Transforming Local Government 2014: A Future Local Government Practitioner’s Perspective

ARTICLE | May 5, 2014

Attending the Alliance for Innovation’s Transforming Local Government (TLG) 2014 Conference in Denver was an exciting opportunity for an aspiring local government professional. The conference offers a unique blend of case study discussion, best practices, exemplary keynote speakers, and plethora of opportunities to network with leading professionals in the field. Each of these factors encourage and support the future and sustained success of those currently in or seeking to enter a career in local government.

The sessions available to those attending TLG are both varied and vast. One could sit in and listen to presentations discussing leading edge technologies in citizen dashboards, service delivery improvements through expansive review processes, or a focus on constituents through the creation of an excellent culture of service. The Alliance for Innovation’s member communities have the chance to showcase the assets that set them apart while sharing best practices and innovative concepts. The opportunity to learn from those with first-hand knowledge of the most pressing challenges facing local governments is one without parallel. An attendee is given a detailed explanation of the community challenge or concern, which is followed by an in-depth summary of the steps the community took to address these challenges. Conference presenters also utilized a variety of presentation strategies and tactics to engage, captivate, and interact with attendees to hold their interest, further their knowledge base, and add tools to their metaphorical toolboxes.

Two of the sessions that I was able to personally attend had particularly strong messages, which will translate into future success in local government. The first session was that of Wolves at the Door: Repairing a Well-Deserved Bad Reputation, Town of Leesburg, VA. Community personnel from the Town differentiated themselves as they utilized a dramatized skit to demonstrate the very real problems in the plan review process. This case stood out becuase the community was willing to admit their flaws and recognized that an innovative change was necessary to repair a “well-deserved” bad reputation. The plan review process was broken and the community made a comprehensive, transparent, and inclusive effort to fix it. In the end, the Town of Leesburg was able to land Wolf Furniture and received exemplary feedback on their revamped review process. This session highlighted the necessity of admitting room for improvement exists before meaningful action can be taken.

Another session that stood out for me was given by the City of Durham, NC, entitled The Multiplier Effect: Transforming Our Culture. The session got back to the basics of public service; putting members of the community on the forefront. The City utilized a three-pronged approach of service to self, co-workers, and community. While service to self may seem contradictory when speaking of public service, the City highlighted that it is impossible to fully serve others before personally performing at the highest levels. They also highlighted the necessity to build on the strengths of the organization to change the culture. Each organization is unique and it is these nuances that will separate and differentiate one from the next.

The Metropolitan Revolution is an invigorating read for aspiring local government professionals and seasoned veterans alike. The book, written by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, highlights the central role that metropolitan areas will play going forward, especially as communities nationwide enter an “age of permanent fiscal crisis”. TLG afforded a unique opportunity for attendees to listen to the author, Jennifer Bradley, discuss the work from a personal perspective. Ms. Bradley discussed the power and influence that metropolitan areas and local governments will possess going forward. The message was clear that local government is the hub for innovation and the Alliance for Innovation has the critical role in facilitating and sharing these ideas across the country.

While attending sessions and keynotes is a focal point of the conference, a personal opinion ensues that the greatest experience comes from the vast networking opportunities. In fact, the Alliance for Innovation incorporates longer breaks in TLG that extend to a half-hour to allow attendees to engage and interact with one another. The more informal conversations promote the sharing of innovative practices among current and aspiring local government professionals. These conversations provide an exciting  opportunity for an aspiring local government professional, such as myself, to interact with professionals from across the country and even the world. This unique experience truly allows the sharing of ideas and the challenges facing communities from all regions.

In short, the TLG conference is a special opportunity that combines critical lessons from networking opportunities, keynote addresses, and informative sessions. The ability to interact with leading professionals from across the country allows for the sharing of innovative solutions, best practices, specific challenges, and past experiences. It is this ability to share ideas, make meaningful connections, and learn from past experiences that will guide me in my own career endeavors, as well as better the communities within which I hope to serve.

Learn more about the conference at http://tlgconference.org and get ready for TLG 2015 in Phoenix, AZ!

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