Workshops

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Workshop 1: All politics is glocal:  urban issues, solutions, and outcomes in a multi-leveled, networked globalized society

American co-chair: Kendra Steward (College of Charleston)

European co-chair: Ellen Wayenberg  (Ghent University)

For years, it has been the marketing strategy for international businesses to think globally but act locally. For example, McDonalds adapts its menus to local conditions around the world while retaining its universal brand.  MTV broadcasts worldwide though fine-tuning its cable content to the specific cultural and political conditions of countries like China and Japan.   Today, this simultaneity of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies – i.e. the core feature of glocalization – typifies not only the private but also the public sector.   In this context, glocalization challenges cities to promote policies that are (1) adapted to both universal as well as local needs and wants, creating tensions in multi-leveled governance and (2) coordinated with the policies of other cities or even other countries, highlighting the complexities of networked governance.

For example, cities have always been key actors in dealing with the typical issues that arise from the ever growing population on their territory such as housing, transportation and poverty. Recently, however, other public and private actors are getting more involved with these traditionally local issues, often in partnership with ‘their’ city.  Simultaneously, cities all over the world are getting more involved in typical global issues such as climate change and immigration. As a result, they see new and challenging issues appearing on their agenda. How are urban leaders to respond effectively to these evolving multi-level demands?

Concomitant with being multi-leveled, the glocalized environment is saturated with formal and informal governance networks.  For example, in the U.S. over the last two decades new concerns about disaster response have led cities to form regional compacts with counties, states, other cities and even nongovernmental organizations to increase response capacity while more effectively distributing resources.

These networks have led to new and innovative models of governance that emphasize sharing responsibility, but this also highlights issues of relative power among the participants in shared governance.  Similarly, shared governance requires cooperation developing long-term outcomes; however, if power and responsibility are shared among various entities, then who is accountable?

This workshop will address these challenges.  Building on the points above, guiding questions include: How can local entities in a multi-leveled, networked world work together more effectively and create models of shared governance that allow for the most effective use of resources?  What approaches to accountability are most meaningful in these complex environments?  More generally, what do cities need to do to (re-)position themselves in a glocalized environment?  The call for urban governance to be creative in response to new demands is daunting but also exciting in challenging local governments to be the new innovators of policies and solutions. We invite scholars from both sides of the Atlantic to answer this call, to discuss the issues and contribute to how we might best address them.

Workshop 2:  How Do We Know We’re “Improving” Governance?:  Representing the Public Interest in Pluralistic, Urban Societies

American co-chair: George Julnes (University of Baltimore)

European co-chair: Maria Bustelo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

It is currently accepted that emphasizing accountability and evidence-based decision-making can improve governance.  Less agreement surrounds the issue of how public administrators are to discern what constitutes “improvement” regarding outcomes for those affected by government decisions.  This lack of consensus about improvement is complicated further in urban environments, with stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and circumstances embracing contrasting perspectives of what constitutes “better” public outcomes and “better” governance.

For example, efforts to promote urban development are often guided by economic considerations, such as increasing property values, and hence the tax base, by promoting gentrification in targeted neighborhoods.  However, does gentrification truly advance the public interest?  Opponents to gentrification argue that economic values need to be balanced with other fundamental values, such as equality, human dignity, and community. If there are controversies about how we judge the value of alternatives, how are administrators to know if they are serving the public interest?  How is the public, with diverse values, to have confidence in the promise of improved governance? This workshop will address these questions in the context of urban public administration, guided by work in three overlapping areas:

(1) What values are to be emphasized in valuing policy alternatives?  This includes issues in how to balance traditional prescriptive public values (efficiency, equality, community, security, liberty) but also concerns in giving voice to the values of people often neglected in policy debates.  Central to this area are the methods used in policy analysis for representing values held by the public and identified subgroups.  For example, while cities often use survey methods to assess citizen preferences, some believe that social deliberation better reveals citizen values and so argue that group discussions are needed to represent the public interest.

(2) Even accepting that public values can be properly identified, what are the strengths and weaknesses of our different approaches to combining these values into overall judgments of value regarding the public interest?  For example, benefit-cost analysis is often used to yield summative valuation judgments, but there is a growing literature critical of the assumptions of its underlying economic paradigm, as well as spirited controversies regarding different approaches to incorporating equality and other values.  And, of course, many advocate holistic, qualitative approaches to judging the value of public policies and programs, often with different visions of what constitutes a good society.  To move forward in these debates over appropriate valuing methodologies and provide actionable guidance for administrators, we need a critical understanding of their virtues and limitations in specific decision-contexts.

(3) How can public officials be strategic in using multiple approaches to understanding the value of policy alternatives?  Given the different approaches to representing citizen values and different approaches to judging the value of public policies and programs, public administrators need guidance on how to combine, or sequence, available methods in ways that best serve the public interest.  Taking this further, can we recommend government policies that encourage this strategic approach to valuing?

