Elizabeth (Kitty) Wooley, Department of Education

Elizabeth (Kitty) Wooley is one of seven winners of Federal News Radio\'s 2010 Causey Awards. Wooley was nominated for creating unique ways for federal managers...

NAME: Elizabeth (Kitty) Wooley

TITLE: Management and Program Analyst, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Management

AGENCY: Department of Education

On her own time, Kitty runs a program called Senior Fellows and Friends. SFF is both a blog and a cadre of people that get together to collaborate about the excellence of government on a variety of topics. Kitty’s impact is that she gets people from across government, outside support organizations and other expert leaders to present to this cadre of federal employees all with the purpose of improving government and giving people additional tools to do excellent work for the government. All of the programs she initiates are done on her own time and with her own resources because she cares deeply about government service. (Read the full nomination.)

“Great initiative and contribution”…”Very innovative Web 2.0 application”…”Clear results”…”Good international focus and applying technology…”

We started them off, but it was up to them to complete the thought. This is meant to give some insight into what makes these unique individuals the people they are and what makes them a Causey Award winner.

  • My best advice is to seek a way of working that you find meaningful and grow it into your life. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission; give yourself permission. Carve out some creative space in which you make and break the rules and get to choose as many times as you like. Whether it’s paid or not, think of your work as your craft – you are an artisan, who is developing more and more skill at work that matters to you. The satisfaction that results will help feed your spirit, and then your work will become useful to others.
  • I encourage everyone to think about all the limitations we impose upon ourselves and drop the ones that don’t serve us any more. I look at this as a lifelong task. Every one of us has unrealized potential. We’re in our own way, a lot of the time.
  • Not every program that purports to develop effective federal leaders actually does. The nice thing is, there are many actions we can take to develop our own leadership capacities, if we want to badly enough. That includes finding mentors or coaches who will tell us the truth. And we can exercise leadership behavior from wherever we are. When we commit to do the work, other people notice. Then they help – sometimes not until we’re at the end of our rope! This is something I had to experience over and over before I really understood it (slow learner!).
  • People like to watch and give advice. Fewer people like to do the work! Want to stand out in a crowded field? Be one of the people who does the work. And help other people with theirs – collaborate across boundaries to deliver better solutions to public problems. Aim for results that would delight you, if you were on the receiving end.
  • What if you knew you could not fail – what would you attempt? (This transformative question was given to me by GAO’s chief learning officer two years ago, and the answer gets a little clearer every day.)
  • The United States is home to incredible diversity along every dimension. Although I haven’t traveled much lately, I enjoy visiting different climates (especially the desert), encountering lots of different people, and dining wherever the locals do.
  • One of the best ideas I have seen is the OLPC – the tough, inexpensive, Web-enabled little laptop that was developed to improve educational opportunity and break the cycle of poverty in developing countries. Another is Ushahidi, software that any person or organization can customize to collect and visualize information. The name means “testimony” in Swahili – it was developed two years ago to map reports of violence in Kenya after an election. It’s being used on cell phones by citizens and aid workers in Haiti now, to communicate where all sorts of hazards and medical needs are.
  • My colleagues are worthy of deep respect. The real story, that’s so ordinary it never gets told, is that a lot in government is going well – because people like the ones I work with are “on the case” every day, year in and year out.

See the complete list of Causey Award winners by clicking here.

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