Furlough: noun • leave of absence granted to a member of the armed services or civil servant • a temporary release of a convict from prison • a layoff, esp. a temporary one, from a place of employment.
Public Good: noun • a commodity or service that is provided without profit to all members of a society, either by the government or a private individual or organization.
As a civil servant on directed furlough while Congress deliberates on our agency budgets and the debt limit, I find the conversation around the worthiness of federal employees quite disconcerting. I’ve spent most my career as a civil servant in the federal government. I firmly believe my job is to serve the public and bring about the public good by being available and accessible, creating processes and products that allow engagement, participation, and inclusion; and leveraging the scarce tax dollars as creatively and efficiently as possible.
Do I see waste in the government? Absolutely. Do I see opportunities and possibilities for innovative practices in the government? You bet. That’s why I’m still wearing my NASA badge. [Ok, it's hanging by the door at this moment, but you know what I mean....]
As part of my PhD research, I ran across an article about inclusive public management and the promotion of democratic engagement. The authors distinguish between participatory and inclusive practices by government officials. Participatory programs enable individuals to engage in a discussion or activity, where inclusive practices allow participants to help define problems, deliberate on issues, and develop outcomes (Feldman, Khademian, Quick 2009). As a political scientist, I believe our government exists for the “people.” As guardians of the public good, we best serve by opening up our decision-making processes (inclusively) to develop solutions collaboratively with creative thinkers, both inside and outside the government. Think: LAUNCH.org.
The article also introduces the concept of hope as a means of collaboration and problem-solving within the public sector. As a public servant, I see this as my job — offering hope for a better tomorrow. It’s my passion language, actually.
In my imagination, my super power might be…ta da…Government Goddess. [Much better than Government Girl, don't you think?] Cool if my tool belt armed me with a Scepter of Inspiration to anoint humanity with hope and vision and strength of character to make tough [and often unpopular] decisions AND the desire to help those who can’t help themselves.
Tall order, I know. Sadly, I don’t own a cape or scepter, but we have amazing opportunities at NASA to make choices each day to serve the public while allowing external folks to create the public good with us — in whatever form it may take.
So, let’s get on with the business of offering hope through innovative government programs. I’m ready. I’ll start…the day after our mandated furlough ends. Deal? ;)
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” Emily Dickinson
Source: Feldman, Martha S., Anne M. Khademian, Kathryn S. Quick. “Ways of Knowing, Inclusive Management, and Promoting Democratic Engagement: Introduction to the Special Issue.” International Public Management Journal 12, no. 2 (2009): 123-36.