#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Leadership on Display

Over the last few weeks, we have been featuring reflections on the 2019 Summer Conference.

Our final #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Ross Hatton, 2019 Summer Conference Scholarship Recipient, UNC-Chapel Hill Master of Public Administration Candidate, and Budget and Management Services Intern, Wake County.

When I first applied for the NCLGBA conference scholarship, I had no expectation that I would be lucky enough to receive it. I am deeply thankful to the NCLGBA for giving me the opportunity to learn from its passionate, creative, and talented members who are constantly striving to serve and improve each of their communities.

As I sat down to write this recap, I ran into the problem of having too many sessions to choose from. Whether it was Brandon Juhaish’s Budget Monitoring Report – The Future is the Past, Rebecca Jackson’s Creating a High Performance Culture – Engaged Employees Transforming Communities, or one of the many other engaging panels and sessions, I was impressed by the knowledge and ingenuity of the conference’s many presenters and attendees. However, I found myself particularly struck by Professor Rick Morse’s Lead from Where You Are by Encouraging the Heart, given the many ways in which I saw leadership during the conference.

His session, nestled in the middle of the conference, was an earnest discussion of what it means to be a leader and a necessary reminder that leadership is “everybody’s business”. I have heard many times how management and leadership are fundamentally different concepts, but I have also often felt that these differences can be difficult to communicate and conceptualize. Professor Morse helped remedy this by offering the following five key behaviors of leaders:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire the vision
  • Challenge the process
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

As someone in the early stages of his public service career, I am grateful for this reminder that leadership is an opportunity for all of us, regardless of position or experience. I have been lucky to witness empowering and innovative leadership in both my public service experience and at the conference, which has raised the bar for how I aspire to serve my community. It became clear to me, through the Past President Panel: The Bat-Signal has been answered! in particular, that the NCLGBA cares deeply about creating what Professor Morse called a “spirit of community” by celebrating successes, sharing stories, and forging connections.

As Professor Morse concluded his session, he left each of us with a blank letter and encouraged us to take the time to thank someone. We work in a time of unparalleled access to information and data, which often requires us to move quickly in order to be responsive to changing needs or priorities. In light of this, it can be easy to forget to slow down and recognize the people around us for their support, mentorship, and leadership. I appreciated this discussion of leadership and the importance of not forgetting to recognize the people who support us.

I was absolutely thrilled by my first time at the NCLGBA conference. From hearing how other people think about common problems to seeing the novel policies and practices being put into place in other jurisdictions, I was blown away by the activities and leadership of the NCLGBA membership. I look forward to continuing to learn from this community, and I hope to be a part of fostering its growth in the future.

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Community Engagement in Budgeting

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our fifth #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Lauren Brune, Budget Analyst, City of Asheville.

The 2019 NCLGBA Summer Conference was the first one I attended since Winter 2017 and did not disappoint – it was one of the best budget conferences in my experience. I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with budget peers new and familiar from across North Carolina, and the mix of conference sessions was informative and engaging.

A common thread I noticed throughout several sessions was one that did not used to tie directly to budgeting: community engagement. This illustrates the notion of the evolving budget profession. The days of spending all day at a desk crunching numbers are gone; instead, we need to get out into our communities to forge partnerships and ensure our services are meeting stakeholders’ needs. Budgeteers must work closely with community engagement staff and management to ensure that the organization’s strategic plan aligns with community priorities, and then allocate financial resources accordingly.

One of the biggest takeaways from Brock Long’s session, “Emergency 2.0,” was how to leverage federal emergency funding through local partnerships. Brock compared emergency management to a chair with four legs: the citizenry, local and state governments, the private sector, and federal government. If any of these legs is weak, it destabilizes the chair and prevents an effective emergency response. The “emergency 2.0” approach is to create partnerships in your community to keep the chair stable. Brock mentioned several examples of how to create such partnerships before a disaster strikes, so that the machine can be put into operation immediately when necessary. He advised local governments to partner with reinsurance agencies to leverage their fund balance, which can provide more flexibility in the permissible uses of funds than federal reimbursements alone. Brock also suggested writing MOUs with local stores to provide food and supplies immediately in case of emergency. By engaging effectively with their communities, local governments can establish a robust emergency management strategy that incorporates effective preparation and response.

