Cross-Sector Collaboration Can Simplify Funding and Administration

By Diane M. Disney

In today’s toxic political climate, notions of collaboration sometimes carry the suggestion of World War II traitors who worked to support the enemy forces.  In reality, however, the “other” is not an invading force but rather another governmental agency, a nonprofit, or a business that shares the need and desire to make progress in a given area.  Collaboration is something that requires one to look beyond short-term boundaries to see a greater good or a goal that cannot be reached when stakeholders work on their own.

A few weeks ago Don Kettl and Robert O’Neill presented a clear case for collaboration in the Federal government with four very straightforward recommendations for the next president, ranging from the transformation and elevation of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to the creation of a special track within the Senior Executive Service to focus on “cross-sector, intergovernmental, and multi-program skills.”  Expanding that list requires looking to the past and to non-Federal sources for ideas. Continue reading “Cross-Sector Collaboration Can Simplify Funding and Administration”


Seeing Over the Horizon

By John Kamensky

How can we bring Strategic Foresight into conversations on management priorities in the next presidential administration?  Why is this even worth discussing, especially given the urgent pressures of dealing with today’s challenges?

The interstate highway system was declared complete on October 14, 1992, after 35 years of construction.  Authorized in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower as a necessary component of national defense, the highway system transformed America’s culture, economy, and environment.  Could these radical changes have been foreseen?  Where they all for the better?  Could better foresight have precluded the population shift from cities to suburbs, the decline of urban tax bases to fund schools, and the impact of an automobile culture on the environment? Continue reading “Seeing Over the Horizon”

Reflections on the Nixon National Goals Research Staff

By Ken Hunter

Has a previous White House sponsored a major foresight initiative? Yes, the Nixon White House starting in 1969.

The core of the global futures controversy in the late 1960s was the “limits to growth debate.” The Nixon Administration started immediately to address growth policy. On July 13, 1969, President Nixon announced the establishment of the National Goals Research Staff within the White House to operate under the direction of Leonard Garment, Daniel P. Moynihan, and Arthur Burns, all senior Presidential advisors. Continue reading “Reflections on the Nixon National Goals Research Staff”

Transitions Past…Any Lessons for the Next Transition?

By David Chu

It’s been my privilege to participate in six transitions—symmetrically, three in, three out.  (That’s counting generously, since it includes as one set the “friendly” transition from President Reagan’s administration to President George H.W. Bush’s.)  It’s only a limited sample, and all the data points involve a single cabinet agency.  Moreover, each differs in its specific circumstances.  But looking back, I think some generalizations are possible, especially regarding management challenges.  Whether they are likely to apply going forward I leave to the reader’s speculation. Continue reading “Transitions Past…Any Lessons for the Next Transition?”

The Value of Strategic Foresight

By Jonathan Tucker

In discussing the value of strategic foresight, it is important to distinguish it from forecasting. Forecasting seeks to predict discrete events in the future. By contrast, strategic foresight seeks to help decision makers think through uncertainty. It employs scenarios to consider how trends and developments in a number of areas may come together in different ways to affect the operating environment of an organization both positively and negatively.

The value of forecasting is clear and is directly related to its ability to accurately predict events of concern to decision makers. The value of strategic foresight is less obvious because its benefits, such as enhanced capacity to perceive change, are indirect and less readily measured. Even at Royal Dutch Shell, famed for its pioneering work in scenario-based planning, advocates have struggled at times to communicate its value to corporate leadership. Lessons from the Shell experience and the renewed corporate interest in scenario-based planning are discussed in a recent feature article in the Harvard Business Review, “Living in the Futures.” Continue reading “The Value of Strategic Foresight”

Promoting Strategic Foresight By Doing It: Putting Experts to the Test

By Robert Hale and Angela Antonelli

The Strategic Foresight Panel of NAPA’s Presidential Transition 2016 project seeks to help government leaders understand, value and utilize strategic foresight. By using strategic foresight, government leaders can better perceive the significance of events before they occur, which should lead to decisions that have the resiliency to withstand future challenges and support the policy and program needs of the future. The Panel hopes that, by finding ways for government agencies to better use strategic foresight, government leaders can move beyond immediate crises and improve their long-term planning and decision making. Continue reading “Promoting Strategic Foresight By Doing It: Putting Experts to the Test”

Rethinking Federal Grants Management: From Oversight to Insight

By Shelley H. Metzenbaum

Grants are among the most important tools the federal government uses to accomplish its objectives. At $600 billion, they comprise over 15 percent of annual outlays, forty percent higher than federal contract spending.

Sadly, the way federal grants are managed gets woefully little attention. To achieve higher returns on the taxpayer’s dollar, that needs to change. Both the mindset and the skill sets of federal grant managers need to evolve from primarily thinking about “conducting oversight” to figuring out instead how to generate insights that help grantees and others learn from experience and find new ways to improve performance along multiple dimensions, including outcomes, cost-effectiveness, customer experience (or, for regulated parties, interaction and transaction quality), fairness and unwanted side effects. That is not to suggest that persistently weak grantee performance is acceptable, but rather that attention to improvement should be the priority. Continue reading “Rethinking Federal Grants Management: From Oversight to Insight”