In sum, with a mandate to serve the public-at-large, how are urban leaders to know how to promote the public interest in complex, pluralistic, and political contexts?

Workshop 3: Remaining competitive: managing performance for efficient and effective urban service delivery 

American co-chair: Kaifeng Yang (Florida State University)

European co-chair: Emanuele Padovani (University of Bologna )

At the end of the last decade, governments at all levels found themselves with unstable finances and changing citizen demands for government accountability, with citizens demanding more input and voice in decisions about  what they value, how much they should pay for it, and what results they want.  These pressures have been compounded by increasingly volatile global markets which have had severe effects on the local economy. Today, many cities are fighting for their survival yet also seeking new ways of enhancing their competitiveness. Some cities in Europe (e.g., Dublin and Lisbon) and the United States (e.g., Stockton, California) are currently teetering on the brink of bankruptcy or have already been declared bankrupt.

These diverse and, at times, competing demands put pressure on cities to find innovative approaches to ensure efficient and effective delivery of services that respond to constituent needs.  To meet these competing demands– whether the issues at stake are the quality of education, access to healthcare, safe neighborhoods, mobility, unemployment, or economic development– the current and common zeitgeist is compelling urban leaders to search for better ways of managing performance.

Performance measurement and reporting, program evaluation, strategic planning, delivery units, quality assurance programs, and outcome-based budgeting are some examples of the strategies and tools that have been promoted for better managing performance.  There are many examples of cities with a  longstanding reputation for innovative approaches to performance management (e.g. Birmingham, United Kingdom; Frankfurt, Germany; Rotterdam, the Netherlands;  Baltimore, Maryland Charleston, South Carolina; and Vancouver, Washington), but other cities are only now considering more systematic approaches to manage their performance.  The barriers to implementing such approaches include the financial challenges confronting most cities, but the demands for better management are too many to ignore.   Thus, a dialogue is needed in which promising methods, tools, challenges, opportunities, and lessons learned are discussed, with the benefits of improving both the practice and theory of urban performance management.

Workshop 4:  Leveraging Urban Partnerships: Universities and other nongovernmental organizations as Change Agents in Urban Communities

American co-chair: Stephen Percy (University of Baltimore)

European co-Chair: Bram Verschuere (Ghent University)

In both Europe and the United Sates, urban leaders have come to recognize the value that urban universities and other community partners—including nonprofit/non-governmental and grassroots organizations—can bring to revitalizing cities and contributing to better governance.  Leveraging these partnerships to best effect requires learning about the challenges and successes experienced on both sides of the Atlantic.

Universities, for example,  have experience purposely envisioning their infrastructure—offices, streetscapes, outreach centers—as part of the city landscape, building and revitalizing physical assets in order to complement economic development in the neighborhoods and communities in which they are located;  they can utilize pedagogical community-outreach strategies that embrace community- based (rather than classroom-focused) learning opportunities that include strong service-learning components as well as  offering the academy as a relatively neutral place for convening dialogues that engage citizens in building partnerships for revitalization initiatives—new programs and collaborations aimed at growing cities and improving life quality. Related, universities can target the research and scholarly endeavors of faculty, staff and students—and of constituent research centers— to applied work focused upon community-based challenges and opportunities. They can also build evidence-based knowledge of what works and what hinders social and economic development in urban communities, thereby informing and strengthening public policies working to advance community development and life quality.

Similarly, nongovernmental organizations in metropolitan areas have experience of collaborating with governmental leaders and public programs to amplify efforts to expand life quality for community residents. They have also proven themselves as important partners in building and strengthening relationships between citizens and public sector officials as well as contribute to in such vital areas as public safety, public health, and workforce.  Finally, both universities and community organizations are vital in educating citizens on the importance and value of civic engagement along with strategies about how they as citizens can contribute to strengthening neighborhoods and communities.

Questions to be explored in this workshop will include: What are promising practices of university-community engagement with emphasis on evidence-based knowledge and practice? Are there examples of best practice for advancing applied urban research that can create evidence to inform both practice and policy making?  How can universities be transformed so as to advance internal appreciation and recognition of engaged practice and research, particular with regard to promotion, advancement and tenure? What ideas can we generate for creating strong public, higher education, community organization collaborators that harness the respective strengthens of these partners in aligned efforts to revitalize urban communities?

 

Workshop 5: Cities of the future: How can technology make urban living and governance smarter? 

