Category: Membership

Community Engagement and COVID-19: 12 Things You Can Do To Help Right Now

Community Engagement and COVID-19: 12 Things You Can Do To Help Right Now

Stop Asking “Why” and Start Asking “How”

Written by Kelly Joy, Director of Community Engagement


Note: We will continue to edit this blog post as needs and opportunities are rapidly changing in our community. Feel free to reach out with questions or suggestions by commenting on this blog post! 

This really sucks. It sucks for people, it sucks for businesses, and it sucks for our community. The social fabric of our society is, for the time being, irreparably altered. Try not to ask yourself “why?” because there is no real answer. And you honestly wouldn’t feel better even if there were an answer. Instead of asking “why,” I implore you instead to shift your thinking to asking “how.” 

So “how” do we all cope with it all? The first answer is gratitude. Whenever I am stuck in a rut of feeling like the weight of the world is pressing on my chest, I challenge myself to think of something I am thankful for. It can feel difficult at the time, but it still doesn’t usually take long to think of something. For example, having a job at this time feels more like a privilege now than it did two weeks ago. I’m grateful for technology that allows me to keep in close contact with my friends and family when I can’t see them in person. At an even more fundamental level, I am grateful to have a roof over my head and food in my fridge. I feel fortunate that all of my family members are healthy — this isn’t the case for many. 

No matter how bad things feel, we can always be grateful for something. It can be easy to fall into the trap of asking “Why did this happen?” or “Why do I need to cancel this important event?” or “Why can’t I travel on this planned vacation?” or “Why does this feel so sad?” I encourage you instead to ask “How can I help?”

You may not be able to fix all of the problems in this world, but I promise you, you can do something. Take comfort in that fact. You can help. You can make a difference for others, and the bonus is that it will actually make you feel better, too. 

Here are actual, manageable actions that you can take to help others in your community. If you live in Sacramento, I have included links to local organizations actively seeking help. 

1. Donate blood

Hospitals and other medical facilities are on overdrive right now with an expected surge in patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an urgent blood shortage in many places to meet this high demand. Many planned blood drives needed to cancel with all of the recent orders to shelter in place, but blood banks are still open and strongly encouraging donations. Every donation can save up to three lives! 

How you can help: The American Red Cross has a tool to look up blood drives in your area. In Sacramento, you can make an appointment directly with Vitalant (previously known as BloodSource). Note that there are some travel and health restrictions to donate. 

2. Foster a pet

Local animal shelters have been hit with a double whammy. People aren’t coming to adopt animals right now, and shelter employees are staying home in order to quarantine or self-isolate. This leads shelters to have lower capacity to keep and take care of the animals, and some are even at risk of closing.

How you can help: If you are in a position right now where you can foster a pet —- especially a dog — contact your local animal shelter to ask if they need animal fosters. In Sacramento, the Sacramento SPCA is in need of emergency foster parents for large dogs. Added bonus: a new pal to keep you company while working remotely!

3. Support local businesses

Local businesses have been hit so hard right now. Foot traffic for restaurants is at a standstill, and people are no longer frequenting dine-in restaurants at all.

How you can help: You can do a lot even just by grabbing take out from a local (especially family-owned) restaurant that is still open. You can also purchase gift cards to use at a later time. This gives the business your money now to get them through this tough time, and you can redeem the gift card later. Some local businesses have continued to operate, but have moved sales online, including Capital Books on K, Shop Cuffs, and Oak Park’s Strapping. Many local businesses are running promotions as well, including Elevation Ten Winery, which is currently offering 30% off all wine as well as $5 shipping for orders of four bottles or more. If you’re wondering if your favorite local restaurant is still offering takeout or curbside pick-up, this spreadsheet lists local restaurants and the services they still offer. Check out their social media accounts for the latest updates.

Also, if you have a recurring payment to a local business like a gym, coworking space or child-care provider, try to keep that commitment if you can, even if the business has been forced to close temporarily. 

4. Tip Well

The workers preparing take-out orders and delivering our groceries are busier than ever and are offering us an essential service. Many of these people are also worried about contracting the virus and about the health of their own friends and family. Some are taking on this type of “gig” work because they were suddenly displaced from their normal job. You can give extra support to these people who are giving extra support to us.

How you can help: Tip more than you usually would if you have the means. Those of us who are steadily employed can do our part to keep the service industry thriving.

5. Pick up trash

You’ll be surprised how much trash is outside once you start looking for it. It’s a big, gross problem that doesn’t get better unless someone does something about it. You can be that someone.

