Interview with Dr. Craig Shinn

In light of our 3rd Annual Celebrating Public Service Gala, Honoring Dr. Craig Shinn’s Lifetime Contributions to Conciliatory Governance, we spent a little time with him reflecting on his career as a practitioner and an academic. He spoke to us about the meaning of governance, his legacy, emerging issues, and advice for those who are new to public service. He gave us a peek at a book project he will be working on as he enters retirement. Below are some excerpts and summary from our interview.

What is Governance?

“Governance” is the topic of passion for Dr. Shinn. In the interview he emphasized the importance governance in our everyday life.

He defines governance as the rules of the game for creating agreements requiring different resolutions at every social scale to fit polity differences and set rules that allow us to arbitrate value differences and do politics well. He underscores once collaborative work is done, we turn to and depend on government to hold and carry out agreements over time. These institutional arrangements are what make components of the market economy such as property rights, contract law, and monetary policy work.

What are your major contributions while at PSU?

In an effervescent tone he described himself as an academic who sees himself in practice characterized as a hybrid between academic and practitioner. He notes that one of his contributions is meeting the learning needs of public service professionals at various levels.  His work with public service professionals is not limited to degree based activities. For example, he has also worked with mid-career professionals at the request of federal executives seeking additional competencies for their staff.

His contributions have been predicated by his thirty years of practice. As part of the 7th American Forest Congress, he helped create heroic agreements at a time when armed conflict and violence was present in the woods. All of his contributions emanate from applying strong theory and incorporating challenges practitioners face.

He is proud of the success of his students and becomes overjoyed when he sees students in practice, building on what they’ve learned in the academic program that reflect contributions from the Hatfield School.

Describe an emerging issue in the field.

When Dr. Shinn began his work, the focus was on getting practitioners to see beyond individual roles and expand their perspectives to an organizational and institutional level. Today, the work in public service requires a broad perspective. He says “We need to move between sectors, move across the landscape.” In his forthcoming book, co-authored with Dr. Ingle and Dr. Morgan, they argue it is no longer sufficient to focus on creating vital organizations. Instead we must create polity leaders and measure our success in terms of residual to the community and society as a whole.

Advice for students entering public service.

Dr. Shinn believes people who choose public service careers are doing special work in society. Unfortunately, however, they have become the targets of dislike, dismay, and distrust. The public service work is typically done in the shadows; but the seemingly marginal every day work matters in making a real difference. Those of us in public service need to work well technically and politically. We need to be open to the fact that technical work may be disputed, not because of facts, but because the variations in the meanings attached to the work.

We thank Dr. Shinn for his time at Portland State University and with the Center for Public Service and wish him well as he transitions to retirement.

If you are interested in attending the Dinner and Symposium, there is still time to register.

Interview and summary by Jennifer Martinez, Graduate Assistant at the Center for Public Service.

Edited by Dr. Masami Nishishiba


Advancing International Scholarship and Public Administration Practice

~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 GoLanzhou 1vernment. 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.
  • Lanzhou2Doug 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 Horseyears, 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.

Lanzhou Group Pic 2 (LAKE)

The Student Connection at CPS

by Sara Kuehlhorn Friedman

Students and the Center for Public Service go hand-in-hand.

CPS strives to connect theory to practice, promote public good, and search for solutions, and the organization is uniquely situated to reach these goals through drawing on the skills, experience, and interests of students in academic programs at Portland State University (PSU). CPS provides clients with a breadth of talent not easily found in the consulting world, while providing students learning opportunities and experience not found when limited to a classroom.

Massage sign

Photo Credit: Jeremy Brooks via

When Professor Masami Nishishiba agreed to complete a study for the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy (OBMT) that focused on “Examining Reasons for License Non-Compliance among Asian-Pacific Islander Community Members” in the state of Oregon, she knew that assistance would be necessary. Most significantly, Nishishiba, who speaks Japanese and English, would need research assistants who could communicate with the Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Lao speakers who were the focus of the study. Connecting with the university’s student body was the perfect solution.

Nishishiba recruited four graduate students from the Hatfield School of Government and the School of Social Work: Anh P Nguyen, Lu Pang, Sirisak (Paulo) Laochankham, and Thitisak (Tony) Duadsuntia. The students’ language backgrounds matched Nishishba’s needs, but each student’s specific interest in and dedication to public service and social policy also made the research team what it needed to be. At the end of the project, we asked these students to share what they learned, and the results provide worthwhile insight into the value of working with students on CPS projects.