The community engagement theme popped up again in the “Budget Monitoring and Reporting” session from Mecklenburg County. Brandon Juhaish explained that Mecklenburg budget staff shares quarterly reports with departments and asks departmental staff for feedback to keep employees engaged in the process. The communication loop then comes full circle when budget staff incorporates departments’ feedback into future reports. This seemingly simple action works to break down silos in the organization and moves the type of engagement from information to collaboration.

The community engagement thread also wove its way into the Past Presidents’ Panel, which illustrated how the budgeting profession has evolved. When Maia Setzer offered words of wisdom to burgeoning budget professionals, she encouraged talking to customers, which I interpreted to mean internally as well as externally. Beyond communicating with citizens, community engagement could take the form of benchmarking and learning from other organizations. It was a good reminder that local governments everywhere borrow ideas from one another and that there is no shame in replicating a successful initiative in your community.

The second conference day began with an inspiring session about Fayetteville. Rebecca Jackson explained that to be high-performing, an organization must collaborate and break down silos by engaging with employees and citizens alike. Listening to customers is a behavior that all high-performing organizations have in common. By knowing what your community values, you can create a strategic plan that serves as your blueprint for successful budgeting. To close the communication loop with the public after the strategic plan is implemented, Fayetteville uses tools like the TracStat scorecard, which aligns performance measures in the organization to Council goals. The scorecard is shown in an open database so that Council and citizens can dive into performance stats and see how the budget aligns with their priorities.

The idea of community priorities informing the strategic planning process continued in the next session, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” Scott Tesh explained that in Winston-Salem, results from the citizen survey are provided to departments about their specific services, and that residents also rank departments’ services by importance. Parks & Recreation services ranked higher than anticipated in the survey, which led staff to reallocate some bond funding to Parks projects. If Council is resistant to strategic planning, it could be helpful to highlight concerns from the community rather than staff — these may be more impactful since they affect electability.

When members of the community participate in the governing process, it is important to lead them by encouraging the heart, as Rick Morse explained. Citizens will be more enthusiastic about participation when their contributions are recognized, they feel appreciated, and values and victories are celebrated. Strong recognition cultures encourage good relationships between management, staff, and the community. This idea emerged most clearly in my favorite session of the conference, “PB Durham: Humanizing the Budget Process.” Community engagement was the key to Durham’s success with participatory budgeting. The “PB Jam” (brainstorming) sessions at recreation centers and festivals, as well as canvassing, met the community where they were and encouraged maximum community participation in PB. Any Durham resident age 13+ could vote on projects, and PB was integrated into the schools’ social studies curriculum. With the online idea collection platform, Andrew Holland and Robin Baker brought technology to the people and used it with or for them if needed.

After the two-month idea collection phase, internal departments used community engagement in the proposal development process. These intensive workshops trained citizens on how to turn their ideas into actionable projects. Although the PB staff provided information and direction, they depended on citizens to push the project ideas forward. Citizens were also encouraged to spread the word about their own project ideas to increase votes. I believe this feature of Durham’s PB process was the most innovative and important to its success. By taking ownership of the projects and the voting, citizens were probably much more engaged in PB than they would be if staff had simply led the process. This recalls the idea of closing the communication loop and moving the community engagement process from informing to collaborating.

Seeing the community engagement theme throughout so many of the conference sessions reinforced the changing nature of the budgeting profession for me. I am excited to see how community engagement will play a role in future budget processes in our local governments, and I can’t wait to play host when the NCLGBA Winter Conference comes to Asheville!

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: A Culture of High Performance

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our fourth #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Jenn Wolf, Strategy and Budget Analyst, City of Charlotte.

While the 2019 Summer Conference explored a range of topics for local government professionals, I saw one theme emerge as a common thread from a wide variety of sessions.

Former FEMA Administrator, Brock Long, opened the conference with a presentation on emergency management that underscored the importance of insuring and hardening our assets and building resilience in our communities. If communities are implementing these lessons, then they can create high performing levels of resiliency.