American co-chair: Sukumar Ganapati (Florida International University)

European co-chair: Harald Baldersheim (Univeristy of Oslo)

Technological change has drastically transformed urban living and governance — the internet has superseded the now “old fashion” telephone systems; sophisticated GPS systems replaced paper maps;  and solar power and fuel cells have outnumbered the use of electric batteries.  Particularly since the 1990s, technological advances in telecommunication have led to dramatic changes in the ways citizens interact with one another and with government.  For example, these advances made “facebooking,” blogging, e-government, and Compstat possible. They also allow citizens to give and receive instantaneous feedback on issues that range from the most mundane, such as which potholes have not been filled, to the most dramatic, such as the numbers of robberies and assaults in a particular neighborhood.  Concurrent with these advances, city governments at both sides of the Atlantic – from Bangalore to Palo Alto, to Rio de Janeiro and Baltimore as well as from Helsinki over Ghent to Barcelona, –are now able to collect massive amounts of data, boast about having a highly skilled workforce, issue fines to speeding cars, cut the number of clerks needed to process government transactions, and so on.

Technological advances are also transforming government responses to traditional urban problems.  For example, increasing populations in urban centers have also created more pollution and congestion, decreasing the quality of life of citizens.   To ameliorate these problems, cities from London to Honolulu have responded with financial incentives that include congestion charges for driving into congestion zones (e.g. London) and high gasoline taxes.  But they are also availing themselves of technological advances such as expanding their mass transit options with “cleaner” fuel vehicles and subsidizing the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles for citizens (e.g., Stockholm).  Thus, environmental sustainability and cost-efficiency have moved to the forefront of city transportation policy, with technology offering some viable answers.

Embedded in the above examples is a movementtoward smart cities. These are cities where urban development, governance, and lifestyles are driven by interconnectivity and technology.   While positive in many ways, there are still unresolved issues and unanswered questions that need to be addressed, particularly as governments are increasingly encouraged to embrace this movement.  Thus, in addition to which technological applications are most promising for smart cities, critical questions need to be address such as:  How can cities use technology to close the widening gap between the have’s and have-not’s? How can cities justify to citizens the investment in technology during time of economic downturns?   What are the social impacts of advances in telecommunication?  Is technology–focused urban development always the best answer?  How will it change the future of human interaction?  Can accountability of both citizens and government improve by using technology?  What are emerging policy issues that urban governments will need to confront with regard to technology? What cost-effective technologies can cities leverage to slow down environmental degradation?  Answering these questions will not be easy, but we can make progress through a dialogue that shares the lessons learned for smart urban governance in both Europe and the USA.

Workshop 6: Do Pro-Business Policies Improve Urban Fiscal Health?:  Revisiting the Orthodox View of Urban Public Finance by Improving Financial Management

American co-chair: Carol Ebdon (University of Nabraska Omaha)

European co-chair: Francesca Manes Rossi (University of Salerno)

It is generally assumed that fiscally healthy governments serve robust economic regions, leading some political leaders to make economic growth through pro-business policies their top priority.  According to this line of thinking, a fiscally healthy public sector is a by-product of private sector economic growth.  If this theory is correct, what are we to make of fiscally unhealthy governments serving regions with low unemployment and high property values?  Perhaps a government’s fiscal health is less dependent on the economy of the region it serves and more dependent on the way its finances are managed.  This workshop revisits this issue in terms of three activities of budgeting and financial management that foster a fiscally healthy public sector.

1) What types of taxes generate the revenues needed to provide necessary public services in urban areas?  The Great Recession challenged the stability of the property tax base, competition for companies and jobs constrains sales tax growth, and user fees promise revenue growth but are expensive to administer.  Do public-private partnerships produce needed revenues in an administratively efficient manner?  To provide sufficient funding for current expenditures and future capital investment, this session explores innovative urban tax policies for a post-recession, postindustrial economy.

2) Can budgeting innovations, such as outcome-based budgeting or citizen-based budgeting, increase the operational efficiency of public service production?  Does portfolio budgeting improve allocative efficiency or does decentralization combined with formula-based budgeting provide the key?  Whereas the first topic discusses ways to fund government through improved tax policy, this second topic addresses improving the allocative and operational efficiency of the budgeting system responsible for converting tax dollars into public goods.

3) How can we provide the public with information about the sources and uses of government revenues?   This third topic considers the wisdom of relying on the private sector to assess and report the financial condition of public agencies despite the conflicts of interest inherent with the ratings agencies.  Alternatively, do we need to continue improving the way we regulate public agency reporting requirements?  Can technology enhance our ability to communicate better and more relevant financial information with taxpayers?

In sum, why does the fiscal health of governments vary considerably across similarly situated urban areas?  Whereas happenstance and cultural and historical differences explain much, financial management matters, too.  Challenging the orthodox view that fiscal health depends only economic growth, this workshop will explore improving urban financial management across the three major activities of public finance: revenue raising, resource allocation and expenditure reporting.  For each activity, we will seek to identify areas of consensus and inspire new research projects designed to reconcile discordant opinions.

Participants are invited to submit an abstract of 400-700 words with full contact details. Abstracts must be submitted to the conference organization via email at 9TADAbstracts@ubalt.edu by February, 4, 2013.