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Letter from the Director – Summer 2011

Photo of Phil Keisling, Director, Center for Public Service

Phil Keisling, Director, Center for Public Service

In these challenging times, certain phrases seem increasingly common in discussions about the public sector — e.g, “outcomes-based budgeting”; “performance measurement,” “lean management” and “government transformation.”

But how well do public administration scholars and practitioners understand some of the subtle but often powerful differences between such core concepts as “management” and “leadership”; “outputs” and “outcomes”; and program “efficiency” and “effectiveness”? What insights can the latest academic research provide to practitioners wrestling with these concepts on a regular basis? And in return, how can and should the work and experience of practitioners best inform future scholarship and inquiry?

These and related questions will be center stage this October 1-2 as Portland State University and our Center for Public Service plays host to the Second International Conference on Government Performance Management and Leadership. And I’d like to personally invite elected officials and leaders in local, state, federal, and tribal governments throughout the Northwest to be part of this important gathering.

Through generous donations from the community, we’re able to offer a reduced registration rate for those interested in observing the conference presentations and having a chance to learn from – and compare notes with – more than 120 scholars and practitioners from around the world. Conference co-sponsors include China’s Lanzhou University; Japan’s Waseda University; Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Academy of National Politics and Public Administration; and Rutgers University and its Public Performance Measurement and Reporting Network.

The theme of this year’s conference – “Innovations Toward Sustainable Solutions” – is also especially timely and relevant. We’re also viewing the conference as another key milestone in the Center for Public Service’s evolving mission to better connect scholars and students with the needs of real world practitioners.

Your participation will help inform that important work – and hopefully will give you new ideas and perspectives on how these challenges aren’t just unique to our communities. I hope you will be able to join us.

More details about the conference and how to register can be found at http://www.lanzhou-hatfield.pdx.edu/2011-conference.

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Letter from the Director

Introducing the Center for Public Service

Photo of Phil Keisling, Director, Center for Public Service

Phil Keisling, Director, Center for Public Service

In December 1862, President Abraham Lincoln could hardly know the American Civil War would last for another two and half brutalizing years. But he keenly understood that the world he and his fellow citizens had so recently known would never again be the same.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present,” Lincoln observed in his annual address to Congress. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves — and then we shall save our country.”

Lincoln’s quote is a timely reminder that however daunting our current difficulties – double digit unemployment, looming budget deficits, our increasingly dysfunctional politics – these are hardly the “worst of times” our citizens have lived through. And these times will eventually pass.

The real issue is whether we will merely endure our current challenges – or prevail against and truly transcend them. Will we be able to think anew, much less act anew? Will we prove able to “disenthrall ourselves” of old and stale thinking – and bring new energy, thinking, and talent to bear on the many “wicked problems” we now face?

Here at the Center for Public Service, at PSU’s Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, it’s our mission to help public and non-profit leaders find good answers and practical solutions to such questions. And as we describe in more detail in this newsletter, CPS offers a wide range of programs towards this end. Continue reading

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