Dr. Olga Smirnova and Jennifer Wolf from the City of Charlotte discussed green initiatives and making strategic investments in an increasingly unpredictable climate. If organizations are following this path, then they can create high performing levels of sustainability.

Lastly, a general session led by Rebecca Jackson and John Werner gave an in depth look at creating a culture of high performance. If individuals are putting this into action, then they can create a high performing attitude within themselves.

We also had the privilege of hearing from a full panel of past NCLGBA presidents, whose words of wisdom are an inspiration to those who may one day answer the call and serve on the board, with all the responsibility that entails.

The theme of what it takes to become a high performing community, organization, and individual is a stand-out that sets this conference apart from the rest, whether through resilience, sustainability, culture, or leadership: continue to do your best to perform at your highest.

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: Bridging the Gap

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our third #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Lauren Stepp, 2019 Summer Conference Scholarship Recipient, Western Carolina University Master of Public Affairs Candidate, and Communications and Development Coordinator, Evergreen Community Charter School.

Seeking First to Understand: Bridging the Gap Between Government and Nonprofit Personnel

I didn’t sleep much the night before my five-hour trek from North Carolina’s mountains to its coast. I developed a passion for budgeting early in my graduate program at Western Carolina University, seeing it as a mechanism for encouraging civic engagement and racial equity. But not three weeks prior to the NCLGBA Summer Conference in Wilmington, I was offered an opportunity to serve Evergreen Community Charter School as their Communications and Development Coordinator. I took the job. And I love it. Regardless, my chief concern in attending the conference was that fellow attendees wouldn’t understand my perspective. After all, the situation sounds like a hackneyed joke: nearly 150 government budgeting professionals and a singular nonprofit fundraiser walk into a riverfront hotel…

I was wrong. The conference afforded thoughtful, productive conversation. Fellow conferencegoers were intrigued by my attendance and genuinely interested in my path to Evergreen. Better yet, it afforded a chance to discuss the financial implications of charter schools as well as opportunities for public-nonprofit collaboration. Whether obvious or not, collaborative governance underscored many of the conference sessions. Rebecca Jackson’s Creating a High Performance Culture – Engaged Employees Transforming Communities alluded to enacting collaborative agreements with community organizations in pursuit of innovation. Jackson’s four qualities of high-performing organizations can also be applied to nonprofits. Arguably, nonprofits should also be mission driven, use data to drive decisions, listen to customers, and engage employees. As Director of Fayetteville’s Office of Strategic Performance Analytics, Jackson advised practitioners to avoid a hero-based approach to strategic planning, to start small, and (my personal favorite) to ensure your staff can bell the cat. More plainly, are your strategies feasible? Conversations about strategic planning are important, especially considering just 52 percent of the audience agreed their organization was high-performing and 10 percent strongly disagreed. To attain innovation and bring more legitimacy to the causes we care about, government and nonprofit professionals must band together. We are stronger together and, as Rick Morse argued in Lead From Where You Are by Encouraging the Heart, we are stronger when we challenge the status quo.

Christopher Williams and Brandon Juhaish’s session, Funding Non-Profits: Mecklenburg County’s Process for Selecting and Managing its Community Service Grant’s Program, echoed these sentiments. Mecklenburg County modified their CSG Program in light of 12 recommendations from MPA students at UNC Charlotte. Chiefly, the sunset provision opens funding opportunities to new programs while providing others the opportunity to become established vendors. In fact, more than 70 percent of 2020 grantees are new. Though Williams and Juhaish discussed challenges of providing community funding, particularly those associated with processing applications, the benefits are overwhelming. In providing funding, Mecklenburg County supports critical needs in areas that might not otherwise receive financial assistance. In collaborating, the County better provides for its citizens and, arguably, creates a more equitable home.

Regardless, research continues to suggest a schism between government and nonprofit personnel. I won’t illustrate the alleged disagreements here, but perhaps it goes without saying­—we all deserve to be recognized, appreciated, and understood more regardless of sector. One tenet at Evergreen is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. I would like to think my attendance­—a nonprofit fundraiser amid a sea of budgeting professionals—was a step in that direction.