How you can help: If you are going outside for some kind of “essential” activity, you can bring gloves and a bag and pick up trash you see on the way. This is a great way to beautify the community, and it is an especially great activity for introverts and/or those who thrive on instant gratification. You can immediately see and measure the impact of your few minutes outside making things nicer for everyone. It also comes with the bonus of giving you an excuse to spend an extra couple minutes outside.

6. Call your friends and family

Of all of the coronavirus-related content online, one of my favorites thus far has been: “Introverts: Put down your book and check on your extroverted friends. They are not okay.” Everyone is struggling right now, and just because we can’t be in the same room anymore does not mean that we can’t still support one another. And no, your extroverted friends are not okay.

How you can help: This one is pretty self-explanatory, but here are some extra things to consider. Make sure to check in on family and friends, especially people you know in high-risk groups, including ones who are immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions, are over 65 years old, etc. 

Some specific strategies: Group messages, FaceTime or video chat, Marco Polo, and call your grandparents! (And also text the extroverts.)

7. Donate

So many nonprofits are struggling right now. If you have money to donate, there is no shortage of worthy causes to donate to. There are also causes you can donate goods to as opposed to cash donations.

How you can help: Pick a cause, any cause! There are seriously so many, but some are especially impacted by this recent epidemic. Causes that are supporting people affected by job loss, medical expenses, school closures, etc. are all doing very important work that deserves support. If you are in a position to give, give to a cause you feel passionately about. If you are looking for particular examples, here are a couple to choose from:

YMCA: The YMCA has opened up emergency childcare centers for parents adversely affected by school closures (across the country, from what I can tell). Most parents — including “essential” workers like doctors, nurses, social workers, emergency responders, etc. — rely on school or daycare for their children in order to work. 

Starting Point for Refugee Children: Starting Point is a Sacramento-based nonprofit that supports newly-arrived children and families by providing them with necessities for their new lives. Starting Point is in need of basic goods such as rice, flour, sugar, pasta, dried beans, nuts and dried fruit. If you have picked up any extra of these goods in your recent bulk-shopping trips, you can donate some to Starting Point directly or through NxtGov’s upcoming drive for this charity. (Reach out and/or follow us on social media for more information on our drive coming soon!)

Sacramento Loaves & Fishes: Sacramento Loaves and Fishes is a local charity that has an ongoing needs list of supplies for people in the community who are in need of basic necessities. The list includes toilet paper, diapers, blankets, reusable water bottles, backpacks, tents, batteries, clothes and pet food. 

Save Our Local Restaurants: Mayor Steinberg has joined forces with local chambers of commerce and other community partners to support Sacramento’s locally-owned bars and restaurants from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. These business owners and employees have been profoundly affected, and donating to the Save Our Local Restaurants GoFundMe  will help these local businesses stay afloat during this difficult time. 

Mask Match: You have likely already heard about the shortage of protective gear for healthcare workers, which leaves them more at risk of contracting COVID-19. Mask Match is a platform that helps connect people with spare masks to healthcare facilities who need them right now to protect their employees. If you have any spare N95, P95, R95 or surgical masks, you can fill out an online form to be matched with an organization that is currently seeking donations.

Donate4Sac: A fund specifically created to give back to Sacramento. You may choose to have your contribution used in one of five ways:

  1. Support for Families. This funding adds to the United Way California Capital Region’s COVID-19 Local Relief Fund to provide childcare, meals, rental assistance and other essential resources for families whose lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  2. Support for Small Businesses. This support leverages and supplements the City of Sacramento’s Small Business Emergency Relief Fund for zero-interest loans to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and their employees.
  3. Services for Our Unhoused Neighbors. Providing services through area nonprofits to unhoused Sacramentans, such as emergency shelters, hygiene stations and other solutions to meet their needs.
  4. Nonprofit Support. This funding will be distributed through the Sacramento Region Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund, which will rapidly deploy flexible resources to nonprofits working with communities impacted by COVID-19.
  5. General Support. Flexible funding to provide support beyond the areas identified above and wherever it is most needed.

Choose your own: Want to find another nonprofit not listed here? Check out GreatNonprofits to find one you feel passionately about.  

8. Volunteer

If it is easier for you to give your time than it is money right now, there are a number of emergency and essential service providers that are still operating and need people like you to volunteer and help. 

