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Forum for Discussion: Proposed SIAM Bylaw Changes

Please use this forum to comment on proposed SIAM Bylaw Changes. Your comments will not immediately show up after you post them, as we will moderate comments to ensure that only SIAM members comments are posted.

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Report of the Strategic Directions Taskforce
December, 2014
David Miller, Jered Carr, Barbara McCabe, Paul Posner
The Chair of the section appointed the above individuals to serve as a taskforce to strategically assess the future direction of the section recognizing the evolving nature of government (federal, state, local) and governments relation to the broader society of which government is a part. In reviewing both the section name (Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management) and the mission/description of the section, it is our general finding that neither speaks to the perspectives of emerging scholars and practitioners nor to fundamental and dynamic changes that have occurred in government/goverance since the original name and purpose of the section was established.  To capture these changes and to more broadly appeal to the discipline, we present two recommendations that 1) change the name of the section (Appendix 1 is a list of all ASPA sections) and 2) identify a new mission statement to guide the section. To aid the process currently underway to review the bylaws of the section, we also present suggestions on how those bylaws could be modified to implement our recommendations.
Recommendation 1: The name of the section should be changed from Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management (SIAM) to Section on Governance (SOG).
Recommendation 2:  The mission of the section should be as follows:
The Section on Governance deals with the dynamic, part collaborative, part competitive environment of governments (national, state, and local) as they deal with public policy problems and issues that require cross-boundary participation in order to be resolved.  This participation occurs horizontally and vertically among governments as well as across the governmental, nonprofit, or public sectors.  Much of the focus of the section is on the metropolitan region and the networks that formally and informally have been and are being created to address common problems.  The section is both theoretical in terms of understanding the complexity of modern metropolitan regions and practitioner-based in terms of providing opportunities for those working in state, local, regional, and nonprofit institutions to better implement collaborative solutions.
The Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management (SIAM) is increasingly active in developing links between federal, state, and local governments through its newsletter, Intergovernmental News, occasional papers on timely intergovernmental topics, and its special projects and workshops. The section fosters opportunities for professional liaison through its annual meeting, regional network, and national membership directory. SIAM also recognizes outstanding students and distinguished members of the profession through its awards program. Members receive the triennial Journal State and Local Government Review.

Suggested bylaw revisions:  The following revisions to the charter are suggested to the committee revising the charter as language that could incorporate the new name and direction into it. (Changes are noted in blue).

