NCAC Board Member Sits on Panel entitled “Permission to Practice: Public Service Boundary Spanning”at NECoPA

One of our NCAC Board Members, Connie Berhane, recently sat on a panel at the Northeast Conference on Public Administration (NECoPA) annual conference, “Permission to Practice: Public Service Boundary Spanning.”  She presented on her contributions to a 2021 ebook project by the same name, which involved the collaborative production of original written content and video roleplays by nine practitioners and pracademics in Colorado, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and the Washington, DC Metro Area.

Connie developed a script for the roleplay of an information interview she conducted the year before, turning it into a teaching tool.  She also was the subject of a recorded interview in which she explained how she used boundary spanning to uncover new avenues for career growth.  Her main takeaway for attendees was not to be afraid to reach out to a person or organization to seek information or request information interviews.  Check out the ebook and NECoPA session!

Ebook and videos:

NECoPA session:

This video begins with a casual chat before the session starts.

         By NCAC Board Member Connie Berhane
Categories: ASPA News, Policy Tags: Tags: , , , ,

Community Engagement as a Useful Tool for Seeking Solutions and Actions

What Is Community Engagement and How Can it be a Useful Tool for Seeking Solutions and Actions to Climate Change?

The program will focus on key aspects and practices of community engagement and then delve into how they can be applied for seeking solutions and actions to climate change.

The event’s speakers will provide an overview of the National Academy of Public Administration’s study, “Engaging Americans & Increasing Public Trust: An Agenda for 2021 and Beyond” and the City of Alexandria, Virginia’s community engagement program, What’s Next Alexandria. They will then discuss how community engagement practices and lessons learned can be used to engage people in seeking solutions and actions to climate change. The discussion will include how these practices and lessons learned can especially engage people whose thoughts and needs are often marginalized on topics that have a direct effect on them.



Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Founding Executive Director, The National Institute for Civil Discourse and Founder and Former President, America Speaks

Carrie Beach, Division Chief, Neighborhood Planning and Community Development, Office of Planning and Zoning, City of Alexandria, VA

Ellen Eggerton, Sustainability Coordinator, City of Alexandria, VA


Register to attend by 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 15th to receive the Zoom link at:

Drinks and Conversations with the NCAC Board of Directors

This is an opportunity for the DC area public administration community to get together to discuss anything on your mind such as coping with COVID-19, balancing work and helping your children in a virtual or hybrid learning environment, the opportunities and challenges of working remotely, safety of your office when it reopens or anything else that you want to chat about. You might even want to share how NCAC can help you.

Please register for Drinks and Conversation no later than an hour before it starts. A zoom link to join the meeting will only be provided to those who register by 6:00pm, Thursday, December 2nd.

Register at:

An Interview with Zina Merritt

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was recently ranked #1 among mid-sized agencies as part of the Partnership for Public Service’s list of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. And while rankings for leadership on diversity issues were not conducted this year, GAO has long held a top spot for its commitment to diversity as well. To learn more about how GAO integrates social equity into their organization and work, I spoke with Zina Merritt, the Special Assistant to the Comptroller General for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Prior to this role, Zina directed audits of national security and international programs and was a longtime advocate of equal employment opportunity to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEI&A) at all levels of the agency. In November 2017, GAO expanded its mission core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability to include people values—being valued, respected, and treated fairly. The underlying tenets of these people values factor into values Zina has long advocated for, and consequently the Comptroller General appointed Zina to serve in this role as GAO’s executive level DEI&A strategist.

Zina has a variety of responsibilities at GAO that include identifying and sharing best practices and programs to support DEIA and monitoring and measuring related performance outcomes of programs and initiatives. She also advises GAO’s Executive Committee, other senior leaders, managers, employee resource groups, and individual employees, while addressing concerns and responding to employee needs throughout the agency. When asked about her strategic
management role, she explained that GAO’s commitment to DEI&A is codified into the organization’s strategic plan and DE&I Strategic Implementation Plan. Specifically, GAO’s current agency strategic plan includes a performance goal that promotes identifying, attracting, and retaining a workforce with the skills necessary to achieve operational excellence. Another performance goal promotes enhancing and sustaining a culture that is fair, diverse, and inclusive and provides opportunities for all employees to excel. In 2019, GAO transformed its prior Workforce Diversity Plans into what is currently our DE&I Strategic Implementation Plan, and it is currently expanding upon this effort by adding accessibility as a focus area. The plan establishes GAO’s processes to review data and trends on demographic characteristics, comparisons to other federal workforces, and DEI&A related performance management goals and metrics. GAO executive level leaders also have explicit leadership and management expectations. For example, the annual performance expectations for GAO’s senior executives clearly communicates the role that they should have as senior leaders in supporting and implementing these efforts. Management and employees also have a critical role in this plan’s implementation through their constructive ongoing engagement in DEI&A efforts.

