Strategic Planning

5 Key Takeaways and Next Steps from Local Government 2030: Action for the Future

Photo of Phoenix, Arizona and two logos from Envisio and Local Government 2030

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining the second and final convening of Local Government 2030 for two days in downtown Phoenix.

This was an extraordinary couple of days.

Seated in rows, lecture-style, in a sunny room on the ASU campus, around seventy-five people from across different levels of government and industry sectors learned about three initiatives.

These initiatives were presented by three groups of young local government professionals who have been working together for over a year to bring their ideas to life.

Why were we there?

To answer that question, we have to go back a few years…

In 2019, the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) launched their Grand Challenges in Public Administration. These challenges represented twelve critical issues facing America–and beyond–in the immediate future.

The Grand Challenges were launched as a call to action for different sectors to work together to address some of society’s most pressing and complex challenges.

Local Government 2030 was born out of this call to action.

Modeled on the Minnowbrook Conference concept that originated in 1968, the idea of Local Government 2030 was to bring together fifty delegates under the age of forty, from all local government professions, to provide leadership in finding solutions.

The first convening took place in Omaha in November 2022. Three initiatives were identified there and created the basis for the next year of work between the selected delegates.

This second convening in Phoenix was to share the work that had been completed and bring together a broader group of contributors (which included elected officials, academia, and leaders representing professional associations) to learn, advise, and to pledge support–to the continued work needed to make local government agencies effective, and to the three initiatives presented.

At the risk of wildly underselling them, I’m going to try and give the one-sentence “elevator pitch” for each initiative here (knowing that you can read the full descriptions on the Local Government 2030 website):

  • The Art of Public Service: The Communication Continuum. Based on the premise that trust in government can be bolstered by a reimagining of both internal and public communications, this initiative recommends a toolkit to make public servants more effective, more equitable storytellers.
  • Promised Pathways. This initiative advocates for creating meaningful pathways for Justice-Impacted Individuals to find employment in public service agencies to create stronger local government workforces and fairer communities.
  • GROW a Resilient Workforce. Recognizing the current recruitment, retention, and workforce growth crisis in local government, GROW recommends a certification and self-assessment program to help public sector agencies become choice employers.

So why was Envisio there?

I first heard of Local Government 2030 after Omaha. One of the academic partners who had been present at that first convening told me about the promise of the work done.

So when the opportunity to sponsor the second convening came and, even better, to join the group, we took it.

And in the spirit of continued commitment, here are my key takeaways from a remarkable two days as an observer at this event. It includes commitments from Envisio, as well as some general thoughts and suggested next steps for those who gathered together for a few bright days of hope, inspiration, and cross-sector collaboration in the desert.

Takeaway 1: Cross-sector bridge-builders are essential

More and more in my career, I have come to appreciate individuals who are truly great at building bridges between groups in order to make real change happen.

These are the people with the passion, determination, and mindset to look at a desired outcome first and then assemble the right people and resources to make it happen second. This focus on an end result means bringing together the best skills and talents irrespective of where those people work and their respective roles.

One of the many ways in which local Government 2030 was special is that it brought together representatives from the private sector, public sector practitioners, academics, professional associations, and elected officials—in one place.

The group was tasked with not only identifying paths forward around the three initiatives presented, but also with how to sustain this multi-sector, cross-regional collaboration beyond the convening.

With the right framework, we discussed, could we address more of the Grand Challenges together?

We all felt the uniqueness of this gathering and the potential that could come from it. But the worry was what happens next?

There were several natural bridge-builders in the room in Phoenix, and their leadership will be needed. The hope, excitement, and belief is there. But bridgebuilders will be required to capitalize on it.

Takeaway 2: Operationalizing innovative plans is hard

Each one of the three initiatives presented at Local Government 2030 now needs to be put into action.

But taking an idea, a vision, and turning it into real-world actions complete with cross-sector contributors, agreed timelines, and a shared sense of accountability is neither intuitive nor easy.

There is a reason that around 60% of Envisio customers come to us without a fully operationalized plan. Many organizations need help to take their ideas, their beautifully crafted plans, and desired outcomes and make them tangible and achievable.

This is the reality of executing innovative, large-in-scope initiatives.

Technology can help, absolutely. Good facilitation through action planning is also needed to lay the right foundation. But passion and buy-in from the people leading each initiative is critical.

That passion and belief from the delegates leading the Local Government 2030 initiatives was there in abundance. Anyone who can dedicate over a year of their life to a personal project that does not have a clear completion date is not lacking in motivation.