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: PB Durham: Humanizing the Budget Process

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our second #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Darin Johnson, Strategic Initiatives Analyst, City of Durham.

Participatory Budgeting in the City of Durham, North Carolina

This fun, high energy, and insightful session around the Participatory Budgeting (PB) Durham process in the City of Durham community was brought to North Carolina Local Government Budget Association attendees by the good folks in the City of Durham Budget and Management Services Department. More specifically, Andrew Holland, Budget Engagement Manager, and Robin Baker, Budget Engagement Coordinator, broke down some of their successes and lessons-learned around their time intensive quest to build PB Durham in the Triangle. My reflection for the people who may want to know what the PB Durham process in the City of Durham Community was like, would be – the PB Durham team have demonstrated a standard of leadership through this process that is human and meaningful to the City of Durham.

Rubber, meet road!

I reflected on the lessons-learned during that presentation as it relates to how a key part of their successes was the buy-in from City Council and ultimately Department staff. It was good to hear about the person-centered process in which the team engaged with residents in each phase of their engagement process from 1) Idea Collection, 2) Proposal Development, 3) Voting, to the forthcoming 4) Implementation. Residents from every segment of the Durham community were at the table for each phase of the PB Durham process.

Spirit of Recognition

In the spirit of recognition, it was great to see other PB trailblazers such as City of Greensboro in the room who were interested in learning more about Durham’s process and similar challenges along the way. Many in attendance were most interested in ways the Budget Engagement team harnessed the Durham community’s capacity to activate residents. Budget engagement efforts were innovative & high performing in order to reach underrepresented segments of Durham’s community for buy-in, in addition to those who are typically interested/involved in budget-related conversations. The focused engagement of the PB Durham team lead to the submission of over 500 ideas across the City of Durham’s three wards while also obtaining votes on vetted projects from more than 10,000 residents via paper and online voting.

Yes, and…

There was a great conversation during the presentation that lasted until the last minute of our time together with the engagement team around lessons learned that other counties and municipalities can take back to their communities with the intent of encouraging a more democratic budget process where residents’ human voices, viewpoints, and perspectives are paramount in one-time projects being built in their communities. Two of the most salient insights from their PB Durham budget engagement experience was around the need for: A) a more flexible timeline during the next PB Durham cycle, which was realized as early as the Idea Collection phase and B) more resources, which became most evident during Proposal Development.

Leadership in Durham

Lastly, to build on my initial reflection around this team’s leadership – a leader is one who knows the way. A leader is one who goes the way. A leader is one who shows followers the way. It is easy for communities to be ordinary but it takes courage for communities to excel at bridging the gap between their most minimized/marginalized residents and their government in a way that educates each person involved. This session was a testament to how other Budget and Management professionals in and around Durham might reimagine the budget process to encourage greater participation. Thanks to the City of Durham leadership as well for supporting these bold ideas.

For more information about the history of participatory budgeting and other municipalities that have implemented this process please visit the Participatory Budgeting Project

#NCLGBA19 Recap Series: The Range in Budget on Display at Summer Conference

Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring reflections on the 2019 Summer Conference. If you would like to share your experience, please email admin@nclgba.org.

Our first #NCLGBA19 Conference Recap comes from Michelle Burgess, Budget and Management Analyst, Wake County.

I finished reading Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World  by David Epstein the night before heading to Wilmington for the summer NCLGBA conference. The book explores how diversity of experience, learning, and skill sets improves performance and long-term success. Pulling from different disciplines and problem-solving approaches allows individuals to more readily tackle the sticky problems with ill-defined rules or solutions.

Throughout the conference sessions, I kept thinking about how well that theme fits with the ethos of budget work as well as with NCLGBA. My work as a budget analyst spans several departments, exposing me to different services, thought processes, and county needs. Likewise, the budget development and monitoring process itself requires coordination across budget, finance, service departments, the manager’s office, and elected officials – each representing a different perspective and interest. Given the complex issues facing local governments (on any given day ranging from disaster response to affordable housing concerns to the impact of Medicaid transformation), I find that diversity of perspective comforting and am energized by the role budget offices can play in increasing cooperation and conversation between different parts of the organization.

