From Drug Dealing in a Federal Prison to Crowdfunding Diplomacy: Your NextGen Speaker Contest Winners!

Remember back at the start of April when we asked you to help us decide the five finalists who would speak in a series of lightning talks at NextGen?

Well, you more than delivered. From over 150 entries and 1,800+ votes, we now have the five people who have been selected to share their story at the Next Generation of Government Training Summit taking place July 24th and 25th at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA.

Below, read the bios of the speakers you choose, and their amazing talks. And the next step? Sign up for NextGen to hear them live in person this July. These are five speakers you won’t want to miss.

Quinn Bott
Staff Pharmacist, Lieutenant
US Public Health Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons
Lessons Learned As A Drug Dealer In Federal Prison
I work with some real mean, intimidating, tough guys with something to prove. The inmates are pretty bad too. In pharmacy school they don’t teach you how to kick out a family of skunks that move into your building or make a grilled cheese sandwich on a clothing iron. These are lessons that this speaker had to learn the hard way – behind bars at America’s oldest federal penitentiary. This talk is based on the experiences of a pharmacist working inside a federal prison, where no matter what your job title is, you are first and foremost a member of the largest and strongest gang in the prison: the staff. Focused on accomplishing the mission despite austere internal and external environments, this talk will use anecdotes straight from the cell block to illustrate how using people skills and self-awareness can help you to navigate challenges and avoid conflict. This speaker will share how both convicts and correctional officers must use innovation and creativity to get by. In a position that can be rewarding, frightening, frustrating and fascinating often all in the same day – it takes a level of alertness, flexibility and tact to get the job done.

Daniella Foster
Director, Public-Private Partnerships
U.S. Department of State
Crowdfunding Diplomacy: The Next Frontier for Government?
Hailed as the democratization of finance, individuals, non-profits and companies have turned to crowdfunding (an alternative form of finance where money can be raised online through a crowdfunding platform from friends, family, extended networks and investors) to fund new projects, engaging their networks in the process, and enabling the community to curate ideas and fund over $2.6 billion last year. If you combined government’s ability to convene and accelerate projects globally with the crowdfunding platform’s ability to engage local communities and investors in projects, you would have a potentially game-changing impact on grassroots diplomacy and development. Why? Because in an era of budget cuts, the value that government brings to the table has shifted from funder to partner. And crowdfunding provides the ultimate platform for government to convene partners in the private sector and civil society around locally driven solutions that need financing. The model of government as the primary funder for social good initiatives is evolving as public-private partnerships are stepping in. I’ll cover three ways government can test-drive crowdfunding (and see if the democratization of finance is all it is cracked up to be).

Brian Gunia
Assistant Professor
Johns Hopkins University
The Next BIG Thing: Business School and Government
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Why can’t government be more like business?” It’s not a very thoughtful question. But we at Johns Hopkins University are trying to give it a thoughtful answer in order to help government organizations attain truly excellent performance. My lighting talk would describe how we’re doing that through our Business in Government (BIG) Initiative. In short, the BIG Initiative seeks to spark a mutually-beneficial discussion between two otherwise disparate institutions—business schools and national government organizations—on the topic of organizational performance. From business schools, we leverage organizational research to help government organizations and the people within them perform at their best, e.g., through innovative training programs. From government organizations, we leverage deep expertise with the challenges and constraints of the government world to help business schools generate new and equally innovative research. We differ from existing efforts in purpose (promoting organizational effectiveness, not policy), perspective (evidence-based, not experiential), and audience (any large organization that shapes national policy in any nation). My talk will describe our efforts but, more importantly, start a discussion about the many mutually-beneficial opportunities for business schools and government to systematically engage.

Kiyona Miah
Program Analyst,
U.S. Census Bureau
Beat Your Secret Confidence Killer
We all have it: a secret flaw, insecurity, a shortcoming. It could be all in our head, something we were bullied about, or a very real issue. Whatever the case, this insecurity has the potential to kill your confidence — but only if you let it. This talk will be about facing challenges and professional insecurities head on. I will provide tips and advice gained from my personal journey to conquer my secret confidence killer, which is public speaking. I will tell a brief story of how a young girl who used to stutter and mumble finally had enough of being quiet. I utilized resources around me such as Toastmasters, surrounded myself with a positive network for feedback, and tackled small speaking assignments. The completion of each speaking engagement gave me the confidence to speak more, refine my craft and take risks. Since my conscious decision to improve my public speaking skills, I have given presentations and briefings, provided voiceover for a tutorial, and appeared in internal Census videos. Most recently, facing my secret confidence killer gave me the guts to enter this contest and have the opportunity to encourage others to do the same.

Beth Payne
Director, Office of Children’s Issues,
Department of State
Building Resiliency
After I was diagnosed with PTSD due to a hotel bombing in Baghdad in 2003, I discovered that federal government officials often do not have the tools they need to build their own resiliency and for managers to build resiliency in their staff. I researched the subject and developed a presentation that I often give in the Department of State on how federal government officials, particularly those in the foreign affairs community, can build resiliency in order to minimize the impact of traumatic events. My talk starts with defining resiliency, the ability to bounce back after a significant emotional event. Then, I explain the common symptoms of low resiliency, using my own experience as an example. I’ll provide practical tips for building resiliency. I explain how individuals can use these tips to build their own resiliency and, even more important, how managers can build the resiliency of their staff. The impact of this presentation in the Department of State has been significant, leading to more resilient government officials who are more productive, innovative and content.

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Ann McFarlane

These are great topics! I sincerely hope these talks are videotaped and will be available online after the conference.