The American Society for Public Administration recognizes the development of specialized areas of interest within its membership as important to the advancement of the aims and purposes of the Society. Accordingly, it has granted and approved the following Charter and Bylaws for the Section on Governance. These are subject to the Constitution and Bylaws of the Society and to official Society policies governing the creation, evaluation, and termination of sections.
ARTICLE I. Name and Purpose
Section 1. Name: This organization shall be known as the Section on Governance (SOG) of the American Society for Public Administration.
Section 2. Purpose: Within the broad purposes of ASPA, the Section on Governance deals with the dynamic, part collaborative, part competitive environment of governments (national, state, and local) as they deal with public policy problems and issues that require cross-boundary participation in order to be resolved.  This participation occurs horizontally and vertically among governments as well as across the governmental, nonprofit, or public sectors.  Specifically, the section will:
1. Serve as a national focal point and leader in the analysis of governance issues and the formal and informal networks created to solve common problems.
2. Provide a national forum for activities, publication and research of academicians and practitioners addressing boundary-crossing governance issues and implementing collaborative solutions.
3.  Create a national forum for developing an empirically-grounded understanding of the complex modern metropolitan environment, the forces of competition and cooperation within that environment, and the ways in which collaborative responses to common problems can be forged, implemented, and sustained.
Section 3.
This Section is organized for the professional and educational purposes of: exclusively charitable and educational purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as now in effect or as may hereafter be amended (“Code”). Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, such purposes include the following:
(a) Advancing the science, processes, and art of public administration.
(b) Advancing the equality of opportunity of all persons through public administration.
In furtherance of its exclusively charitable and educational purposes, the Section shall have all general powers of an unincorporated association, together with the power to solicit and accept grants and contributions for such purposes.
ARTICLE II. Activities
Section 1. SOG may undertake the following activities which are not necessarily inclusive or mandatory:
1. Serve as a recognized national and regional focal point and spokesperson for governance related developments in education, training and research.
2. Identify major governance needs, problems, and opportunities inherent in the dynamic, often fragmented metropolitan environment and in the structure of the American federal system.
3. Identify and promote the use of information sources and material which constitute the state of the art theory and practice of collaborative governance.
4. Provide a forum for the exchange of views, information, and research on governance issues.
5. Provide a forum for discussion, research, and documentation of challenges and operations related to governance issues.
6. Serve as a stimulus for enhancing the effectiveness of collaborative governance through the exploration, development, and testing of capacity building models designed to respond to state and local deficiencies and needs.
7. Formulate program/policy positions on governance issues and problems
of national, regional, state, or local interest and concern.
8. Encourage and sponsor research on governance and the implementation of collaborative solutions through panels/presentations at ASPA, or related professional association, regional and national conferences.
9. Cooperate with other ASPA organizational units (sections, chapters) on program issues of mutual concern related to the governancesystem.
Training and Development:
1. Develop training packages (papers, reports, manuals, recordings, and video tapes, etc.) integrating advances in the area of cooperative federal, state, and local program and technology development and implementation.
2. Promote the incorporation of governance projects into on-going training and educational programs at universities and at all levels of government and in related professional associations.
3. Sponsor workshops and seminars in cooperation with related ASPA sections on functional issues where collaborative governanceis key to program effectiveness.
1. Identify topics which should be included in the literature on intergovernmental coordination, cooperation, and management issues including, but not limited to, conference papers, articles, and books, and promote and encourage the publication of these sources.
2. Promote the publication of the section newsletter, occasional papers, or symposium of PAR or related journals on management capacity building in the context of intergovernmental policy management assistance or program administration and management from an intergovernmental perspective.
1. Encourage section member research efforts related to both intergovernmental administration and management in the federal system and the theory and practice of metropolitan governance.
2. Explore and develop research projects for funding by private foundations and governmental agencies.
3. Encourage federal, regional, state, and local research on intergovernmental administrative or management needs and interstate and interlocal concerns as well as on the governance of metropolitan regions.
4. Assist in securing public agency funding support for section member research or special projects in the development and/or testing of systems, administrative tools or needs assessments, or development of course or curriculum materials related to the understanding or betterment of the Federal grant-in-aid system or intergovernmental infrastructure supporting the system.
Section 2. Annual Report:
SOG shall prepare and submit a written annual report on its activities to the ASPA National Council at the time of the ASPA National Conference. The report will include information on SOG achievements in program and budget during the previous year and projected activities and budget for the following year.
Appendix 1 :  Current ASPA Sections


  1. John Kincaid says:

    Many thanks to the SIAM task-force members who developed the bold SOG proposal and new mission statement. Hopefully, they will stimulate discussion over the year as we consider ways to strengthen SIAM.

    Critique of SOG Proposal

    Unfortunately, the SOG proposal is misguided. It changes the nature and orientation of SIAM to such an extent as to obliterate SIAM and establish a new Section on Governance substantially focused on metropolitan governance. The change would produce significant hemorrhaging of SIAM membership.

    A major omission in the task force’s report is a rationale for and explanation of its proposal. What is the proposal intended to achieve? If the objective is to sustain or increase membership, how will the proposal do so? If the terms “intergovernmental administration and management” are deemed antiquated, how does “governance” improve our contemporaneity and intellectual thought processes?

    The problems confronting SIAM are mostly endemic to ASPA, which has faced serious challenges over the past decade. SIAM’s problems can achieve only limited resolution without solving the underlying problems plaguing ASPA. ASPA has often responded to challenges with trendy gimmicks, none notably successful.

    The proposal to change SIAM’s name to Governance is also a trendy gimmick. Most important, what does Section on Governance mean? The name conveys no useful content or “branding.” “Governance” is a broad, ambiguous term that means different things to different people. Therefore, current and prospective members would only find out what it means by consulting the mission statement, which, voilà, says the section is mainly devoted to metropolitan governance. Bet they won’t expect that chestnut. Further, the mission statement does not even define governance; instead, it decorates the notion with equally trendy rhetoric lacking clarity.

    The proposed name will cost SIAM members because people will not know what it means. Every other ASPA section has a name that rather clearly conveys its focus: for example, Section on Health and Human Services, Section on Criminal Justice Administration, and Section on Ethics. One does not need to go to the mission statement to figure out each section’s principal focus. For SOG, however, one would be forced to go to the mission statement. But why would anyone interested in IGR or IGM go to the SOG mission statement? SOG does not even hint at IGR or IGM.

    The name’s vacuity will, therefore, devastate membership. Practitioners and graduate students joining ASPA for the first time and who are interested in IGR and IGM will not find Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management on ASPA’s list of sections; instead, they will see Section on Governance and pass over it. Even many SIAM members who do not tune into this debate, and there are many, will not re-join as SOG members when they renew their ASPA membership because they will not see SIAM on the list. ASPA will surely get a few emails asking: What happened to SIAM?

