NextGen 2K12 – Closing Session: 3 Spoonfuls of Inspiration Help the Medicine Go Down

As the end of the conference drew near, I was feeling a little nervous about holding myself accountable for changing my lessons learned into actions. You know that self-doubt that creeps in and makes you think “I can’t change the way this huge government works.” Well, thankfully I got a boost of morale from all three speakers at the NextGen closing session.


Joe Jordan, the administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy within the Office of Management and Budget, gave some accessible tips to making change happen in the government.

Focus on small changes with big effects. Incremental improvements can make a big difference. For example, when dealing with something as big as federal procurement, a 2% change can translate into a $2 Billion difference.

Give them the facts. People will support your idea for change more readily if you use fact-based data-driven analysis. This is the force of data versus the force of willing people into believing your words.

Have a good attitude. It is very powerful when you think, “I just want to solve this problem.” Joe Jordan also suggests to look for win-win solutions – “they are absolutely there.” Also, find someone who will give you real feedback, and therefore real development. Lastly, stop and smell the roses every once in a while (realize that what you do is a true public service and is making a difference).


Lara Galinsky has dedicated her work to helping people find their question, their big question that fascinates them and energizes them to affect social change. Her book “Work on Purpose” guides you to find your own social change path. Following are some action take-aways from Lara’s talk:

Find your big question. Those with great careers are guided by big questions -find your big question. Reflection is essential to help you put yourself on your “purpose path.” But don’t worry, if you don’t know what your big question is, read her book and the next tip!

Watch for your moment of obligation. There are moments when something moves you deeply and you feel you are obligated to take some action. These moments make you feel obliged to yourself and the world to solve a problem. An example: Kennedy Odede, the oldest of eight brothers and sisters born and raised in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. His big question was “how do we lift ourselves out of poverty and create a better life?” Out of poverty, he started SHOFCO, one of the first youth groups in Kibera founded and run by slum residents, worked with thousands of people on AIDS education, female empowerment, microfinance, sanitation, and community health.

Key Quote: “Whatever you choose to do, be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.”


Adam Nelson, an Olympian, should join the Federal Government – he has strong values that drive him, he is resilient and pushes even harder in the face of adversity, and he is humble. I loved that he came out asking jokingly “who would want to throw one of these,” referring to his shotput. Throughout his talk, he stressed:

Perseverance, the struggle, is what matters. Adam Nelson shared his story about training for and competing in the Olympics. He suffered a tough injury, and suffered the doubt of his sponsors. He said, “the struggle is important, not the end goal.”

Re-gain your center with your ideals. Adam Nelson said ideals and reality are a constant struggle for him, but it seemed that at the toughest times, his values pulled him through:

Key Quote: “When you feel self-doubt, look back to your ideals and why you’re doing this.”

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