How you can help: Reach out to local nonprofits and inquire about whether they are in need of any volunteers. Below are some local examples in the Sacramento area:

Sacramento 2-1-1: Sacramento’s local information line, 2-1-1, has a need for volunteers to help provide information to callers asking about COVID-19 and the city’s response. There are multiple opportunities for shifts between 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services: As an essential services provider, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services remains open and and is dealing with increased demand. There is always a need for volunteers to sort and bag food for the community, and food bank staff will ensure social distancing requirements are followed. (Donations of cash, food and clothes to the Sacramento Food Bank are also accepted.)

Sacramento Loaves & Fishes Family Kitchen: Sacramento Loaves and Fishes is an organization providing hot, nutritious meals to low-income and disadvantaged people in the community. They need volunteers to help prepare and distribute meals.

Sacramento City United School District: SCUSD is asking for volunteers to provide meals for students.

CalVolunteers:  CalVolunteers has a list of California nonprofit organizations and food banks at the front lines in need of volunteers.

9. Boost morale

Remote work and social distancing are big transitions for many in our community. Even for the people who seem to be going about their day as normal, all of the drastic changes in our society have taken a toll. You can do a lot by doing an unexpected act of kindness for others.

How you can help: If you are still going to work as an essential worker, you can bring (individually-packaged) snacks for your coworkers, for example. If you are working remotely, find ways to connect with your coworkers via video. Try to bring positivity and levity to your work. You can also do something similar for others who are still working right now, even if you aren’t. You can even double up on your support by supporting a local business with your purchase!

10. Connect with the needs in your city/neighborhood

Even over the course of writing this article, the needs in our community have changed. New needs pop up while other needs are filled. Getting in touch with the needs in your local community will help you stay connected with how to get involved and help during this challenging time. 

How you can help: Hands on Sacramento is a site that constantly posts new volunteer opportunities in the local area. There is also a Sacramento COVID Volunteer Corps Facebook group that you can join to see needs people are posting in real time. There is also an ongoing Google sheet called Sacramento COVID-19 Mutual Aid 2020 that is tracking needs of individual people in the community. You can help by checking the sheet and providing some help when and where you can. #UniteSac and has an extensive collection of resources and ideas to help out our neighbors in this time of need.  Also, platforms like Nextdoor can help connect you to what is going on in your area (though it isn’t specific to volunteer or donation opportunities). 

11. Self Care

Charity begins at home. If you are mustering all of your effort just to get out of bed in the morning, prioritize taking care of yourself right now. And maybe let others step in to support and help you take care of your needs right now. 

How you can help: Give yourself permission to meet your needs without any judgment or self-criticism. Take a step back from the deluge of social media posts if you need to. In many cases, the most valuable thing we can do is to ask for help. People want to help right now, and they probably don’t know you need it unless/until you ask.

If you do feel like you need some extra help right now, there are companies like TalkSpace providing remote counseling and therapy sessions. Or if you could just use a bit of a break from this socially-distant world, here are a few resources that can help break up the routine of spending so much time at home:

12. Be part of the solution

One of the most helpful things you can do right now is something you are (hopefully!) already doing: listen to everyone telling you to practice “social distancing.” Staying home and refraining from socializing with others is not ideal, but it is what we need right now. If you are already doing this, give yourself a pat on the back. This isn’t easy, and you are already acting in a way that is benefiting the community!

How you can help: Listen to guidelines from the Center for Disease Control, your local health department (e.g. CDPH in California) and other government/community leaders, and take this seriously! These directives continue to change based on the status of the number and location of COVID-19 cases, so follow updates from these trusted sources and act accordingly.

How can you mobilize across generations to transform public service?

How can you mobilize across generations to transform public service?

A beginning…

(1 of 3)  Four years ago NxtGov was an ambition. It was born out of a government improvement initiative and the need for a space for public servants to feel like they belong.

Over the years, I have seen several iterations of this movement. These iterations include a few name changes and failed experiments, but most importantly, they have included the names and faces of the people that have each contributed to the growth of NxtGov.

As the national political environment has questioned the role and efficacy of the public sector, we have been inspired and determined to uplift our public sector ethic and make permanent important spaces like NxtGov. Today, NxtGov is a reality that continues to grow, with the dedication of our members and brave leaders that step up when opportunity calls. 

Opportunity is calling:

We are recruiting leaders that will help us lead NxtGov through its next chapter- NxtGov as a non-profit!  

