The School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) held its fourth annual Municipalities of the Future Symposium in virtual format in early March with a focus on the COVID-19 pandemic through the theme Municipalities on the frontlines: New realities and mandates in a post-pandemic world.
Close to 200 participants attended throughout the day, including municipal employees, non-profit managers, community leaders, provincial public servants, students and faculty in the SPPA who discussed the multitude of ever-evolving challenges in their work every day, as well as interesting opportunities for meaningful change that have emerged as a result.
Best practices in public administration, embracing and managing change, innovation in the face of necessity and building on the impetus for policy changes, new investments and equity goals, were among the key considerations highlighted by keynote speaker Dino Basso, commissioner of corporate services for the Regional Municipality of York, which includes both urban and rural communities with diverse needs.
A seasoned public service leader with three decades of experience in the sector, Basso offered advice during the question-and-answer period. While seeing great potential for improvements in public service delivery emerging from the pandemic experience, when asked about the potential pitfalls of embracing the “new normal” too much, Basso highlighted that organizational culture is a crucial component of work and that has been extremely difficult to convey to new employees with the dominance of remote work.
The importance of communication as an essential service with material impact – both internal within organizations and external with stakeholders – was also highlighted by a panel of communication professionals, which was a new addition to this year’s symposium.
Other panel themes included: the need for integration and equity in health and social services; new realities in municipal finance as a result of structural change; intergovernmental relations and the need for coordination in support of economic recovery; prioritizing growth with equity through small business supports and community benefit agreements; redeployment of human resources; and, the need for process improvements, diversity and work-life balance.
Professional networking at the symposium was facilitated through small group interactions in breakout rooms. Full listing of speakers and bios can be found at https://www.yorku.ca/laps/sppa/experience/events/municipalities-of-the-future-symposium/new-realities-and-mandates-in-a-post-pandemic-world/#speaker-bios.