Training NGOs in Lithuania

Over the next two days, I am conducting training on project management, leadership, and strategy for 18 NGOs in Vilnius, Lithuania in coordination if Transparency International Lithuania and with support from the U.S. Embassy. See http://thinkdo.transparency.lt 

The participants in the training program are of diverse ages, include organizational directors and project managers, and represent a wonderful diverse set of social, economic, and community interests. These interests include:

  • Childhood nutrition
  • Emotional support for youth
  • Investors forum
  • Volunteerism promotion
  • Women’s and gender issues
  • Anti-corruption
  • Hunger and homelessness
  • Youth education for democracy
  • Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award program
  • Urban design and transformation
  • British Chamber of Commerce
  • Drug abuse prevention
  • Promotion of science and research among younger scholars
  • Disability awareness, including mental health
  • Experiential education for youth
  • Elections monitoring
  • Social equality

I’m thankful for the honor of leading these sessions and such an inspiring group of civic leaders in Lithuania.

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Teaching Impact: A New PA Times Column

For the next six months, at least, I will be writing a monthly column for PA Times, the newspaper of the American Society for Public Administration entitled Teaching Impact. This is a dual meaning title; the column will be about teaching activities and pedagogical strategies that can achieve impact in communities and the lives of community members, and it will be about impactful pedagogy for students. The first column will be coming out in the coming weeks that introduces these themes in more detail. In the interim, if you have stories, cases, or examples that you would like to share, send me a note, and maybe I’ll integrate into a future column!

Now Recruiting AmeriCorps VISTA to Help Homeless Students in Central Florida

942820_549660545086607_1168171071_nThe UCF Center for Public and Nonprofit Management is recruiting 15 AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) to commence a year of full-time service in February 2014. As a member of our VISTA team, you will focus your efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of public and nonprofit organizations that serve homeless students in Brevard, Orange, and Seminole Counties. Team benefits include use of your knowledge and skills, professional development, and camaraderie.

VISTAs receive support from the Corporation for National and Community Service, including: training, a modest living allowance, health coverage, childcare, and other benefits. After successful completion of a term of service, members can choose to receive an education award or post-service stipend. More information on VISTA is available at http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista

For more information on the positions and to apply, please follow the links to My AmeriCorps (or search by the program name listed):

Strengthen communities & change lives in Orange County, FL! https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=52879&fromSearch=true

Strengthen communities & change lives in Orlando, FL! https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=52881&fromSearch=true

Strengthen communities & change lives in Seminole County FL! https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?id=52877&fromSearch=true

To serve in Brevard County, please contact the center at cpnm@ucf.edu for more information.

Join the CPNM AmeriCorps VISTA Project and Fight poverty with passion!

Call for Papers: The State of the Research on Civic Engagement: How Service and Volunteerism is Reshaping our Civic and Community Health

 CALL FOR PAPERS 

The State of the Research on Civic Engagement: 

How Service and Volunteerism is Reshaping our Civic and Community Health 

8th Annual Public Administration Research Conference 

Friday, March 28 

UCF Fairwinds Alumni Center 

This conference will convene local and national scholars and practitioners concerned about the use of national service and volunteer programs designed to strategically address complex community issues. Presentations will focus on research of national service and volunteerism, asking what we know about what works, how it works, why it works, and what barriers to success exist. The focus can be on any host/sponsor organizations of national service and volunteering, including local government, corporate, nonprofit, grassroots, and faith-based, with particular though not exclusive interest on implications for local governments and governance. Accepted papers and presentations will be compiled for an edited book volume. Specifically, we seek papers in the following areas: 

Economic Opportunity 

Research on how service and volunteerism can increase economic opportunities that strengthen individuals and families. How does service and volunteerism expand individual opportunity and build community stability to create more sustainable, resilient communities? 

Education 

Research on how service and volunteerism can increase educational advancement. How does service and volunteerism promote education among at-risk children through early childhood education? Offer educational access and assistance to you? Connect youth with the resources that will lead them to college or vocational education? 

Local Collaboration and Civic Opportunities 

Research on how service and volunteerism can expand investments, and partnerships. How does service and volunteerism increase philanthropic and corporate investments and partnerships? How does service and volunteerism impact local challenges? What is the return on investment for volunteerism and service, for recipients of service, people who serve, and/or the larger community? 

Innovation and Impact 

Research that shows high-quality, high-value service and volunteer efforts that achieve measurable results where the need is greatest. This may include research that describes private-public partnerships where companies commit skills-based volunteer services to help nonprofits address critical community priorities, research that describes how service and volunteerism strengthens local governance by developing and fostering professional management to build 

sustainable communities, and/or research that demonstrates how service and volunteerism support local effort to transform lives and communities. 

Disaster and Emergency Management 

Research demonstrative how service and volunteerism builds the capacity of nonprofits, states, and cities to better prepare, respond, recover, and mitigate disasters and increase community resilience. 

Conference Format 

This is a one-day conference that will feature two nationally known or locally prestigious practitioner keynote speakers and five panel sessions on the above subjects. Each panel will have no more than three presenters, plus a chair/discussant. 

Proposal Submission 

A one-page proposal should be submitted to Dr. Thomas Bryer at thomas.bryer@ucf.edu by November 15, 2013. Accepted papers should be completed due by March 1, 2014. 