Zina noted that “Most importantly, effective DEI&A efforts require commitment from the organization’s head, who sets the tone at the top by supporting and engaging in DEI&A efforts at all levels. This includes regularly engaging with senior leadership, managers, affinity groups, and employees on DEI&A related issues to include some of the tough topics, such as acknowledging and communicating with employees regarding external events impacting employees and their families.” She praised the U.S. Comptroller General, Gene Dodaro, for affirming the agency’s commitment to DEI&A in his annual EEO statement to employees, regularly engaging with GAO’s diversity counsel and affinity groups, and participating in many DEI&A events.

Zina explained that the strong emphasis GAO places on respecting, valuing, and treating its employees fairly through a strong commitment to maintaining a skilled and diverse workforce and fostering an inclusive work environment has a direct bearing on GAO’s ability to fulfill its mission: to support the Congress by making government more efficient, effective, and equitable. Research shows that diverse groups allow for critical and innovate thinking, as well as the ability
to better anticipate alternative viewpoints. By leveraging each employee’s unique skills, talents, experiences and characteristics, GAO can broaden the range of perspectives in and approaches to the work. Events over the past year included the pandemic, incidents of police brutality of African Americans, and the most recently, targeted acts of hatred towards Asian Americans. These have brought increased visibility of the inequities and disparities that exist in
this nation and in how the government is addressing these issues. Despite some of the associated challenges, GAO maintained continuity of its DEI&A efforts in their virtual work environment. Zina says that “GAO believes that our workforce should be as diverse as the populous we serve” and that this belief definitely contributes to making GAO such a great place to work.

It also reflects GAO’s commitment to approaching audits of federal programs with a critical eye. GAO included equity as one of the 5 core auditing pillars in an April 2021 Yellow Book update. The technical update provides expanded definitions and examples of the core pillars for examining whether government programs are being administered in a manner that is effective, efficient, economical, ethical, and equitable. This commitment is not new, as equity has appeared in previous editions of the Yellow Book, and GAO has been providing Congress with analysis that includes equity for decades. For example, since the 1970s, GAO has examined racial inequalities in education, voting rights, equal employment, racial profiling, representation in the census, access to capital and housing, health care, and the military justice system. In
September 2020, GAO launched a webpage on Race in America that includes a collection of  GAO reports on this topic.

GAO is currently reporting on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting different racial groups and also has more work planned. GAO will be evaluating whether the Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have controls in place to prevent discrimination at traveler screening checkpoints. Additionally, GAO has work underway examining law enforcement’s use of force and will be looking at initiatives, such as de-escalation training, that could help reduce the use of force. While GAO has been examining program disparities for many decades, it continues to refine its audit tools. In November 2020, GAO convened the Emerging Risks Taskforce to ensure the agency is positioned to tackle emerging risks of importance to Congress and help teams to identify and incorporate issues related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in their assessments, consistent with the agency’s core values and quality assurance standards. This task force will help GAO develop tools to better assess whether and how DEI&A issues are important to audits, engaging the right people within and outside of GAO to provide a diverse range of perspectives, developing and employing the right methodologies needed to answer related researchable questions, and ensuring that review teams have an appreciation for the limitations and sensitivities associated with this kind of work.

Zina is responsible for providing progress updates to the Executive Committee, employees, and select Congressional Committees on GAO’s DEI&A efforts, and also represents GAO at external forums focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility topics. On August 31, she presented, along with other GAO staff, expert researchers, and federal employees, at GAO’s Centennial Webinar Series: Foundations for Accountability: Oversight Issues for the Next
100 Years, on the topic of Leading Practices to Manage, Empower, and Oversee the Federal Workforce. To see more opportunities to view webinars in the series go to


Submitted by NCAC Board Member, Steven Putansu

Categories: Current Events, Policy Tags: Tags: , ,

Lashae Lambert (State Government)

