What are some of the greatest challenges facing government over the next decade? The National Academy of Public Administration is hoping to explore those issues — and hear from county officials — as they launch Grand Challenges in Public Administration. The idea to identify and find solutions for the country’s Grand Challenges began last year. “We did a series of interactive conversations across the country focusing on governing across the divide,” said Teresa Gerton, president and CEO of the academy. “What we learned there about innovation and problem-solving at the state and local level was really informative.”
What they also discovered made them rethink how to tackle the big problems facing government at all levels.
“What we learned since about new ideas that are out there convinced us that we really needed a new approach,” Gerton said. “The field of public administration needed to think differently about how to focus. It was remarkable how states and communities are moving toward solving their governance challenges.”
The nonprofit seeks participation from county officials and others to help identify challenges and will narrow down entries by November 2019. Once the challenges are chosen, the academy plans to facilitate solutions.
The two questions they are seeking input on are:
- What problems must federal, state and local government address over the next decade for American society to reach its full potential?
- How must management at all levels of government improve to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of public programs?
“We’re very interested in getting solutions for all levels of government,” Gerton said. “We aren’t coming at this with any preconceived answers of what the grand challenges are. We want to collect everybody’s ideas on particular solutions to particular problems and see what emerges out of that.”
Input and ideas can be submitted on the Grand Challenges website by April 30, 2019. After that, the Grand Challenges 14-member steering committee, which includes NACo Executive Director Matt Chase, will analyze the ideas and announce a final set of seven to 12 grand challenges at the academy’s annual meeting in November.
“If we can come up with that list, then what I think that will do is set an agenda for the field of public administration that will start to focus efforts on everything from basic research all the way to pilots and experimentation and program evaluation,” Gerton said.
“We don’t just reveal it [the list] and walk away. It becomes a catalyst for a decade of collaboration and focus that results in answers to those grand challenges.”