Photo credit: Bamboo.nutra via

As can be expected, experiencing the research process and working as part of a team were benefits that all four students found valuable. The OBMT study involved qualitative research, which few students typically have the opportunity to experience beyond classroom discussion. Furthermore, the students learned to navigate the IRB process together; they also developed the survey, analyzed data, generated outcomes, and stated recommendations with Nishishiba’s guidance.

In addition to gaining a more developed sense of the research process and working as a team member in the research context, the students each expressed more direct—and more personal—effects that participating in the project had on them, including a fuller understanding of the value and importance of research more generally, a better understanding of equity and equality in the policy world, and a stronger awareness of strategies employed by individual immigrant groups in the Portland area.

Pang Quote

In describing her realization of the meaning and value of research, Nguyen states “I have learnt that research involves restraint.” Explaining further, Nguyen describes her new awareness of the importance of questioning assumptions and hypotheses. She knows now that there is no question too small because while working on a project, one really cannot tell where the process will lead. In the end, the students were surprised by the outcomes of the study, so learning to ‘stand back’ and allow the data to speak for itself was significant.

Students highlighted a second significant gain from working on the OBMT project, which is a deeper understanding of the challenges of equity and equality. Pang states “there is no such thing as small issues through the lens of social justice and equity.” This study revealed a number of challenges to licensing which are endemic to speakers of other languages in the Portland area, and students had the opportunity to ask the question: “In a just society, is equality enough?”

The benefit of facing tough questions about society in the context of a research project like the OBMT while continuing to consider similar questions in the classroom provides an excellent opportunity for students to explore topics significant to public service on a deeper level. Nguyen now believes that equal treatment erases our differences and promotes privilege, and that it does not really help everybody in society achieve success and their goals in life. With a more defined understanding of her values relating to equality, and with experience to support her point of view, Nguyen will enter the professional world with a level of confidence she wouldn’t have had without this research experience.

hand shake

Photo credit: nist6ss via

Finally, all of the students emphasized that working with the South East Asian population in the Portland area was a unique and valuable experience on multiple levels. Laochankham pointed out that the team strategy required that they build personal relationships with interviewees. The team did this first by approaching the participants through their customers, but the research team found that the population was happy to share their experiences with massage licensing in Oregon.

As a result of their outreach, Duadsuntia said, students working on this project learned that different members of the South East Asian population employ different strategies to live in and adapt to the U.S. culture when migrating to the country. Furthermore, the team worked together so closely that they learned more about one another’s cultures as well.

The OBMT project exemplifies the ways in which students assist in achieving project goals otherwise very challenging without their unique backgrounds and skills. This example of connecting projects to students and students to projects is not unique at CPS. Indeed, most projects that come through the Center are completed with the assistance of students, which makes CPS an integral player in the education and training of future public servants.

VOI: Strengthening Relationships through Delegations

Sept 2015_VOI_Delegation

Members of the 2015 Inspectorate General delegation together with Center for Public Service representatives

The Center for Public Service at PSU hosted a training workshop for a delegation of high-level public leaders from the Central Inspection Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam from Sept 20 to Oct 3. The delegation included 21 members, some from the Central Commission in Hanoi and others from 5 provincial commissions.

In a single-party system of Vietnam, these commissions play an important role in inspection/auditing, personnel/promotion and internal control for the Party. The delegation’s training workshop was strongly focused on the institutional structure and process/mechanism in the US system that can help to prevent and cope with the abuse of power and corruption.

As part of their time in Portland, the delegation attended a series of training sessions delivered by Dr. Marcus Ingle and Dr. Huan Dang, CPS faculty. CPS director Phil Keisling, Dr. Douglas Morgan, chair of Division of Public Administration, and Dr. Ron Tammen, director of the Hatfield School of Government, all delivered specialized class sessions to the delegation as well. In addition to their time on campus, delegation members had the opportunity to visit with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Audits Division and the Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office at the State Capitol in Salem, as well as to meet with the Director of Audit Services for the City of Portland at City Hall.

