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Fast and Focused

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By sakhan, on June 7, 2012

Tonight, I am hosting the first NCACC focus group. While my last few posts have focused almost exclusively on the action at the legislature, I am simultaneously working on the fellowship project. As mentioned a little while back, the primary project during my internship is creating a business plan for a post-graduate fellowship to encourage students and young professionals to move into county management. I spent a number of weeks researching other fellowships, both regionally and nationally, and have since scheduled three sets of focus groups- with MPA students, county commissioners, and county managers. The first focus group, tonight, is with MPA students. Students from UNC, NC State, and NCCU’s MPA programs are meeting us to shed light on their perspectives regarding post-graduate fellowships. There are a number of things that make this process exciting:

  1. This is my first attempt at facilitating a focus group by myself. I had the honor of working with Margaret Henderson of the School of Government last semester, but this time around, I am leading the facilitation. While I have done plenty of research to prepare for this, I think my greatest concern is the need to remain neutral. Focus groups can be made or broken by the skill set of the facilitator and much depends on the facilitator’s ability to remain a neutral voice while still encouraging discussion and thought. Of course, the best thing to do is prepare a solid facilitator’s guide beforehand and remind yourself of your own role within the process (which is what I have done).
  2. Of the three focus groups I have scheduled thus far, this is the one group that I can likely relate to the best (given that I, too, am an MPA student). I am excited to hear about the perspectives and experiences of other students, particularly students in other MPA programs. On the same token, I think my role as a facilitator should take precedence over my role as an MPA student. In this situation, I am functioning more as a representative of NCACC and less as an MPA student. It is always exciting, though, to hear students discuss why they chose to move into public service and pursue an MPA. This project initially attracted my attention because of my own evolving interest in local government and the options it provides for public service.  I am interested to see how other students’ experiences and perspectives may differ from my own.

Alongside the focus groups, as mentioned last week, work with the General Assembly never quite ends. Last week my post followed County Assembly Day, as we were gearing up to have S433 (which provides local governments the flexibility to reorganize health and social services as an option) heard in a committee meeting, but at the last minute, the bill was tabled. Yesterday, however, the Senate State and Local Government Committee passed a revised version of H438 which contains the same language as S433. Long story short- this bill would achieve NCACC’s legislative goal of allowing human services administrative flexibility. The bill moves to the Senate floor today for the two required floor votes.

Among other thoughts, this entire process is teaching me how quickly things move in the legislature. Last week, there was a slight sense of panic with S433, but with a moment’s notice, the situation has completely changed. Granted, this is still a plan in action and as we now know, nothing is final until it’s final.

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