Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bringing Diverse Learning Materials into the Classroom

This month the PNLC is partnering with Hubert Project, a repository that provides public affairs instructors, practitioners and students with a diverse range of free, multimedia teaching tools. Take a look at their resources HERE.

In an increasingly diverse world, public affairs institutions and faculty have the opportunity to bring diverse viewpoints and realities into the classroom. Once policies and programs are made public, they need to serve a wide audience, and will become quickly irrelevant if they are not carefully considered in advance. Furthermore, the assumption that institutions are neutral has widely been challenged, and students of public policy should consider that their future place of employment may have internal biases. An awareness of these challenges in the public affairs space is best considered before we enter the workforce.

Here is a compilation of diversity-focused case studies to assist in the classroom, courtesy of the Hubert Project.

Aspire: Building Partnerships through Social Entrepreneurship and Empowerment
Aspire started in the basement of a church in the western suburbs of Chicago in 1960. Concerned parents of children with developmental disabilities were brought together by the challenges of providing adequate support to help their children live independently and thrive as other children did. These parents were discouraged by medical professionals who at the time suggested their children would not lead normal lives, and therefore, parents were counseled to send their children to homes that would keep them isolated from the rest of society. Refusing to believe this was their only option, these parents pooled their resources to start what we know today as Aspire. Fifty years later, Aspire has helped thousands of children and families throughout the Chicagoland area and continues to expand its presence and offer services throughout the region.

This e-case focuses on how demographic changes in Worthington—a rural southwest Minnesota town—led to the identification of a leadership gap between the dominant/minority population. It also highlights the accompanying socio-economic (e.g. housing) and educational (e.g. English literacy) challenges faced by the large number of new Americans arriving in the Worthington area, and the possible responses the community has pursued in alleviating these challenges. There are a number of community-level leadership decisions to identify and address issues brought on by demographic change, including development and implementation of a leadership program targeting diverse community leaders in a dominant white cultural context.

The Clothes I Wear
Perceptions of ‘otherness’ are a normal part of human development; as they mature, children move from a focus on themselves to an understanding of their place within groups, and learn to conform to group norms and to distinguish between “friends and foes (see Tajfel & Turner’s work on Social Identity Theory). Preferences for one’s own group and the perception that it is better, more competent and stronger than other groups can lead to prejudice if perceived differences of out-group members are seen as a threat to the in-group’s culture, politics or economic status. In particular, perceived cultural differences between immigrants and the dominant culture may serve as a barrier to positive intercultural relations. Differences in ethnic dress accentuate perception of difference. This video brief is meant to be used as a way to stimulate discussion on the ways that clothing furthers perceptions of “Otherness”.

Transgenderism in Hong Kong
While the general public have little chance to understand the transgender community, this e-case attempts to explore the controversies beneath transgenderism, reveal the situations presented by transgender people, as well as discuss the issues on establishing laws and pubic policies in relation to the concerns from the transgender community and the society at large. It also illustrates how NGOs are struggling to be sustainable and effective in catering to the needs of transgender people.

The African American Leadership Forum: A 21st Century Social Movement for the Common Good
Although examples of leadership by and of African-Americans abound, relatively few scholars and teachers of leadership focus on the particular characteristics and dynamics of African American leadership -- with the possible exception of civil rights era leadership (Ospina and Foldy, 2009). This case describes a new African American movement that builds on the traditions and accomplishments of African American leadership and responds to developments in African American communities and the U.S. in the post-civil rights era. This e-case also includes an annotated bibliography (see Module 1) that highlights African American leadership as well as the political, economic and social trends that have resulted in concentrated poverty in many urban black neighborhoods.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How to Create Career Serendipity

Visual representation of Lars' talk, courtesy of Morgan Mercer

As a first year Masters of Public Policy student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, I accept all the networking and job search help that I can get. Recently Lars Leafblad, co-founder of ballinger | leafblad, came to the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center’s “Theory to Practice” event to discuss nonprofit job seeking. Lars encouraged us to “work to accelerate serendipity” in our job seeking process. I love this idea. Serendipity means: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. As it turns out, we do not have to leave our career to chance.

Throughout his presentation I was reminded that professional sounding words like “networking” often come down to human-based skills - like empathy and reciprocity – in reality. We should not see a job search as a short term task, but rather conduct our career in the preparation for happy or beneficial opportunities, by viewing a job search as a long term and coordinated effort. We can share helpful tips and articles on LinkedIn, create a job seeking advice group, and talk with others in our field in a genuine and relationship-building way. The more we connect with colleagues and follow through on offers to help others, the more we present ourselves as the kind of person someone may want to work with, or hire, someday.

The reality is: this just makes sense. Lars highlighted that an interviewer is looking for both warmth (being engaged, thoughtful) as well as competence. We should ask good questions, such as what this position is intended to fix, start, or create. We spend a lot of time at the office, and would certainly want to work with someone both warm and competent.

This event with Lars reinforced the notion that both my technical skills and competence in the policy field, as well as long-term relationship building, are legitimate goals in my future career. The more we pursue both ends, the more serendipitous career events may enfold, and we will leave less to chance.

By: Lauren Walker
Lauren Walker is a first year MPP candidate at the Humphrey School studying Global Policy. She also works for the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center as the Gross Family Fellow. She studies the intersection of global policy and policy analysis, and hopes to increase communication between policy makers and effective programs in her future career. She previously worked as a Regional Organizer for International Justice Mission in the Midwest.