But now those projects need to be fully operationalized. With an agreed action plan, cross-sector commitment, and way to track success.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to see these three initiatives at the point where they know what they want to achieve and they have the broad strokes of what will be needed.

Because, truly, this is where Envisio can help.

Takeaway 3: Private sector partners need to be in the room

No, not an argument to have local governments run more like businesses (perhaps the very antithesis of the original Minnowbrook conference school of thought), but rather a call to action to private sector companies to act as better partners in helping to address some of these Grand Challenges.

I think it’s easy for us all to get stuck in our one domain, or to focus on company results only–even when you are a mission-driven company.

But I think anyone who works in a private company supporting public agencies needs to honestly reflect on the questions: Are we actually being the best partners? Are we setting ourselves and our customers/future customers up for the right kind of outcomes?

Because today’s challenges are all of our problems. Some threaten the very fabric that holds us together as a society.

And we in the private sector have access to proprietary data, technology, additional resources, and a variety of skill sets that can make a real difference.

We need to be more than just vendors—we need to be partners.

Takeaway 4: We need marketing; to create movements behind good work

Collectively, as a society, I think we often view marketing with cynicism. And I understand why.

However, what excites me about marketing (and speaking as a career marketer) is the power it has to influence and engage people. To spur them into action. To educate. To create and sustain bigger movements beyond a handful of already highly motivated people. And, dare I say it, to do good.

Why do I raise the importance of marketing here?

Because it came up in the course of the conversation over two days. Repeatedly. In different ways, within different groups, using varying language.

How do we promote these initiatives?

How do we move faster in rolling these out? 2030 is not far away…

Should we do a podcast? Write a newsletter? Present at conferences?

As I sat listening to the three groups present their initiatives (thoughtfully, thoroughly, and eloquently, I might add), my mind was spinning through the different ways that a movement could be built behind each of them.

With the right people, and drive, and skill sets, marketing has a huge part to play.

Takeaway 5: The future for public administration is bright

In reading about the origins of Minnowbrook, I was struck by a couple of things:

  1. At the heart of the original Minnowbrook convening was a concern about the future of public administration in a rapidly changing world.
  2. Themes of fairness, justice, and equality underpinned discussions.

It sounds remarkably familiar.

Of course, the landscape in 2024 looks drastically different from the backdrop that led to Minnowbrook in the sixties.

But in some ways, the concerns are the same.

And just as in Minnowbrook, Local Government 2030 showed that there are those who care enough to do something about it.

So to all the motivated innovators, courageous change makers, passionate public servants, and engaged partners, thank you.

At the end of the second day, of the second convening, there was fatigue. But also enormous pride in the work done. Gratitude and respect. And enormous optimism for the future.

Next steps

For our part at Envisio, we are going to work to get the right cross-sector teams together to create and execute on action plans for the three Local Government 2030 initiatives.

Each of the three delegate groups has access to:

  • Operational planning workshops with our planning coaches to help take the goals and strategies identified in each initiative and build out the SMART actions needed to implement them.
  • The ongoing use of the Envisio platform to track those actions, report on progress regularly, and provide a central place for each cross-sector group to get visibility, collaborate, and stay accountable.

Our goal is to bring together the right people, from across academia, professional associations, and the local government delegates (including elected officials) who want to continue the work they started, to build effective, impactful action plans for each initiative.

On a personal note, I would love to see some of the professional association marketers join the action planning sessions. And, if you have a platform that can elevate or promote the work done by Local Government 2030, please consider using it.

Thank you to the incredible work of the convening committee and volunteers who made Local Government 2030 happen and who welcomed us into it.

We’re excited to be a part of what comes next.

Operational Planning Guide ↓

For anyone struggling to put a complex plan into action, our Operational Planning Guide is a great free resource. It includes many of the same templates and examples that our Planning & Performance Coaches use to help our public sector clients create SMART actions, engage teams, and grow ownership and accountability.

Image of Operational Planning Guide with Download Now button

Liz Steward

Liz has spent over 15 years working at technology companies in London, Cambridge, and Vancouver. Liz's career began in govtech and she is thrilled to be back working with local governments at Envisio to help build public trust and drive performance excellence in public institutions.

A law school graduate and former Special Constable in the London Metropolitan Police, Liz has a deep interest in the role of police in society, international jurisprudence, and the relationship between inequality and the criminal justice system. She is also a strong advocate for women in leadership roles in both the technology sector and local government and has written on the subject for regional and industry publications.

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