Jonny Dorsey at NextGen: Five Actions to Advance Government

Jonny Dorsey is a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Global Health Corps, an initiative that brings talented individuals into public health communities around the world.

At the opening NextGen general session, he shared five major points from a study done by the Impact Careers Initiative at the Aspen Institute. The study seeks to understand why talented people might not be inclined to seek careers of service and social impact.

Four-in-five millennials say that helping someone in need is very important to them, but only one-in-twenty want to work in government. Which raises the question, how do we enable government to create the change it is capable of?

Here are his top five actions:

1. Become an evangelist for public service. Many people think government work unpopular. Other industries and organizations (like and Teach for America) spend extensive time recruiting on college campuses. We in government and social non-profits need to tell others about the good work we are doing. Having someone hear from you matters.

2. Make internships matter. The Partnership for Public Service has written about how government is just really bad at making good internships. But internships are essential to talent recruitment. Interns are the best way to recruit ongoing talent for your organization.

3. Promote the idea of hiring from within. We need to send the message that the best way to rise in your career and promote your agency’s mission in to raise through the ranks. We need our employees to know that their service will be supported and rewarded.

4. Give young people real power. Many people believe that they won’t be able to make a real difference in government. If we want to bring in young talent, we need to give young people real power. Fight to bring your summer interns to the big meetings where the real work is done.

5. Foster mentorship by being a mentor A frequent complaint is that I don’t get enough mentorship. Dorsey’s response to that statement is, “Who do you mentor?” The best way to foster mentorship is to be a good mentor for the next generation.

The backstory:

Jonny became obsessed with empowering his generation to begin careers that benefit the public good while he was working for AIDS/HIV prevention in northern Zambia. He saw that even though governments in the United Staten and Africa had taken steps to acquire drugs for treatment, there were no systems for getting those drugs to the people. There was a disconnect; he began the search for solutions.

You can make a big impact by bringing people together who are better than you (the Silicon Valley way of thinking). Government is capable of this teambuilding as well.

There are real issues we face today – global health, climate change, education, gun violence, economic disparities – that require teams of devoted people working together.

So, for the people who say, “All right, I’m sold, how do I get started in public service?,” we need to help them find their appropriate role in public service. That’s what Jonny and the Aspen Institute are looking into.

Check out their findings on how to win the war for talent In government.

He ended his talk by framing everything in these terms: even at NextGen, where we’re talking about how to advance individual government careers, we should remember that advancing government as a whole also empowers every individual. Support the whole and everyone wins.

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