We are looking for leadership in the following open roles:

  • Board Position
  • Council Positions:

Timeline:

  • 10/11: Nominations Opened!
  • 11/4 @ lunch and 11/5 after work: info sessions!
  • 11/8: Nominations Closed
  • 11/19: Board Member Announced & Endorsements for Director Positions Close
  • 12/1:  Directors Announced

Process:

  1. Full description of the roles and timeline can be found here: http://bit.ly/NxtGovExecElectionPositions
  2. The Nomination form can be found here. (CLOSED) http://bit.ly/2019NxtGovNominations
  3. RSVP for Election Event: RSVP
  4. Meet the Candidates and Vote! 

READ ON… How did we get here? [2 of 3]; What is next? [3 of 3]

For any questions about the upcoming opportunities and changes, don’t hesitate to contact us at collaborate@nxtgov.org


Path to Public Service Profile Featuring Andrew Kehoe

Path to Public Service Profile Featuring Andrew Kehoe

Andrew found his way into public service through political campaigns where he has been able to work with elected leaders on policy development, community engagement, and programming in several portfolios. 

Name: Andrew Kehoe

Job Title: Civic Engagement Liaison & Thousand Strong Program Manager, City of Sacramento

Recommended Reading: Wow, way too many books that I will just talk your ear off about. 

Non-Fiction: Anything by Hunter S. Thompson or Jon Krakauer, 

Fiction: Cormac McCarthy and Philip K Dick.

Song stuck in your head right now OR Song you wish you didn’t like: I always have the Teddybears remix of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees stuck in my head when I am walking around town. It may actually be a medical condition. 9/10, would recommend. 

What was your path into public service?

My path to public service was through political campaigns. I worked as an intern in political offices and then on various campaigns for issues and elected leaders. Political offices are by nature a little different than much of the public service positions out there. Working for them, I got to work with elected leaders on policy development, community engagement, and programming in several portfolios. 

Before I got into public service, I worked for a Fortune 500 company and the end result of all my work was really just a stock price. I enjoyed the people I worked with but never felt totally fulfilled by the goal of my job. I decided I would restart my career and became a 31-year-old intern in the legislature. 

I have stayed in public service for two big reasons: For one, I want to affect change in a positive way in the place where I grew up. At the City I am able to do that in a way that moves fast and has the latitude to try things that may only work in a unique place like Sacramento. I also enjoy the diversity of work. On any given day I could be working on a newsletter, typing a brief for the Mayor, hosting a stakeholder engagement session on a new program, and writing some policy recommendations. It never gets old. 

What do you do in your current position, and what is something you are working on right now? 

My role in the Sacramento Mayor’s office is a bit of a swiss army knife type job. I do some program administration, some policy analysis, some communications and “other duties as assigned,” like planning community office hours or helping a constituent navigate our permitting department. 

Right now, I am very proud of the college savings account program I have been working on with my community partners at United Way. We are giving kindergarteners at select schools $25 in a Scholarshare account just for being enrolled in the school. Their parents can add money to this and we will match it up to a certain amount, and there are additional incentives for parents as well. We hope to ensure that, regardless of what a child does after they graduate, they have some money saved up for college, a technical certificate, or special vocational training.

What cautionary tip would you give to someone looking for a job in state public service? 

Campaigns are hard work. It is some of the hardest work you will ever do. It is also one of the best ways to get connected to an elected official if that is the route you want to take in public service. You will work harder than you ever have in your life. When you win, it is the best feeling in the world. When you lose, it is soul crushing, but you learn a lot. Go join a campaign!!

Final Thoughts

There is no right way into public service. Find the job that really speaks to you and don’t be reluctant to apply for something that might stretch your skills and abilities in new ways.

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

NxtGov and St. John’s Worked Together to Celebrate Children in the Program for Real Change by Hosting a Birthday Party

By Kelly Joy, NxtGov’s Community Engagement Marketing Chair

In April, NxtGov’s Community Engagement Team worked with members of Project Birthday to throw a joint birthday party for a dozen different children at St. John’s Program for Real Change. St. John’s provides a safe and welcoming environment for women and children who have experienced severe trauma such as domestic violence and homelessness. St. John’s hosts a community of these women and children, and the center provides housing and intensive support in a structured program that lasts between 12 and 18 months for each family. As part of these efforts, St. John’s has community birthday parties every month for all of the children with birthdays in that month. 

