What are the ‘grand challenges’ in public administration? Make your voice heard

This column was originally published on Jeff Neal’s blog, ChiefHRO.com, and was republished here with permission from the author.

Almost anyone who has been engaged with government, either as a taxpayer, recipient of government services, government worker, academic, an employee or participant in a good government organization, or just someone interested in good government, recognizes that we face challenges. Cybersecurity, border security, climate change, shifting demographics, an aging workforce, natural disasters, and countless other challenges are becoming so pressing that something must be done. Are state, local and federal governments ready to meet these and other challenges we may face?

I wish I could say the answer is an unequivocal “Yes!” The truth is that these are big challenges. One could even say that they are “Grand Challenges” that we will face at least through the 2020s, and probably long after that.

The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), an independent, nonprofit, congressionally-chartered and nonpartisan organization assisting government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable and transparent organizations, is launching a new campaign to identify the Grand Challenges in Public Administration. The Academy’s initiative is designed to do more than simply identify the challenges — NAPA seeks to identify how governments and supporting organizations can successfully address those challenges. Once the Grand Challenges are identified, NAPA will begin a process that motivates concrete action across the public administration community to solve them. Grand Challenges is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop and drive an agenda for government over the next decade, so the Academy wants everyone to have a voice.

As Chair of the Academy’s board of directors, I can assure readers that the Academy wants the widest possible input — including from practitioners, academics, students, interest groups and the general public — on two key questions.

  1. Over the next decade, what is a grand challenge that government (federal, state and/or local) must address in order for American society to reach its full potential?
  2. Over the next decade, what is the most important thing that government can do to improve its management and operations so it has the capacity to address the most critical challenges facing the United States?

The Academy’s Grand Challenges Steering Committee, comprising distinguished representatives from across the public administration, scientific and media communities, will conduct a systematic analysis of the public’s ideas and ultimately announce a final set of Grand Challenges at the Academy’s annual meeting in November 2019, as well as on the Academy website and in other publications.

We often complain about problems in government, or problems we believe government can solve, but do not always see a way to go beyond complaining and get started on making a difference. This Academy initiative is a way to participate and have your voice heard. More information about the campaign, the selection process, and the submission process can be found on the Grand Challenges website. Please submit your ideas through April 30, 2019.

Jeff Neal is a senior vice president for ICF and founder of the blog, ChiefHRO.com. Before coming to ICF, Neal was the chief human capital officer at the Homeland Security Department and the chief human resources officer at the Defense Logistics Agency.

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