The heart of NYU Wagner's programs is our faculty. An amalgam of full-time, clinical/research/visiting, and adjunct professors, they are outstanding teachers, expert researchers and committed practitioners.
Leading change is a topic of paramount importance. But a missing ingredient for many leaders has been how to translate concepts into actions, continuous improvements and sustainable results.
Now, the Wallace Foundation has just published NYU Wagner Adjunct Professor Jody Spiro's "Leading Change Handbook: Concepts and Tools."
This toolkit by Dr. Spiro, who is the Wallace Senior Education Program Officer, was developed to help leaders address several key areas of the change process: assessing and improving participants' readiness; engaging stakeholders; planning "early wins"; minimizing resistance; using collaborative planning methods; and developing ways to bring initiatives to scale and sustain them over time.
The handbook is available for free downloading and posting -- visit the link listed below.
For more than 24 years, Dr. Spiro, Adjunct Professor of Public Administration at Wagner, has served as a senior organizational change agent in a wide variety of public and nonprofit settings, including her current education reform work in countries undergoing dramatic transition. Dr. Spiro holds a master of public administration from NYU Wagner and an Ed.D. from Columbia University.
In a Convocation speech to Wagner's Class of 2009, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan said he attended the 1977 World Series game when sports commentator Howard Cosell, observing a column of rising smoke in the vicinity of Yankee Stadium, told a national television audience, "Ladies and gentleman, the Bronx is burning." The wave of arson, crime, and abandonment afflicting much of New York City less than two years after the city government had narrowly avoided municipal bankruptcy captured Donovan's attention even then, as an 11 year old baseball enthusiast. And it's probably no accident that as someone who came of age in the 1970s and '80s in New York, he went on to devote his education and distinguished public career to understanding and innovating policy steps that helped rescue and transform New York and many other American cities in the wake of that "urban catastrophe."
Donovan quoted former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton in addressing the proud and excited graduates and their families gathered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 15: "Public service is not just a way of life, it is a way to live life fully."
According to Donovan, the rise of New York and the restoration of its once-strained civic bonds show that public-sector work - his own path-has enormous potential value, even though the challenges were amply demonstrated by the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. Citing President Obama's call to service, as well as his recently signed national service bill, Donovan said the mission of public employees and others embarked on public service work of all kinds is to give us "a reason to believe in public service again" in our neighborhoods and across the nation and world.
"Wagner Class of 2009," Donovan said, "we need you to make it possible to believe again!...Together, we can put our shoulder up against the wheel and change the course of history."
Dean Ellen Schall enumerated the impressive accomplishments of the graduating students and faculty members, including Professors of the Year Shanna Rose and Anthony Kovner. She contended that the work of public service requires more than technical and analytical capabilities, as critical as those are, but also "artistry," saying, "Public service is as much about art as about science." Artistry is what is required to find bold new answers to problems that resist technical solutions, whether those are ending poverty, overcoming racism, ensuring equal health outcomes for all, creating public school systems that work, or building cities that are sustainable.
The dean told the graduates that she wrote an essay for the Convocation as if she were applying for admission to the school. She based her thoughts on a photograph she selected from a catalogue of visual images, just as many Wagner applicants are asked to do. The image she selected was that of a person bringing a pot to life on a pottery wheel, as it reminded her of an introduction to pottery class she took last fall.
"I showed up every Monday night from 6-9, much the way you showed up for a class," she told the graduates. "And it was very hard. It was the worst in the class, a fact clear to me and to everyone else. Yet I stayed and kept on trying. I knew there was learning in the trying, in sticking with what didn't come easily. I never actually cracked the code or became a potter. Yet at the end, I have these small little pieces of ‘pottery' in my house and the odd thing is, I display them...and they make me smile when I walk in. They remind me to take myself seriously, but not too seriously, to stretch even in the face of initial resistance, mine or others, to find pleasure in small wins."
She referred to the image on a large screen on the BAM stage.
"This captures a simple visual image that I wish for each of you as you go forth. That you embrace the boldness of seeing yourself as artists, as creators and change makers, as people who bring passion and the fullness of yourselves to the critically important challenges of public service. And that you have the discipline and energy and commitment to keep on going, even if you don't get it right the first time around, that you learn from what works as well as what doesn't, and that you find joy in small things as well as big moves."
Michael C. Alfano, executive vice president of New York University, offered spirited welcoming remarks, while class speaker Tracey Gardner, who earned an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy, introduced Donovan, noting, "He's not beaten down, not jaded, and ever on the lookout for policy changes to improve how things are done and make our lives better."
Paul C. Light, Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, and author of the 2008 book A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It, has launched a partnership with the Washington Post during the presidential transition, entitled "The NYU Wagner Presidential Transition Project."
The new partnership will feature periodic web and print columns in The Post by Light, a nationally recognized expert on the federal service and presidential transitions. The first column was published November 5, 2008, spelling out the enormous challenge represented by this year's historic changing of the guard.
"This presidential transition will be the most difficult since Abraham Lincoln," Light wrote in his initial piece. "Although President-elect Barack Obama is not facing a civil war, he will inherit an agenda of staggering uncertainty as the nation teeters on the edge of economic collapse."
In addition to the columns, the Washington Post plans to run Light's analysis and a weekly "countdown" charting the details and speed of the appointment process for all Senate-confirmed positions for at least the first six months of President Obama's administration. The new data, plus similar information on the transitions of 2000, 1992, and 1988, will be posted in searchable form at washingtonpost.com, and the paper's staff columnists will make use of it in their published work.
Professor Paul Light has launched a new blog for the Washington Post entitled "Light on Leadership: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom with NYU Wagner's Paul Light." Light's online commentary on the national government will appear every Thursday on the newspaper's website. His debut column April 15, 2010, "Slimming the Federal Leadership" -- coauthored by Russ Feingold, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin and member of the Senate Budget Committee -- drew more than 300,000 hits.
Professor Light is NYU Wagner's Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service and founding principal investigator of the school's Organizational Performance Initiative.
Donor confidence in charities is rebounding �from the hit it took� after September 11th, reports The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The Sept. 14 article was based on a nationwide survey by the Organizational Performance Initiative at NYU Wagner led by Professor Paul Light. Go to the article here. It includes a link to the Organizational Performance Initiative�s web site where Light�s report on the survey ( �Confidence in Charitable Organizations, 2006�) is posted.