While preparing to host April’s birthday party at St. John’s, members of the Community Engagement Team planned out a theme, designed activities, collected party supplies and picked out gifts for each of the birthday kids. NxtGov members also reached out to their personal and professional networks and found additional donors who wanted to contribute presents for the children at the party. Mini profiles with the children’s names and interests were sent about each of the kids to the donors ahead of time. This helped the NxtGov members and community donors personalize the gifts for each child to make them feel as happy and well celebrated as possible for their birthdays.

I was so excited to see the profile of the little boy that I matched with and learn more about him. He was in elementary school and his interests included cars, fire trucks and Paw Patrol. I also noticed that his wish list also had a “light jacket” and for a moment my heart sank. My excitement reconciled with the gravity of the situation. I flashed back to the time I asked my mom about what to get a friend’s child. “Kids never ask for clothes for their birthday,” she said. I thought of my mom’s “rule” when I read the request for a jacket next to the list of possible kids’ toys I had expected. In that moment, I saw not only the wishes of a little boy on his birthday, but also a mother’s stress to provide for all the necessities of a growing boy in a challenging time.  I was reminded that although St. John’s has a wonderfully supportive program, being there is never a family’s “Plan A.” I don’t know what led to this particular family to go to St. John’s, but I also have to admit that I’m not sure that I can even imagine why. I am a mother to a toddler, and I can’t fathom how much stress I would be under not feeling like we had a stable permanent home to stay at night. Or a safe one. That is the reality of many of the women and children who go to St. John’s. And for the hundreds of others on their waiting list. I couldn’t solve whatever may have led the family to St. John’s, but I could do something to help make a birthday special for a little boy who might already be growing up way too fast. 

The day of the birthday party, the Community Engagement Team mobilized to put all of our brainstorming into action. Dozens of balloons were blown up and put on the wall, tables and floor. Volunteers filled up plastic eggs and a piñata with candy, and the presents were all collected and set up along with enough cupcakes for all of the birthday kids and all of the other kids in the community that attended the party – more than 50 in total! Each of the birthday kids had a special name tag to show that it was their birthday, and they looked so happy when they were personally greeted and wished a happy birthday by each of the volunteers. The party flew by with all of the fun activities. The biggest hits with the kids were the egg hunt and piñata. After the party games, everyone gathered in the main room inside to sing happy birthday over cupcakes and watch the birthday boys and girls open presents. An already happy day became a very special one for each of the birthday kids as they opened their presents and saw something from their wish lists. I watched a young boy open up the present I had picked out for him. He unwrapped the jacket first and immediately passed it to his mom. (I couldn’t help but think that my mom continued her streak of being right about everything.) He then opened the Paw Patrol police car and figurines, and I saw the reaction I hoped he would have when opening his birthday present. He then immediately shared the figurines with his younger sister so they could both play together. “Wow,” I reflected for a moment to myself. “Kindness begets kindness.”

Among all the activity, I noticed the kids weren’t the only ones smiling and laughing. I noticed many of the parents also seemed caught up in the fun of the moment seeing their kids so excited to be celebrated. I also looked around and saw all of the smiles on the faces on all of the faces of the volunteers. We all wanted this event to be special for the kids and their families, and it was emotional to see all of our planning and coordinating turn into not only a successful event, but also such a rewarding one for this wonderful group of women and children.


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Path to Public Service Featuring Megan Miller

Path to Public Service Featuring Megan Miller

Megan Miller has been able to find meaning in public service as a Grants Manager, where she will be in charge of issuing awards to grantees and program oversight from the grants management perspective for the Emergency Solutions Grants Program and the California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program.

Name: Megan M. Miller

Job Title: Grants Manager (SSMI), Division of Financial Services, CA Department of Housing & Community Development

Recommended Reading: 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (not necessarily to literally strive towards a 4 hour workweek but for the efficiencies & lifestyle balance it promotes)

What was your path into public service?

After almost ten years of corporate work in the private sector and on the outside having a “successful” career, my work often left me personally unfulfilled. I wanted to do work that mattered to the community around me to be able to have a greater impact in the Sacramento community that has become so dear to me and in my broader home state of California.

When brainstorming career opportunities that would be most meaningful to me, I immediately thought of the homeless population and the need for affordable housing for all Californians. From both angles – for the purpose of providing every human being in the Sacramento community with a place to sleep and for the purpose of providing safe, clean communities for all residents – the issues that we’re trying to solve truly resonate with me. I am excited to see the increased focus and spending on providing homeless assistance and affordable housing and I am honored to now be a part of the solution in Grants Management.

What do you do in your current position, and what is something you are working on right now?

