~By Eric Einspruch
Senior Fellow, Center for Public Service, Portland State University
Adjunct Professor, Division of Public Administration, Portland State University
Principal, ELE Consulting, LLC
The fourth International Conference on Government Performance Management and Leadership was held in Lanzhou, Gansu, China from October 9–11, 2015. The conference, held every other year since 2009, brings together scholars and practitioners from across the globe in the field of performance management and is sponsored in part by Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government. The conference convenes participants to discuss contemporary topics in public administration, with the purpose of proposing creative solutions for administrative systems reform and the improvement of government performance. This year’s conference theme was Rule of Law and Government Performance, particularly as it relates to increasing government trust and legitimacy.
A wide variety of topics were covered during the conference, including topics related to governance, administration, management, civic participation, leadership, evaluation, and innovation. Presentations by PSU participants provided both academic and applied perspectives.
- Ron Tammen addressed conference attendees during the opening ceremony, and later spoke about political performance and the strength of nations.
- Doug Morgan spoke about the current state of performance-based management, governance, and leadership and discussed implications for the future.
- Gary Larsen provided insights into wicked problems, rule of law, and public value-based leadership.
- Phil Keisling spoke about voter turnout when government delivers ballots to citizens rather than requiring citizens to go to polling places.
- I provided insights into building evaluation capacity to enhance performance.
Post-conference, the PSU group further experienced Chinese culture by visiting Qinghai Lake and Ta’er Si (Kumbum Monastery), both in Qinghai Province. The province is large, sparsely populated, and located on the Tibetan plateau. Qinghai Lake, a salt lake, is the largest lake in the country and lies at an elevation of about 10,000 feet. Ta’er Si was built in the year 1560, on the site of the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in China, with dozens of halls in which monks live and practice.
I appreciated three aspects of our trip in particular. First, I had not been in China for many years, and so I was very interested to see first-hand the country’s considerable development since my last trip. For example, we experienced very comfortable travel on a high speed train and enjoyed its modern stations. Second, as a student at the Confucius Institute at PSU, I was pleased with the opportunity to practice my language skills in China. Third, and most relevant to CPS’ vision and mission, it was gratifying to see the contributions that PSU is making to advance international scholarship in the field of public administration through its role as a conference organizer and sponsor and through the presentations made by members of the PSU delegation. In his talk, Doug Morgan called for education that prepares leaders with leadership approaches that cultivate judgment, rather than simply training systems managers. This is a call to action needed around the world, and the conference provided participants with opportunities to learn new ideas and to think about ways to fulfill this call.