~ Promoting Sustainability and Energy Conservation in Smaller Cities and Counties in Oregon~

By David Rouse & Ed Gallagher, Senior Fellows, Center for Public Service

CPS Senior Fellows, David Rouse and Ed Gallagher, along with two MPA students, led a project through PSU’s Center for Public Service to assist small cities and counties in lowering their carbon foot print and reducing their energy consumption through the use of sustainability practices.

energy2Funded by NW Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA), the project looked at best practices in sustainability nationwide and then narrowed the focus to smaller communities and jurisdictions that might otherwise not engage in developing a sustainability plan. Smaller cities and counties typically do not have the staff expertise or budget to undertake a comprehensive approach to energy conservation.

Through a selection process, two Oregon cities (Independence and Albany) and one county (Yamhill County) were chosen for the project. To facilitate the process, a CPS team traveled to each jurisdiction for the purpose of developing an internal staff team to work in conjunction with CPS.  Four key areas were identified to focus efforts: facilities, operations, purchasing, and fleet.

Lessons Learned

  1. Each jurisdiction is unique in how they consume energy therefore a one size fits all does not work.

While there are commonalities among public agencies, each jurisdiction provided unique services. For example, Albany had responsibilities for running a public swimming pool with an antiquated boiler system, increasing their energy use. Yamhill County was responsible for jail services and had high energy use (water/heat) related to inmate use. While high energy use is common in these two examples, the solutions to each of the problems are very different.

  1. If you can’t measure it, you can’t reduce it.

Step one: consolidate your energy bill. Surprisingly, when asked, most agencies cannot state what their total energy usage is. This is because monthly billings come to multiple departments within the jurisdiction; energy costs are not typically quantified in one bill. Energy1Each department is responsible for paying their own portion of the total bill, and when looked at in total, most agencies are shocked at how much they pay out in total. However, without awareness of the total usage, there is little an organization can do to reduce usage.

  1. Energy usage should be looked at as a manageable expense.

Most agencies assume their energy costs will go up each year and budget accordingly.  When looking at expense from a sustainability and conservation standpoint, it is important to identify where your agency consumes energy—from lowest to highest—and develop a plan to reduce use where it is most cost effective. In most cases, energy usage can be reduced, not increased; hence, saving precious budget resources.

Rouse, Gallagher, and the rest of the CPS team developed comprehensive sustainability and energy conservation plans for each jurisdiction. The plans identified short term and long term projects for each agency that had potential for reducing energy usage. Also included in the plans were financing alternatives that identified potential grant funding and/or low interest loans for projects that focused on energy conservation.

Final reports are available at

For more information contact David Rouse at,, or Ed Gallagher at

~ Celebrating Public Service: 40 Years of Making a Difference!~

By Phil Keisling, Director of Center for Public Service

Last month – the evening of Saturday, April 18th 2015 to be exact – I had the privilege to be in the Smith Center ballroom at PSU with more than 300 “friends of public service.” The audience for this CPS Gala included hundreds of graduates from Lewis and Clark College

CPS Gala, 2015

CPS Gala, 2015

and Portland State University public administration programs as well as participants in various leadership development and training programs the Center has sponsored over 40 years. Former and current elected officials, including Governor Barbara Roberts and Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, were also in attendance. Among the audience, the most inspiring were the dozens of younger men and women in attendance, many of them still pursuing their graduate and undergraduate degrees, who are eager and ready to pursue their own careers in public service in the decades ahead.

In designing the event – CPS’ first-ever “Celebration of Public Service” — we consciously chose to think in three dimensions: to honor the past, to acknowledge the present, and to inspire the future.

Dr. Douglas Morgan

Dr. Douglas Morgan

In honoring the past, we bestowed on one of our own, Dr. Douglas Morgan (see photo), a richly deserved recognition as the recipient of our first “Public Service Lifetime Achievement” award. Acknowledging the present, the entire audience engaged in a real-time, interactive poll and pondered the current state of public service in Oregon. As for the inspiration for the future, we honored a team from Metro with our first “Oregon Innovation Award” and our commitment to assist them in developing new mechanisms for broad multicultural engagement and                                                             public outreach.

In retrospect, the event was conceived in one of those classic moments when the power and appeal of a particular idea simply overwhelms common sense; and in all practicality, it caused us to try to shoe-horn a new (and major!) obligation into an already over-burdened and under-resourced world. As one colleague kept reminding us, “Of course it’s crazy – and, of course, we just have to do it!”

