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NextGen Summit: GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini Keynote Recap

We're blogging from the Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Follow along @NextGenGov and read more blog posts here.

This week GovLoop and Young Government Leaders are hosting their annual Next Generation of Government Leaders Summit. Throughout the summit, be sure to check GovLoop and our social media sites to keep up with all the latest from the summit. We’re really excited about this year – and hope to share the experience with all of you.

If you’re unfamiliar with NextGen, the annual training summit educates, inspires and promotes innovation for new and rising leaders in government. Since 2010, the two-day summit has enhanced the professional and personal lives of 2,000+ Generation X and Y government employees, who are excited to learn new skills to innovate.

To kick off two remarkable days, Dan Tangherlini, Administrator of the US General Services Administration (GSA), provided our morning keynote presentation. Since joining the agency, he has served a vital role in President Barack Obama’s agenda to build a more sustainable, responsible and effective government for the American people. GSA is responsible for improving the government’s workplace by managing assets, delivering maximum value in acquisitions, preserving historic property, and implementing technology solutions

“I really appreciate all of you who have committed to public service, you are making sacrifices, but will reap the rewards of doing something that is more meaningful than a product or service, and really making a difference in the world, so I wanted to start by giving you all a round of applause for serving,” Tangherlini said, to an audience of 600+ public sector professionals.

Tangherlini continued by expressing some of the challenges that his agency faces and the work.

Re-Imagining the Government Work Environment

GSA has been one of the leaders in telework and flexible work. With their hoteling system, employees rent locations within the building for blocks of time to conduct work. Tangherlini showed an image of the GSA office, which looked more like a Silicon Valley startup than what one would think a government agency looks like.

The open environment is designed to help create a collaborative environment and encourage communication across teams, and hopefully attract individuals to public service. “It’s really important that we find the best and brightest, bring them into government service and give them opportunities to make a difference,” said Tangherlini.

“The simple fact is that our space needs to represent the way we work, we interact, the way we socialize, and frankly the way we should go to market or receive things from market. ”

Changing Expectations of Government

Another challenge that Tangherlini noted was the changing expectations of government, and they way it must deliver services to citizens. When you think about it, a lot has changed over the past decade. Tangherlini used the example of Blockbuster – when you had to physically go to the store to rent a movie, and how that model has been radically changed by technology. With those changes in our private lives, citizens and government employees now anticipate government to adapt as well.

“The question is: given this transformation, how do we apply it to work that we do everyday?” asked Tangherlini. One of the ways that GSA has done this is through GSA Link, which is a new way to monitor GSA buildings and facilities. Through this program, GSA has deployed sensors within government buildings to measure all different kinds of utilities, such as electricity, fans, motors, escalators and various other important building elements. Tangherlini noted that in one building, they were able to reduce their carbon footprint and save over 800,000 dollars in one year, just by making better use of existing data, and turning data into insights.

The GSA Link example is a great case study on the power of data to make better and more informed decisions. But the power of data extends much further. Tangherlini reminded the audience of the power of open data, and how through various open data initiatives, agencies have been able to build markets and support economic development. With the volumes of data available today, there is no doubt that open data is an important focus moving forward for GSA, and the federal government.

Creating the Government Startup

Tangherlini also made note of another important initiative at GSA, 18F, an initiative that builds effective, user-centric digital services focused on the interaction between government and the people and businesses it serves. We help agencies deliver on their mission through the development of digital and web services. The newly formed organization, within the General Services Administration, encompasses the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and an in-house digital delivery team. “We are very excited about this group and what we believe will be a new approach across the government,” Tangherlini said.

Tangherlini closed his presentation by challenging the audience to become bureaucratic firefighters within their agency, and to run to the fire, instead of from it.

“I’d challenge you to work with your team the way firefighters do, that's the only way to deliver services in the way that American citizens deserve, and make our agencies more efficient and effective. That’s what this whole conference is about, and that’s why it’s so exciting to be here today,” said Tangherlini.

Tangherlini’s presentation was a great way to start off NextGen, and served as a way to remind public sector professionals of the importance of their work and the power they have to improve the lives of Americans.

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