A Story of a Government Shutdown: Using Seventh Grade Spelling Words

Later this week, I am going into my son’s 6-9 grade class to discuss all that is happening in Washington, DC with the federal government. Combined with my son’s seventh grade spelling list for the week, I have constructed a story. Is there a broader lesson here about seventh grade academics and the antics in Washington? Perhaps… but for now, a story. The spelling words are underlined; feel free to use them to construct your own version of the Government Shutdown.

A Story of a Government Shutdown: Using Seventh Grade Spelling Words

Thomas A. Bryer, PhD * thomas.bryer@ucf.edu

The founders of the United States created a system of government based on the assumption that individual people are not angels. Indeed, they thought just the opposite. Far from our nation being as a city upon a hill, to use the famous sermon by John Winthrop, or even a temple of democracy, the founders thought it best to create a system in which the powerful were separated into different branches of government. The executive, led by the President of the United States, is one; the legislative, consisting of a House of Representatives and a Senate, is the second; the judicial most prominently exemplified by the Supreme Court, is the third.

The system seemed logical. If we cannot trust the people we elect to serve in government to act without greed or scorn or complete carelessness with respect to the needs of the citizens, then we must create separations and barriers to ensure we remain a nation of laws, not politics that are only profitable for a few.

Unfortunately, all the checks and balances have from time to time, including in this time, left our country in quite a pickle. Today, the government is shutdown because two branches of government—the executive and the legislative—cannot agree to pass a budget. (Actually, the disagreement is not about a budget but about continuing to fund the government using the same dollar amounts as last year—something we label a “continuing resolution”). Republican members of Congress have tried to use this process to include a provision that defunds or delays the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). The result is that our governmental branches are frozen like an icicle hanging at an angle under the gutter, making it hard to melt. Indeed, it is difficult to even see a trickle of water, as all citizens see in the news are our elected leaders being impolite.

How do we solve this puzzle? On one hand, the system is working exactly as it should be. On the other hand, the only serious conclusions we can draw are that the techniques being used to win a policy argument are not showing the strength of our government but the underlying weaknesses of our government. This view is confirmed by leaders from other countries, such as China, and by leaders of organizations like the International Monetary Fund.

Our elected officials like to flashback to our country’s founders to persuade citizens they are morally and philosophically right in their positions. In all seriousness, if I had a nickel for every time I heard a member of Congress quote from the Federalist Papers, I would be a very rich person. However much insight we can get from the founders, we might perhaps find better luck with the less often quoted group: not the federalists (those who advocated for the passage of the U.S. Constitution) but the anti-federalists (those who would have preferred a government closer to the people, perhaps even putting more trust in people to be a little bit more like angels if given the chance).

The answer to our current dilemma is not to be found in the Federalist Papers but in the people. Policymakers who thought they could win a policy battle by shutting down the government, we might suggest, have seriously misjudged the people. A definition of insanity often cited is when we keep doing the same thing over and over again despite getting bad results; this is what we, the people, are letting happen in our politics. We are not mere tenants in this country, paying taxes as rent. We have an obligation to pay rent in the form of public service and as active citizens. As I heard former Virginia governor, Douglas Wilder, say, “Public service is rent for our time on earth.” We are citizens, not tenants.

However, we must not stand alone as citizens. It is like the parable of the butler’s dream in the tale of Joseph and his amazing, multi-colored coat. In a vineyard, the butler dreamed that he took some grapes, pressed them to wine, and delivered the wine to the authorities of the time. Joseph, confined to prison with the butler, asked for help. He knew the authorities would not hear his plea unless someone else, the butler, also made the plea as well. To succeed, though, citizens must sequence their activity. They must talk to each other, ask for help, get their facts straight, and demand the government open again. Maybe then, just maybe, with an active and educated citizenry, we can be as a city upon a hill, a temple of democracy, and a land viewed from around the world as a place of reason, of laws, and indeed of angels.

Ten Thoughts on Civic Engagement for Governments

As I sit at the ICMA conference, in the audience for a civic engagement session for the ICMA Center for Management Strategies, where the Center for Public and Nonprofit Management is now a service provider, I reflect on ten tips for governments in their civic engagement efforts. 

1. If you are going to open up for citizens to participate, do it right, well, and with adequate funding.

2. If you are not culturally, structurally, or financially prepared to do civic engagement right and well, do not do it. 

3. Do it right: Be purposeful and strategic. Know what options are available in terms of tools and design of process, and link those options to a clearly stated objective.

4. Do it well: Maintain proper staffing with individuals who can monitor and propel the engagement process. 

5. Fund it: Develop a core message about the intrinsic and extrinsic value of civic engagement for budget and policymakers. 

6. While at it, manage expectations: Clearly communicate the purpose of the engagement to citizens, and follow up with citizens so they know what was promised was delivered.

7. Know that you might not know. This is particularly important with emergent technologies. Your citizens may have more creative ideas than you do for how to use new technologies to engage citizens. Listen to them.

8. In your (or your citizens’) creativity, be strategic. It can be very easy to be creative without strategy, which violates the rules of doing it well and doing it right. 

9. Don’t give up. If a process doesn’t lead to citizens turning out at first, don’t give up. Be persistent. In many communities, we are talking about culture change for government and citizens. Also, don’t start and then stop, especially if citizens start coming in.

10. Make it easy for citizens to participate but not too easy. You want citizens to work, to learn, and to engage, and citizens want the same from you.