It has happened more than once, I’m telling a colleague or peer about my experience with ELGL and then I get the question. “So what do they do?”. I’m stunned, stopped in my tracks, confronted with a question that I thought I was in the midst of adequately answering.
The question itself reveals more than the answer, because ELGL provides a different experience for everyone. ELGL has its roots in the Pacific Northwest and I admittedly was not there for its beginning. However, urban myth widely agrees that it started small. Aspiring professionals began to congregate over the lunch hour and discuss all aspects of local government. From humble beginnings, we’ve arrived today at a growing organization with a national foot print.
In order to answer the question at hand, I’d suggest we focus on what differentiates local government from other public sector organizations. Local government tends to be small, at least compared to the stereotypical bureaucracies which often characterize larger government entities. More often than not local government is non-partisan, reflecting the fact that “community” implies a certain degree of inclusivity. To borrow from John Nalbandian, “community” is the sphere in which we come together. Being part of community requires a connection to a place called “home”, sharing in it’s success and failures together. From my perspective, it’s a strong sense of community which makes ELGL stand out. It’s not the same streets, parks, or geography that tie ELGL members together, it’s a shared bond defined by a drive to improve the places we call “home” through innovative leadership and the development of effective organizations.
Despite these well crafted self affirming statements, the question of what ELGL does still remains unanswered. What is ELGL doing so well that members representing 20+ states continue to join, along with growing chapters in the Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest? At at 50,000 foot level, ELGL is preparing the next generation of leaders to take on new challenges, a goal which ELGL does not have the illusion of maintaining a monopoly. ELGL directly addresses the preeminent challenge facing local government of attracting and retaining talented professionals. That in itself is a two part challenge. Once aspiring professionals enter the field of local government, ELGL offers a platform for original content which reflects the way a new generation of leaders are thinking, viewing, and perceiving the profession as well as the communities we serve.
As of lately, I would describe ELGL as being the “liberal arts” of local government management. The ELGL network draws from professionals in all aspects of local government without bias to explore our motivations and cultivate leadership. ELGL is producing content that connects leadership, expertise, and innovation throughout the public and private sector. The content produced by ELGL engages members in formats they are comfortable, blending professional development with the habits of an emerging generation of leaders. Most importantly, it supplements existing information and continues the conversations which captivate aspiring professionals. Member events including Twittersations and micro-networking “connect the dots”, allowing individuals to further explore the concepts they find intriguing.
All buzz words aside, ELGL puts a face on local government. The face ELGL highlights isn’t the glamour shot used on LinkedIn. The face ELGL shows is the one that acknowledges there are real people at City Hall. You’ll find that ELGL recognizes the fact that even professionals make mistakes and more importantly learn from them. It’s the key career moments, when we find ourselves out of our comfort zone in shoes too big to fill, that ELGL reassures us that others have been here before.
In summation, I have one more piece of information to offer. ELGL Midwest recently shared a Tweet:
Why would talented professionals want to leave well-established careers and well-paying jobs to work in government?http://t.co/nhhXzgkLqD
— Midwest ELGL (@MidwestELGL) February 5, 2014
It referred to a group which facilitates private sector professionals to take an off year and spend it sharing their services with the public sector. It was an intriguing article that calls attention to the changing role and relationship between the public and private sector. However, I’d propose another question: Why would talented professionals want to forgo careers and high paying jobs in the private sector to work in government? Being a member of ELGL, I haven’t had to look hard to find an answer.
What does ELGL do? We are a community of talented and capable individuals that are aspiring to redefine the expectations of local government leadership.