office for days on end. That’s what makes the Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL) PopUp conferences special - they take place at four locations at the same time in one day. This year, ELGL's PopUps took place in Portland, OR; Dallas, TX; Kansas City, MO; and Charlotte, NC.

In case you couldn't attend in person, so we've rounded up the best moments from the #ELGLPopUps below.

 

1. Preparation

From the selection of the locations, to gathering support from sponsors, it’s no small task to organize an event of this magnitude. Preparation and coordination makes events like these happen. Thanks for all your hard work!

 

Guildford

 

Social Media

 

 

Planning

2. Knowledgeable Speakers

Government touches on so many aspects of our daily lives, there’s always something new to learn or some new perspective to consider. The speakers at this year's PopUp covered a breadth of topics, including inclusivity, the climate and sustained engagement. Thank you for sharing!

 

Crozier

 

Color Blind

 

Eclipse

 

Equality

 

Equity

 

Hurricane

 

Parks and Rec

 

Signs

3. Best Swag Shots

No conference experience is complete without seeing all the swag - pens, stationery, stickers, pins and fidget spinners! (We believe every desk in local government could use an NRC pen.)

Ben's Table

 

Clay

 

ELGL pop up swag

SavageSwag

4. Excitement

Connecting with others who are passionate about their local governments and what they do fuels these ELGL popups.

BlueGrass

 

Diversity

 

excitment

 

Portland

 

Students

 

T Buter

 

youth

5. Competition

The Nature of the event led to some friendly competition online. Each location made their PopUp their own.

Charlotte

 

Best Host City

 

Competition

 

Selfie

 

Trending

Another great year for the #ELGLPopUps! Looking forward to #ELGLPopUps2018!

 

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National Research Center, Inc. ( NRC ) is a leading research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including non-profit agencies, health care providers, foundations and local governments.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our blog for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

Subscribe to The Civil Review