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The Top Five Local Government Priorities for 21st-Century Leadership

The Top Five Local Government Priorities for 21st-Century Leadership_Polco_2023 ICMA Conference

The world is rapidly changing, and with it, communities are facing complex challenges. Now more than ever, we need leaders who can think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. 

Local governments modernizing processes, using data for decisions, and involving all constituents in common goals make a significant impact in their communities.

2023 ICMA Conference Leadership Sessions. Polco
“It’s inspiring to see today’s city managers taking on unprecedented challenges and looking toward the future,” said conference speaker and Polco Communications Director Angelica Wedell, following the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) 2023 Conference. Polco is a community engagement and civic analytics platform as well as an exclusive partner of ICMA. 

“These practitioners are sharing best practices, leveraging new resources, and reinventing local government leadership. We’re proud to help them achieve those goals,” Wedell said. 

The 2023 conference in Austin, TX, was record-breaking. It brought more city management professionals together than ever at 5,500 attendees. Major themes from this conference clearly highlight some of the most pressing priorities for 21st-century leaders.

2023 ICMA Conference_Data-Driven Decision-Making Leadership_Polco
See our 2023 ICMA Photo Album


1. Leveraging Technology 

The 21st Century is often called the Information Age. Data and public opinions are infinite. But leveraging all that data in decision-making is overwhelming without the right tools. Modern local government leaders can access new technologies to streamline engagement and make community participation easier for everyone. Engagement technologies available today can reach residents where they spend their time – online – instead of relying on low-attended public meetings.


2. Modernizing Budgeting Processes

The typical budget process is based on line items and historical precedent, which is slow and rigid. Today, local governments are driven to rethink budgeting. Improving outdated processes is a major initiative that takes the best-informed decisions to be successful. Innovative budget officers are looking to data and resident input to help them identify trends in spending and allocate resources where they are needed most. 


3. Leadership Through Data-Driven Decision-Making

Data and feedback are more important than ever in this new era of governance. Local government decision-making is deprived when without the right information to back up actions. There are many competing priorities among various municipal departments, elected officials, and residents. Data can help unify stakeholders around the most important issues, boost efficiency, streamline strategic and comprehensive planning, and produce better outcomes.

4. Inclusion in the Workplace

Today’s local government workforce is more diverse than ever before. And that includes differing age groups. History’s largest generations are working together within the same organizations, from baby boomers to millennials. A successful and healthy workplace requires employers to recognize the unique dynamic. Local government organizations must foster collaboration between all age groups, squash ageist stereotypes, and provide equity in workplace opportunities. When employees feel valued and respected for who they are (in all aspects of their identities), they are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work.

5. Uplifting Diverse Community Voices

Equity continues to be a top concern for local governments everywhere, especially for leaders of diverse communities. The most unheard voices tend to be from communities of color with various race and ethnic makeups, youth, lower-income residents, undocumented residents, and those whose first language is not English. Yet, these residents are often the most in need of services. Hearing their voices and earning their trust is crucial for community decisions to be truly equitable. The good news is an intentional approach can show where your community stands and reveal what to prioritize next.

2023 ICMA Conference_Austin_VOP Leadership Toast_Polco

What inspired you at the 2023 ICMA Conference? Relive the moments with us on Flickr: See our 2023 ICMA Photo Album.


About Polco

Polco brings people and data together to help build stronger, healthier communities. We offer access to clear insights from industry-leading surveys, government performance data, interactive simulations, and more - all within a single award-winning engagement and civic analytics platform. Thousands of government leaders trust Polco to better align community decisions around the most important priorities and to strengthen public trust. 

Learn more about how Polco can help inform the best community decisions

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