I’m also grateful for NCLGBA for bringing that diversity to its conference agenda. Sessions covered emergency response, budget engagement, local government revenue, pension funding, and energy conserving investments. The biannual Legislative and Economic updates as always added the political and economic perspectives to our work. Those topics created an energy that translated into the broader networking and conversations among conference attendees.

As the first day’s zip code map showed, conference participants came from small towns and larger jurisdictions from across most areas of the state. Moreover, conference attendees included budget staff, finance officers, managers, performance measurement analysts, students, and department representatives. That range of backgrounds created the perfect fodder for attendees to compare notes and share best practices.  Although the scale and problems may vary by jurisdiction, I left the conference convinced by Epstein’s argument and glad that NCLGBA creates a space to share our different processes and solutions.

Summer Conference Presentations Now Online

Presentations from the 2019 Summer Conference are now available online. Find them here, or in the Resource Archive.

A final thank you to our sponsors, conference planning committee, and moderators who helped make the 2019 Summer Conference a success! If you have suggestions for future conference topics or are interested in helping with a future conference, please reach out to us by emailing conference@nclgba.org.

Welcome to Wilmington!

On behalf of the Board and the 2019 Summer Conference Planning Committee, we look forward to seeing you all at the conference this week! There are amazing session topics that will continue to strategically move NCLGBA forward as one of the premier “big-tent” public sector organizations.

Final Logistics

Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront; 9 Estell Lee Place; Wilmington, NC, 28401

Self-parking is $13, Valet parking is $20

Registration starts at noon on 7/10/2019

First session starts at 1pm

Conference Materials

Final electronic and print agendas, CPE form, registration list can be found here.

The back-cover of the print agenda has a QR code that can be scanned by your phone. After scanning it, a link will pop-up for you to click on the PDF version of the agenda. Feel free to test it prior to conference. If it does not work, download “Scan Me – QR Code Scanner & Generator” from your app store.

Certification Update

Certification testing will be Thursday morning!

8:00am – 9:30am in the Engine Room (Private Dining Room in Restaurant)

ELGL Supper Club is coming to #NCLGBA19!

Our friends at ELGL are excited to announce that they are bringing one of their world famous Supper Clubs to the Summer Conference. This is an opportunity for thirty attendees to get together for dinner, engage in stimulating conversation, and make new connections…and you won’t even need to leave the hotel! Please join us at 7pm at Steam for ELGL supper club! If interested, please see our friend Greg James from Oracle (proud sponsor of #NCLGBA19) to reserve your seat at the Supper Table.

Electronic surveys are back!

Please take advantage of the electronic survey that will be offered via phone and/or a provided link during the conference. We want your input!

Let’s Get Social!

Follow us on Twitter @nclgba. Follow the conversation, brag about the food, share your stories, show us you are having fun, and use #NCLGBA19. Best tweet gets a prize!

Sponsor Spotlight

Many thanks to all of our sponsors! Check out all the wonderful sponsors supporting the conference and seeking to network with membership to help us all improve the profession!

Cheers, be safe traveling, and see you at the riverfront!

Call for Authors – Conference Recap Series

We are looking for a few individuals who would be willing to write for our Conference Recap Series following the 2019 Summer Conference. Recaps could focus on a single session, a recurring theme, or reflect on the whole conference experience. There are some great examples from past conferences here. Recaps should be for 300-1000 words.

If you are interested in contributing or have questions, please reach out to Heather Curry.

Announcing the 2019 Summer Conference Scholarship Winners

The NCLGBA Board is pleased to announce two scholarship winners for the 2018 Summer Conference:

Ross Hatton
University of North Carolina Master of Public Administration Candidate; Wake County Budget and Management Services Graduate Intern
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ross-hatton-a4094785

Lauren Stepp
Western Carolina University Master of Public Affairs Candidate
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurenstepp

Please be sure to introduce yourself to our winners at the summer conference, give a warm welcome, share a little about yourself during the networking breaks (REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY DONE SO), and hold onto their contact information to make future connections.