Metro received CPS' inaugural Oregon Innovation Award

Metro received CPS’ inaugural Oregon Innovation Award

Indeed, I still marvel that the Center’s amazing staff, students, and various volunteers not only pulled it off, but did so with such amazing grace and teamwork. But that spirit is also as apt a metaphor for the current condition of public service as anything else.

More than 150,000 Oregonians work for a local, state, federal, or tribal government entity; roughly the same number work for one of the state’s more than 20,000 non-profit entities. Yet for all its impact – roughly 1 in 4 jobs – “public service” as a career path does not exactly top the popularity charts or have much hold on the public imagination.

Before Amy Poehler’s “Parks and Recreation” sitcom came along, can you think of a single television show whose public service protagonists were employed in something other than police, military, or hospital-related work?

While many public service professionals regularly risk their lives in fulfilling their duties, or toil to save the lives of others, they’re more the exceptions than the rule. The vast majority of public service professionals focus on things that don’t make for good drama but are still essential (and so often taken for granted) tasks.

Providing safe drinking water and sewage systems. Building and repairing roads. Helping children, the sick, and the disabled get the assistance and attention they need to keep them safe. Enforcing zoning regulations, educating the next generation, helping people navigate through various forms and procedures.

By definition, public service is about trying to solve problems that will never be fully solved, or trying to plan for a future that will never quite turn out the way anyone can predict. There never is any finish line – which is why, for today’s practitioners especially, it’s hard to escape the feeling that there’s no end to being asked to do even more, with even less.

This can be more than a little discouraging, for sure. But while I can’t point to any data – indeed, I doubt the questions were even asked – I strongly suspect that no generation of public service professionals has ever felt as appreciated as they deserved to be. Complaining about government is as common a trope among the general population as grousing about Portland rain or crowded airplanes. Expectations about public service have always been out-sized compared to the resources allotted. Those of us who choose this world for their life’s work – or a part of it – do so in spite of this reality.

Masami Nishishiba, Associate Director, and Phil Keisling, Director

Masami Nishishiba, Associate Director, and Phil Keisling, Director

But that’s also exactly why I was so struck last month – a bit overwhelmed, really, thoughin a good way – by the energy and the enthusiasm in the room that night. Sometimes, it’s important to give something back to ourselves, too. If others aren’t throwing parties to honor what we do, well, we can (and should) do it ourselves.

So to those who were there and to the many others who couldn’t attend, a simple “Thank you!” is more than in order. And then, of course, on the following Monday it was back to work for most of us, continuing to do what’s important and essential.

See more info and photo of the Gala see:

Welcome to the CPS Blog!

The CPS Blog is an online platform where faculty, practitioners, students and staff affiliated with the Center for Public Service (CPS) at Portland State University share thoughts, insights and project results that are relevant to the CPS vision “to enhance the legitimacy of—and citizen trust in—public service institutions and the people who work in them.” We intend for the CPS Blog to document and share the work and learning of CPS members in order to further facilitate innovation and collaborative partnerships in public service.

At last count, CPS Connect—the forum for CPS faculty and practitioners to share current research projects and create ideas for new projects—had over forty members. The CPS Blog is a centralized and accessible venue for CPS Connect members to publish their thoughts and ideas regarding Connecting Theory to Practice, Promoting the Public Good, and Searching for Solutions in public service. Together, we hope to help our faculty, students, and practitioners network and learn from one another in order to continue to push the envelope on innovation in public service.

Three types of topics and contents are featured in the CPS Blog.

  1. Connect theory to practice

The blog postings examine and explore theories and frameworks that are useful in analyzing and developing meaningful public service practices and policies. They address and highlight the connection between theory and practice.

  1. Promote public good

The blog postings provide descriptions of CPS projects and elaborate how the projects contribute to enhancing legitimacy and trust in public institutions and promote public good.

  1. Search for Solutions

The blog postings present research findings, project results and promising practices that provide solutions to the challenges public service institutions and the people who work in them face.

Submission and Review

Anyone who is affiliated with CPS can submit a blog posting. The blog posting draft should be submitted to Sara Friedman, managing editor of CPS Blog via this link.

Suggested length of postings is 500 to 1,000 words.

Contact Masami Nishishiba ( or Jennifer Martinez ( for any questions related to CPS Blog.

CPS Blog editorial team (Masami Nishishiba, editor/ Jennifer Martinez, managing editor) will review the blog posting draft for content and style. The CPS editorial team may suggest revisions to the author(s) before posting.