    John Kincaid (1)


  2. John Kincaid says:

    Let’s remember that even though SIAM has experienced membership decline, SIAM is still one of ASPA’s largest sections. To stem the decline, we need to reach out more vigorously and personally to inactive current members and to young scholars and practitioners who might be drawn into the section. The SOG proposal does none of this.

    Even many of those willing to incur the transaction costs of going to SOG’s mission statement when they join ASPA or renew membership will reject SOG because of its narrow focus on metropolitan governance.

    This focus is narrow in two other respects. First, the reference to “fragmented metropolitan environment” commits the section to a particular ideological view of metropolitan governance not shared by all students of the subject. Second, this ideological focus is provincial and U.S.-centric. It does not speak accurately to the metropolitan environment in Canada or such environments elsewhere in the world, including Asia, from which ASPA has drawn quite a few members over the past decade.

    An important question is whether the name and mission change will affect the section’s relationship with the State and Local Government Review (SLGR). If the change from SIAM to SOG reduces the section’s membership, it will reduce the section’s revenue contribution to SLGR. The new mission focus certainly suggests also that the re-branded section would push SLRG toward metropolitan governance. This would considerably narrow the journal’s focus, which is now broader and covers a wide range of issues pertinent to state and local government in the United States and elsewhere. A metropolitan focus for SOG and SLGR also would duplicate other forums available for study and research on metropolitan governance such as the Urban Affairs Association, Journal of Urban Affairs, and Urban Affairs Review. Consequently, the name change and mission change would give Sage legitimate grounds for severing its tie to the section. Is this what we want?

    Alternate Proposal

    I have no objection to SIAM and would vote to keep it. But, if there really is an urgent need to change the name, why not make a change that still conveys the desired message and maintains our brand? For example, change the name to Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Collaborative Governance and then re-orient the mission statement to elaborate on that message. SIACG does not have the felicitous pronunciation of SIAM, but we could hold a contest to decide the acronym’s most melodious sound.

    However, there is no stampede in SIAM to embrace the terms collaborative governance. Last fall, Richard L. Cole and I conducted a survey of public administration academics, mostly SIAM members. We asked respondents if collaborative and/or networked government or governance are better than the terms federalism and intergovernmental relations. Forty-eight percent said collaborative or networked governance would be much or somewhat better, 13 percent said the terms make no difference, and 32 percent said the new terms would be worse or much worse (7 percent did not answer). By contrast, in our earlier survey of members of the APSA’s Section on Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations, 50 percent of the respondents said the new terms would be much worse or worse.

    John Kincaid (2)


  3. John Kincaid says:

    Proposals for change should seek to (1) retain as many SIAM members as possible, (2) be attractive for new members, (3) sustain SIAM’s big tent, which includes ASPA members interested in state and local government and metropolitan governance, as well as the section’s core IGA and IGM people, and (4) enhance the section’s intellectual vibrancy while also (5) preserving SIAM’s historic IGA and IGM focus.

    The name, SIAM, poses no inherent barrier to the above objectives. Furthermore, the task force on engaging junior scholars has delivered good outreach ideas that can be implemented without a name change. We can think of other initiatives. Perhaps each SIAM Executive Committee member plus other active SIAM members could each be given the contact information for 5-10 inactive SIAM members so they can reach out personally to the inactive members, find out why they are inactive, and try to motivate them to participate in SIAM.

    If SIAMers really wish to change SIAM’s name, then Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Collaborative Governance (SIACG) would also achieve the above objectives. Intergovernmental Administration would be a signal for IGA and IGM people; Collaborative Governance would be a signal for those who conceptualize themselves differently and are interested in state, local, and metropolitan governance. SIACG would maintain SIAM’s big tent and communicate a clearer brand that SOG.

    Intergovernmental administration is the sinew that holds the tent together in the sense that all public policy today is intergovernmental in some way, and collaborative arrangements are erected around government administration, revenue, and rules.

    A mission statement that clearly communicates SIAM/SIACG’s focus would be helpful. Perhaps something like:

    SIAM/SIACG focuses on all aspects of intergovernmental administration and management among federal, state, and local governments in federal systems in all policy fields as well as interstate relations (such as interstate compacts) and inter-local relations in both metropolitan and rural areas. The section recognizes the collaborative nature of intergovernmental administration in federal democratic systems today whereby the management of public policy issues requires cross-boundary participation by civic, corporate, and non-profit actors along with federal, state, and local government actors.