I am the DEI Policy and Implementation Strategist at the Department of Medical Assistance Services for the Commonwealth of Virginia. My job is to ensure that all aspects of public health, regarding the Medicaid community, is done through an equity lens, and that our internal agency structure and culture reflects equitable practices. From ensuring that information is accessible to everyone (e.g. Are the materials written in the members native language? Is there a non online option for those who do not have internet?), to strategically planning covid-19 vaccination clinics around the commonwealth that members can transport to even if they do not have a personal vehicle. Additionally, I focus on internal equity solutions to assist my agency with implementing equitable practices from within.
Equity is at the core of society’s well being. We understand that not everyone starts at the same place in life, and it is important to assist and elevate those who have been given a rough start, an unfair disadvantage, or have fallen on hard times. In relation to healthcare, giving all Virgininans the opportunity to have their social determinants of health needs met is an act of public service not just for those receiving assistance, but for the commonwealth as a whole. A healthy community is a prosperous community.
Outside of my career in state government I continue my public service in the world of pageantry. I am the current USOA’s Ms. Capitol Hill and will be competing for Ms. District of Columbia this fall. My platform is advocacy for Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Sex Trafficking survivors. My focus is to bridge the gap between policy /legislation and a survivors road to recovery. I am focusing on ways in which we can bring awareness to these issues, establish intervention and prevention pathways , and establish legislation that will protect survivors.
I’m happy to meet new people so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Drinks and Conversations

The NCAC Board of Directors invites you to join them in drinks and conversation.

This is an opportunity for the DC area public administration community to get together to discuss anything on your mind such as coping with COVID-19, balancing work and helping your children in a virtual or hybrid learning environment, the opportunities and challenges of working remotely, safety of your office when it reopens or anything else that you want to chat about. You might even want to share how NCAC can help you.

Please register for Drinks and Conversation no later than an hour before it starts. A zoom link to join the meeting will only be provided to those who register.

Reserve Your Spot

National Building Museum Addresses Social Inequity

The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., is the nation’s premier museum dedicated to the history and advancement of the “built world,” the places that we construct to live, work, play, worship, and learn. In recent years, the Museum has produced exhibitions and programs on issues of social equity that are impacted by the built world. The ways we choose to design and construct our world contribute to disparities—but, more important, they can, should, and do mitigate them. During the pandemic, the Museum instituted a new program series to learn from architects, landscape architects, planners, interior designers, and other design and design-adjacent professionals to reflect on current events, the history that brought us here, and consider concrete actions that these professions and others are taking to promote justice through the built environment.

Typically, these professionals do not perceive themselves to be “public administrators,” and yet they interact every day with public institutions, the communities in which they design and place buildings and landscapes—structures and spaces with purpose and visibility. They must deal with building and planning codes that help keep our communities safe and should consider the impact of any designed element on surrounding environments. But developers are not always attuned to the neighborhoods where they operate; their objective is profit. So how can the designers and builders be persuaded to take social equity into account? The Museum’s staff has been on the lookout for design firms and public institutions that are approaching their work with social justice in mind. To date, they have found a number of them, and enabled free online access to these presentations to spread the word.

Below are brief descriptions of the five presentations/discussions currently available to anyone, including public administrators, who have responsibility for addressing and mitigating social inequities—which is all of us—in all its many forms. We hope you will review these thought-provoking presentations, contact the presenters where appropriate, learn from them, and keep spreading the word that there are ideas and resources in unlikely places. For access to these presentations, go to, then scroll down to “Equity in the Built Environment.” 


Presentations Available on the National Building Museum Website
The Rosenwald Schools / MAY 11, 2021

Learn about the Rosenwald Schools, the result of a collaboration between Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald that created nearly 5,000, state-of-the-art schools for African American children throughout the south in the early 20th century.

Restorative Justice / APRIL 29, 2021

Counter the traditional adversarial and punitive architecture of justice by creating spaces and buildings for restorative justice, rehabilitation, and community building, and re-entry housing for people coming out of incarceration.

Improving Racial Equity Through Greener Design /  MARCH 9, 2021

Understand how architects across the U.S. are working to improve the environmental and social sustainability of communities by protecting neighborhoods from gentrification, installing parks and public art exhibits in urban centers, and creating state-of-the-art libraries in financially challenged neighborhoods. 

National Park Service / JANUARY 26, 2021

Learn how the National Park Service is telling the whole story of America’s history through inclusive interpretation.

Mardi Gras Indian Cultural Campus / OCTOBER 14, 2020

Hear how the Mardi Gras Indian Cultural Campus is helping to reverse the negative impacts of economic disinvestment, political neglect, and natural disasters that have eroded community pride and participation in New Orleans’ Central City, a once-thriving hub of African American civic and commercial life. 

Article submitted by NCAC Member: Gene Bacher

Categories: Current Events, Social Justice Tags: Tags: