Lead paint. Potholes. Delays on public transit. Trash pickups.
These are the kinds of issues we expect government to measure, understand, and fix. But how often does that happen in a way that allows government to say: “We kept our end of the bargain”?
That was the theme of the tenth annual Public Performance Conference that Suffolk hosted in September. Co-sponsored by the Sawyer Business School’s Institute for Public Service, the National Center for Public Performance (NCPP) and the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University–Newark, the conference brought together public policy experts from around the globe to share ideas on how organizations and governments can better measure and improve their services.
“Each year, this conference represents a dialogue on how to make public service tangible to the people providing and receiving services,” said Marc Holzer, founder and executive director of the NCPP and a Suffolk University professor. “It’s about figuring out better ways to ensure government can deliver on its promises.”
Keynote speakers included Shelley Metzenbaum, founding president of and senior fellow at the Volcker Alliance; Donald Moynihan, director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs; and former Maryland governor and 2016 presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who set the tone of the two-day conference recounting how, during his time as Baltimore mayor, data became the go-to way for understanding and—more importantly—improving services across the city. Sawyer Business School professor Brendan Burke was a panelist on the second day.
“The speakers were exceptional, and each offered ideas new to me that we will implement,” said first-time attendee MeghanMarie Fowler-Finn, performance manager at the District Department of Transportation in Washington, DC. “The energy of the conference was palpable, and I am already in several ongoing conversations with other attendees to learn about how we’re approaching similar issues.”
That’s the ultimate goal of events like this: bring together groups of people who are all dealing with the same kinds of problems and let them share. More and more, the Sawyer Business School is helping to facilitate these kinds of “Big Conversations.” Indeed, the conference has made a permanent move from its previous home at Rutgers to Suffolk University, where it will be held for the foreseeable future.
“Suffolk is perfectly positioned to host and sponsor this conference every year,” says Brenda Bond, chair of the Institute for Public Service and associate professor of Public Administration. “Our faculty, students, and alumni are at the heart of public policy development and implementation. We are thrilled that we can bring together people from across the nation and globe to explore performance improvement.”