    Subsequent bullet points could elaborate on the summary mission statement to make clear that the section’s big tent includes members who are interested in metropolitan governance and in state and local government administration and management.

    As such, we could all enjoy a happy polyamorous marriage in true federalist fashion.

    John Kincaid (3)



    The proposed name and by-law change brings SIAM very close to the current Section of Complexity and Network Studies that now has its own journal, entitled Complexity, Governance and Networks. The revised focus of SIAM to Governance would more closely align with the current focus of CNS – networks, collaboration and governance. If this is the direction for SIAM, then some discussion with CNS would be valuable to see if there are mutual interests for alignment or (if not) functional clarity for unique section differentiation.

    Jack W. Meek


  5. FYI, it is relatively difficult to figure out how to log in and post. I found John Kincaid's comments very helpful, especially the survey about different terms. As a recent (and grateful) contributor to SLGR and a subscriber to Urban Affairs Review and State Politics & Policy Quarterly, I do see that SLGR has value with its unique focus on management and administrative concerns. However, I also see a need to reexamine and update the focus of the section. It seems that the section includes local government (city and county); state government, and intergovernmental issues. I agree with my colleague that there seems to be potential for overlap related to regional networks, collaborations, and governance which warrants discussion.


  6. Pat Atkins says:

    If there is room in ASPA for somewhat similar sections of a Section on Governance and a Section on Complexity and Network Studies, is there room for SIAM, SCNS, and SOG coexisting? Why would SIAM need to segue into SOG? As John remarks, a SIAM that morphs into SOG narrows the section's focus. Our members demonstrate every day the value of the intergovernmental perspective. It requires of us the capacity to envision from many viewpoints. We help explain and effectuate the shifts and the stasis of money, power, and responsibilities among governments – our national and state and varieties of local – not necessarily proscribed by a metropolitan boundary drawn around them nor boxed within the governance system. To be at the confluence of so many intersections is to be at a unique vantage point. Much of the proposed new language maintains that multiplicity of research interests, and enlivens the purpose of SIAM; but some of the proposed language diminishes the reach of SIAM. To have a dialog about the bylaws’ language is a welcome activity. However it is that dialog resolves, I would like to see the broad focus remain within our section, wherein there is room for metropolitan governance, policy diffusion, tax competition, and many other intergovernmental research interests. To solely specify metropolitan governance inadvertently lessens what is not mentioned. I would like to have that broad focus continue to be reflected in the section and the section name.
    Pat Atkins


  7. This comment is being posted on behalf of Ed Benton:

    As a long-time active member of SIAM, I appreciate the opportunity to be able contribute to the dialogue pertaining the proposed sweeping changes in the Section and even a possible change in its name.

    For the record, let me state that I believe that an organization should periodically take a close, hard look at itself to determine if its mission and goals are still meeting the needs and expectations of the membership and the profession it serves. Nevertheless, an organization is equally obligated to stay true to its purpose(s) if those goals and missions are still valid. I firmly believe that to be the case with SIAM. More to the point, I sincerely feel that a balanced recognition and treatment of the many nuances found in IGR (federal-state, federal-local, federal-state-local, interstate, state-local, interlocal relations, and even public-private relations) must be respected and retained for SIAM to stay the course of what Deil Wright and the other Founding Fathers and Mothers of SIAM had in mind. Furthermore, the proposed name change suggests a shift in an acutely skewed direction where the chief focus would be on metropolitan or urban matters. Without doubt, that subject matter is certainly a part of IGR, but it should not take precedence over the other sets of relations that are integral to IGR.

    In addition, I concur with others who have posted their thoughts on this blog that it is possible that we could be significantly overlapping the scope and subject matter of other organized Sections of ASPA. These assertions need to be thoroughly investigated and discussions need to occur with representatives of these other relevant Sections.

    Given the radical nature of this proposal and the potential for far-reaching implications, I do not believe it prudent to entertain any motion to vote on this proposal at either the Executive Board or General Membership meeting on Sunday, March 8. These meetings should be used to cultivate fruitful and diligent discussion of the matter. As noted above, SIAM has a rich and storied history and legacy, and I think we need to carefully weigh the rationale and thinking of “The Founders” when this section was originally organized by such people as the late Deil Wright and other wise and venerable scholars and practitioners. Moreover, if there is to be a vote on the current or a revised version of this proposal sometime in the future, ALL members of SIAM should be given the opportunity to vote through a membership-wide vote via e-mail.

    Ed Benton


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