IBM Center for The Business of Government
Thursday, July 16, 2020

This week, the National Academy of Public Administration released an important statement committing to making social equity, diversity and inclusion, and the examination of systemic racism more prominent as key elements of the Academy’s agenda.  As one of nearly 200 Academy Fellows who signed this letter, I would like to share its content here.  Moreover, as the Executive Director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government, I would like to further support the Academy’s strong stance with reflections and further commitments of our own.

The tragic events and ongoing protests of the past month, the observance around Juneteenth, and the start of action across the Nation to address systemic and structural racism, have all led to important discussions about racial equity and understanding the perspectives of Black leaders and communities, and of those in all communities of color.   The Center for The Business of Government joins with so many others across government, industry and the non-profit sector in the unequivocal condemnation of racism in all its forms, and in dedication to building a more just society in the aftermath of recent tragedies.

We also share in the belief that while words of support are necessary, they are not sufficient.  Each of us, as individuals and through organizations that we belong to, can take actions now and over the longer term that bring needed change and correct historic wrongs that continue to bring suffering across the Black community.

As stewards of scholarship to improve government and engagement with government leaders, an important area that the IBM Center for The Business of Government can focus more attention on involves race and social equity across the public sector.  Equity has long been important to the field of public administration; the National Academy of Public Administration President Terry Gerton wrote in a recent post that “Social equity is often named as the fourth pillar of public administration … which addresses fairness, justice and equity for all.”  As a Fellow of the National Academy along with Center Senior Fellow John Kamensky, we strongly support this statement and the Academy’s broader social equity agenda.

This essential principle matters because effective and efficient government must also include equitable government.  The Federal government workforce has benefitted for decades from significant contributions by Black leaders, who have served the Nation in defense and civilian roles as heads of agencies and programs and who have led talented teams of entry-, mid- and senior level staff.  Yet while 18 percent of the Federal workforce is Black, the similar ratio of senior executives is only 11 percent.   Research is needed on strengthening leadership in government from the Black community and other communities of color, and we will support greater exploration of practical, actionable recommendations to achieve this goal.

Developing and delivering sound leadership and management that leads to effective government must also involve an inclusive and diverse government.  To promote this objective, our Center will also strive to expand our interview series with new perspectives by and about leaders of color, sponsor more research that addresses important social equity issues and represents points of view from across racial and ethnic groups, and broaden our agenda more generally to bring social equity considerations to the fore.

Driving change is a theme that underlies much of the Center’s work in helping government to improve.  Change to bring greater diversity that recognizes both historic wrongs and seeks a more just path ahead will take time and effort – in the words of Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service:  “the work of diversity, equity and inclusion is a challenging, continuous journey that demands humility, empathy and growth.“

The IBM Center condemns racial animus in all its forms, both subtle and direct.  We join with colleagues across the good government community in advancing near-and long-term efforts to build a more inclusive, diverse, and effective government that serves the Nation well and with justice and equity.

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