Each year, the Academy comes together for its Fall Meeting, where speakers from the private and nonprofit sectors, academics, and leaders from all levels of government discuss contemporary issues in public administration. The theme for 2022 was strengthening social and economic development through meaningful work, which is one of the Academy’s 12 Grand Challenges.
Through Federalism.us, the Academy’s Center for Intergovernmental Partnerships has developed a multi-part series to recap Fall Meeting. It will discuss individual sessions on leveraging technology and data, creating inclusive workplaces, fostering job growth and equity, and how intergovernmental strategies advance the dialogue to make work more meaningful. But before we discuss how each area contributes to that goal, we must discuss what we mean when we say that work ought to be meaningful because meaningful can have many definitions depending on the person you ask, or the context used.
Meaningful work, from an economic perspective, could be work that affords an individual enough economic means to care for oneself, pay for housing and utilities, or consistently have access to nutritious food and transportation.
Simultaneously, and no less importantly, a social justice perspective would require a workplace with fair and equitable policies, value systems that respect work-life balance, or good corporate citizenship to meet the qualifications of meaningful work. We can even view meaningful work through a profoundly philosophical or spiritual lens. Does the work we do positively contribute to our self-actualization? Does our work give us a sense of purpose?
The Academy considered the multifaceted benefits of meaningful work when developing the 12 Grand Challenges and produced a definition of meaningful work that includes many perspectives. It declares that humans have an innate quest for meaning and that our jobs have both instrumental and intrinsic value. Further, the Academy recognizes that meaningful work has cascading effects on numerous topics and must consider emerging threats, such as:
- Tax revenue
- Health insurance coverage
- Automation of jobs
- Systemic barriers
In the process of defining meaningful work, the Academy declared it would work with all relevant stakeholders to determine how to:
- Create lifelong learning systems,
- Identify innovative and successful workforce training programs with broad scalability,
- Detail needed reforms
- Align education, training, and social welfare policies and programs to the new world of work.
In the following posts, you will learn about various perspectives on meaningful work. The series will cover workplace inclusion efforts for neurodiverse employees and strategies to foster Gen Z recruitment in public service in Connecticut. You will also learn how state and local governments can harness technology and data to address complex workforce issues such as automation, immigration, unionization, and attrition rates in community colleges or other trade programs. Finally, the Center’s Director, Dr. Nancy Augustine, will discuss how intergovernmental strategies advance meaningful work dialogue. Her piece will examine actionable steps private and nonprofit sectors, academics, and leaders from all levels of government can take to make work more meaningful in an increasingly interconnected world.
This is the first of a five-part series on meaningful work. Read about job growth equity in meaningful work and creating meaningful work through inclusive workplaces.