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"Improving Albany" Takes Center Stage at NYU Wagner Forum

"Improving Albany" Takes Center Stage at NYU Wagner Forum

Richard Ravitch

The question of what to do about New York’s indictment-prone State Legisature took center stage at an all-day conference at NYU Wagner on April 30 entitled “Improving Albany: A Path to Greater Effectiveness.”

The forum's galaxy of participants — Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, former Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch, New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, and many others — discussed the legal, electoral, budgetary, and political reforms required to enable the Legislature to regain public confidence and tackle policies and issues that matter in the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

Richard Brodsky, who served in the State Assembly and is a Visiting Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Wagner, hosted the conference along with Wagner’s Dean Sherry Glied and Richard Ravitch.

The morning panel included: Columbia law professor Richard Briffault, chair of the NYC Conflict of Interest Board and a former member of the state Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Public Corruption (2013-14); Peter Goldmark, a veteran state government executive and most recently Director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s climate and air program; Common Cause's Executive Director Susan Lerner; and Vance. Dean Glied was the moderator.

For the afternoon panel, Auletta of the New Yorker was joined by Mayor Miner, who described the frustrations posed by the state’s “opaque” budget approval process;  Mary Louise Mallick, a former senior policy maker with the New York State Senate Finance Committee; and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is now Chairman of the New York State Housing Finance Committee and the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA).  Brodsky moderated the discussion.

Both conversations were lively, showing the complexities of preventing public corruption and what approaches are possible. Recommendations ranged from drawing clearer lines between legal and illegal conduct to requiring greater transparency, along with passing public campaign finance reform and — at least in the view of some of the speakers — setting term limits for legislators.

Some of the panelists said it's up to the Legislature's leadership and its younger members to improve accountability, raise the bar for impact and effectiveness, and lead the way out of Albany’s "swamp." Since they haven’t acted so far, “they’ve made themselves an easy target,” said Susan Lerner.

Blue-Ribbon Panel Chaired by NYU Wagner Prof. Gordon Campbell to Look into Closures of Several Nonprofit Organizations

Blue-Ribbon Panel Chaired by NYU Wagner Prof. Gordon Campbell to Look into Closures of Several Nonprofit Organizations

Gordon J. Campbell, Professor of Practice at NYU Wagner and Director of the school’s Executive MPA Program, is among two dozen seasoned nonprofit human services executives who have been named to a blue-ribbon Commission of the Human Services Council (HSC) to look into the closures of several large nonprofit human services organizations in New York City. Campbell, with more than three decades of experience as a government official and nonprofit leader, will chair the new Commission.

The role of the Commission is to seek to “understand the contributing factors from management and oversight to challenging fiscal environments” in connection with the demise  of organizations such as FEGS; the $250 million health and human services nonprofit shut its doors after announcing it had lost $19.4 million last year.

HSC works closely with city and state government.

 “Over the course of several months, the group will evaluate the financial details, management decisions, government contract terms, and accountability systems of these organizations to gain a full picture and understanding of what caused them to close. They will also examine existing oversight approaches, including those required and those considered best practices, investigate the financial and other management decisions made, and identify funding and other systemic issues contributing to financial problems,” according to an HSC statement.

Professor Campbell most recently served as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of New York City, which creates, leads, and supports strategic initiatives that have a measurable and lasting impact in improving education, income stability, and health.

He was Chief Executive Officer of Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading and largest victim assistance organization, from 1998 to 2007.  During his tenure, Safe Horizon was widely recognized for its compassionate and effective emergency response to the 9 /11 attacks. Prior to leading Safe Horizon, he served in senior positions in the Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani Administrations. He was the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services and Chief of Staff to the First Deputy Mayor. In addition, he was Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations and a mayoral appointee to the City’s Procurement Policy Board. While at the city’s Human Resources Administration, he headed the Office of Medicaid Transportation and created and organized the Division of AIDS Services.

Before arriving in New York City, Mr. Campbell served as a prosecutor, a labor attorney, as well as the Chief Administrator for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.

Bridging the Individual and Collective Dimensions of Leadership

Bridging the Individual and Collective Dimensions of Leadership

Co-Lead Net organizes their second Collective Leadership Research Workshop at NYU Wagner

On April 23, NYU Wagner professors Sonia Ospina and Erica Foldy launched the second Collective Leadership Research Workshop, a three-day workshop titled Logics in Tension: Bridging the individual and collective dimensions of leadership. In partnership with the NYU Leadership Initiative, this event brought together members of the Collective Leadership Network (Co-Lead Net), a community of scholars and practitioners from across ten countries and various academic and practitioner institutions. The purpose was to explore how to practice, theorize, research, and teach leadership in ways that incorporate both its individual and collective dimensions.

The workshop engaged two different audiences. One was NYU students, scholars, and members of the larger NYU community, who had a multi-generational conversation about how individuals develop their own leadership capacity while also creating the conditions necessary for collective success. This conversation reinforced the value of collectivity across roles, culture, generations, and disciplines to open new perspectives to challenging issues. The group also reflected on formative leadership experiences, explored the role of reflection in advancing collective leadership, and discussed the dilemma of developing and practicing collective forms of leadership within hierarchical institutions.

The other audience, academic and practice-oriented scholars, explored the implications of the tension between individual and collective dimensions for how to practice both rigorous research and effective teaching of leadership.

The group grappled with various understandings of collective leadership (the term encompasses a plurality of perspectives) and their impact on how we connect the individual and the collective, and how this affects our research and teaching decisions. Participants also explored concrete tools and techniques to improve research and teaching practices highlighting the interdependent connections between the self and the groups in making leadership happen.

In the end, workshop participants agreed to hold the individual-collective tension more lightly and experiment with the resulting consequences, while paying attention to the synergy that emerges from maintaining the tension in awareness, and not seeing the individual and the collective as mutually exclusive. Participants also appreciated the opportunity to engage in an explicit conversation on their teaching practice, something that seldom happens in academic research conferences.

Finally, a question that brought much energy to the concluding conversation—suggesting the need to continue exploring it as the network moves forward—was: “Leading for what and with whom?” In other words, what difference does the specific purpose of leadership (or the challenge that it calls forth) make for the kind of leadership that emerges and for how we think about it in research, teaching, and practice? Given this question, participants agreed that it was essential for the collective leadership conversation to further explore the role of broad social values like justice, democracy, citizenship, equity, and equality.

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