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Report on SIAM Mission Statement and Name

SIAM members,
Following the annual section business meeting I appointed a committee chaired by Eric Zeemering to make recommendations regarding the implementation of the new mission statement adopted at that meeting. The committee took this task quite seriously and after much work and deliberation reported back the attached recommendations that include a revised and more concise statement of the section mission. At the section executive council meeting earlier this month voted unanimously to send the committee recommendation to the full membership at the annual meeting with a recommendation that the proposed changes be adopted. I have attached the committee report here. Also note that the Deil Wright Symposium will include a panel discussion on the mission of SIAM. I encourage everyone to attend the Deil Wright Symposium and the annual business meeting which will be Saturday, March 19 – 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm.
Best regards
Rick Feiock
SIAM Exec council chair

*****


To:         Rick Feiock, Chair and SIAM Executive Committee 
From:     Mission Implementation Committee 
RE:        Report on SIAM Mission Statement and Name 
Date:      December 17, 2015 

Background

For several years, the Section on Intergovernmental Administration and Management (SIAM) has been engaged in a discussion about the section’s future, strategic goals, and declining membership.  When Rick Feiock became section chair, he signaled the need for the section to confront the trend of declining membership by aligning our work with the most salient topics in our subfield of public administration.  A committee, chaired by David Miller and Jered Carr, brought recommendations to the 2015 section business meeting to update the mission statement and section name.  The membership adopted the new mission statement by a vote of sixteen (yes) to fourteen (no).  The mission implementation committee was appointed to continue the dialogue about the new mission statement and section name. 

The mission implementation committee began work by conference call on May 7, 2015.  The committee decided to survey the membership of the section in order to make sure that our efforts align with the goals and views of the membership.  The survey was available to the membership between September 1 and September 18, 2015.  The survey was sent to 237 members.  Ninety surveys were completed for a response rate of 37.97%.  The committee reconvened by conference call on October 20, 2015 to discuss the results.  Additional deliberations occurred by email through the month of November.  This memo summarizes key findings from the membership survey and the committee’s recommendations regarding the section mission statement. 

Membership Survey 

The survey results, provided in an attachment for the executive committee, show some disagreement within the membership about the mission statement.  While 62 percent of the membership reports they are satisfied or very satisfied with the section’s old mission statement, 55 percent report they are very satisfied or satisfied with the new mission statement.  When asked about the importance of various topics to the section, intergovernmental relations (1.76) received the most salient score on a scale from 1 to 10, with intergovernmental management (2.20), intergovernmental administration (2.28) and federalism (2.72) not far behind.  Collaborative governance (2.98), state‐local relations (2.50) and interlocal relations (2.79) also received support.  Network governance (3.86), metropolitan governance (3.86) and urban affairs (4.7) appear less salient. 

The committee reviewed open responses to the question, “Would you recommend any specific additions or revisions to the mission statement?”  Several respondents signaled that both the old and new mission statements are verbose and cover too much content.  Respondents signaled that mission statements should be short and focused.  The committee took these recommendations seriously during our deliberations.   

The survey also showed split opinion about a change to the section’s name.  On a scale of 1 (unimportant) to 10 (important), the mean was 4.56.  Thirty one respondents selected 1 or 2 to signal low importance.  Fourteen selected 9 or 10 to signal high importance.  Thirty one selected 4, 5, or 6, which might be interpreted as uncertainty or ambivalence.  Given these results, the mission implementation committee chose to focus attention on the mission statement. 

Committee Recommendations 

The mission implementation committee agreed with the survey respondents who stated that both the old mission statement and the new mission statement attempt to convey too much information about the section’s interests and goals.  We set out to craft a concise statement focused on the core of the membership’s shared interests in intergovernmental relations and intergovernmental management within a federal system.  After extensive debate and careful revision, the committee recommends the following mission statement to the executive committee: 

The Section serves as a forum for the study, understanding, and improvement of dynamic federal systems and other forms of intergovernmental relations wherein national, state, and local governments address policy and management issues. 

We believe this mission statement identifies common ground for the section membership.  This statement speaks to the historic roots of the section while also signaling our ongoing interest in the scholarship and practice of intergovernmental relations.  We ask the executive committee to bring this proposal to the general membership at the 2016 meeting of ASPA in Seattle. 

Remaining Questions 

The mission implementation committee acknowledges the dialogue about the future of SIAM will continue.  Rick Feiock and Carl Stenberg are providing a venue for ongoing discussion by allowing committee members to participate in a special panel during the Wright Symposium at the ASPA meeting in 2016.  The section is making every effort to have an open and transparent dialogue about how we maintain a vibrant section focused on salient topics and activities that engage the membership. Several questions remain for the section.  First, is a change to the section name necessary?  While we see divided opinion within the current section membership, we have no sense of external perceptions of the section.  We do not know if, as suggested at the last membership meeting, the name serves as a barrier to entry for ASPA members.  Second, which services and activities provided to the section membership are most important?  The survey did not attempt to assess the value the membership places on the Wright Symposium at the annual conference, the section newsletter, or the subscription to State and Local Government Review.  Third, if the membership approves a more concise mission statement, can this sharper focus help with membership recruitment?  As the membership has engaged in dialogue about the mission, membership remains static.  The membership should consider how to engage new participants in section activities.  We hope that dialogue among section members at the 2016 meeting can help address these three questions.


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