“Never Waste a Good Crisis”

Posted on August 14, 2020


How Human Resources, Networking and Training are Changing During These Turbulent Times

Today’s Buzz is by Greg Stopka (Twitter and LinkedIn)

What I’m Watching: The Umbrella Academy: Season 2

What I am Listening to: Rock Lullaby mix on Pandora (to help my new son sleep)

What I’m Reading: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria

During the middle of World War II, it’s rumored that Winston Churchill said “Never let a good crisis go to waste” in context of forming the United Nations. There is opportunity in crisis and history is a guide that great innovation can occur amongst catastrophe.

Examples include President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, the Civil Rights bills following Martin Luther King Junior and President John F. Kennedy’s assassinations, and more recently The Affordable Care Act during the Great Recession.

Pick a crisis in history and you’ll find change (not always good change) that came from it. Unlike these historical changes referenced, today’s moment allows for local governments to take the lead. As we live through these turbulent times, how can we be prepared to act on this opportunity? Two areas I want to highlight is human resources and our workshops/conferences.

Engage the Moment

I serve on our social equity committee for a park district. Following the death of George Floyd, there is an opportunity to rethink how we recruit, train, onboard, and build an inclusive culture in local government.

While the conversation used to be where could we recruit diverse candidates, today we’re having discussions about how we can engage non-profits in our community to build meaningful and robust relationships with people of color in our community to improve inclusivity in local government. And we’re not the only ones having these conversations.

Check out this awesome Morning Buzz from Brandi Leos, Sr, HR Business Partner at the City of Tigard, Oregon, about the ideas Tigard is doing to eliminate barriers to hiring. Durham, NC is also making progress in this area working with the Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) to incorporate social equity in its decision-making process.

During their recent Idea Lab (recording here), they shared their online resources about how to apply a racial equity lens to real local government scenarios. In response to the tragedy in Minneapolis, it’s not just a time for police reform but a moment to transform all local government. Engage the moment and see where it takes you. “History has its eyes on you.”

Unknowns Make Innovation Less Risky

Another area where I see massive change happening is with training and networking. In my previous job with the Alliance for Innovation, I recall the difficulty in getting people to commit to attending networking events as too often a work conflict would arise that prevented someone from leaving the office.

In my current position, I often find it difficult to hold specific, non-mandatory training due to capacity challenges. And outside of national conferences, there hasn’t been a way to meaningfully connect with national rock starts in the innovation world. But COVID-19 has changed things.

With Zoom meetings becoming common, there is great opportunity to rethink how we train and network. This summer, the Durham City-County IdeaLab and IL Idea Lab held virtual versions of their formally live events via Zoom.

Just like live events, there were speakers, opportunities to connect, and small group breakout sessions to apply learning outcomes. And unlike the previous live events, our audience included local government leaders from all over the country.

I was able to connect with local government innovators without leaving my kitchen. With the cost of travel and declining training budgets, the market for Zoom conferencing should only grow. While I don’t think long-term we’ll abandon national conferences, I could see regional event meetups becoming completely virtual.

Speaking of national conferences, I want to encourage ELGL to strive for weird and push what’s possible in a virtual conference. How can you replicate an environment where you sit down for lunch and have an informal conversation?

How can you create the environment in a post conference session where you meet with the speaker and share business cards? How can you tour the sites where a conference would typically be held? How can you socialize with your peers during happy hours?

I believe the tools in Zoom are there to do all this. For example, at the TLG virtual Conference last week we had 4 happy hours each with a different drink choice; our room had Jim Beam (in honor of local government great Jim Keene) whiskey gingers.

These are just two areas I’m really excited about for the potential for change. Embrace your inner Churchill! What are your opportunities for change? Don’t let this moment slip away by returning to the status quo.

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