I just started in my position this past week and will be in charge of issuing awards to grantees and program oversight from the grants management perspective for the Emergency Solutions Grants Program and the California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program.

What cautionary tip would you give to someone looking for a job in state service?

Have patience and plan to spend 2-4 months or more in the application process from your first application to your start date in your new state position. There is a lot of hiring going on right now, especially within my department, which is great, but that also means the HR teams have a lot on their plates and the process from application through interview and hiring can take some time. Also, take as many exams as you’re qualified for and apply to a couple of positions a day until you land your job.

What resource/advice/practice did you find most helpful when applying for jobs in public service?

The email notifications feature in the job posting sites, especially CalCareers and governmentjobs.com were great in notifying me as soon as a position that fit my search criteria. Also I found it invaluable to connect with the people currently working in public service, especially via LinkedIn, NxtGov and those working at CalHR to learn about their career path – both from the perspective of learning about individual positions and about how those individuals obtained their current positions in state service. Everyone I had a chance to speak with was incredibly open to sharing their experiences. 

What was your strategy for applying to public service positions? In hindsight, would you change your approach?

Luckily, early on I got the advice to apply to lots and lots of positions and to expect maybe one interview per ten applications, so my approach was to find and apply to as many positions as I was interested and qualified for which really helped me set my expectations accordingly. The one thing I would have changed was to confirm and ask for an above minimum starting salary prior to accepting.


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Safe and Open Playground Space

Safe and Open Playground Space

Adventure Playground, a space for all children to explore and learn through free play.

By: Araceli Mohseni, NxtGov Member

In early March of this year, NxtGov partnered with the Sacramento Adventure Playground, a free after-school youth development program for ages six to fifteen. Adventure Playground is unique in its conception and mission: to promote the imagination, creativity and education of children. The very first Adventure Playground was founded in Copenhagen, and was originally known as a junk playground, where urban children were able to build their own spaces and structures using real tools, raw materials, and cooperation. Much like its predecessor, Sacramento’s own Adventure Playground allows children the freedom to play indoors and outdoors with raw materials like tires, cardboard, planks and paint.

On a gloomy Saturday in early March, NxtGov volunteers gathered around Director Steve Claude for orientation before Adventure Playground’s operating hours. It had just rained and the skies were dark and dreary. As I stepped into Sacramento’s Adventure Playground, I was aware of the raw materials on the premises. Tires, wood, cardboard, buckets, fish tanks, couches and giant blocks seemed to be all around making the space feel cluttered. And yet, as the orientation progressed, Steve clearly defined the different stations of the playground. There was the crafting station where children would be encouraged to build their own robots with raw and recycled materials, and hot glue guns! The pet station was adjacent to the crafting station, and upon closer inspection, it hosted a variety of animals including fish and madagascar roaches. The children would be allowed to “pet” the roaches after earning enough currency by picking up pieces of trash. The bank was meant to teach children the power of currency and delayed gratification; the more you saved your currency, the more you could “afford” to buy select items or time with the popular madagascar roaches. There was also a clay station and a kaleidoscope crafting station. There were giant building blocks and recycled couches that had found a happy home at Adventure Playground. During the orientation, Steve mentioned that we were to supervise and assist the children interested working at the different stations. Yet, Steve was quick to point out that were also meant to encourage kids to play freely and if they choose to build a robot, they were absolutely allowed to use the hot glue guns.

As a new mother to a one-year old, I was a little on the edge. Were we to allow children to roam free, to play with raw materials that could be potentially dangerous? Yes! And I quickly understood why. After our volunteer session, I reflected on what I saw, happy children engaged in play with each other and with their surroundings. It had rained the day before and the children took full advantage of the mud pits outdoors. I saw children running, jumping off the building blocks and enjoying the slides. Children built their robots and crafted clay creations while others were fully invested in petting the roaches. Our natural tendency to explore, create and learn from play are innate to us, and children covet this style of discovery and education. It was difficult for me to reckon with a model of play so different from what I grew up in. Growing up in an immigrant family, my parents worked multiple jobs to make ends meet, which limited their free time. They did not have time to supervise my sister and I, and they were constantly worried about our safety. We lived in a cramped two-bedroom apartment on the worst part of town, where dumpsters overflowed, cars screeched through the streets on multiple occasions colliding with the brick wall at the end of the cul-de-sac, and where drugs were sold, purchased and consumed. Because of these circumstances, my parents prohibited us from playing outdoors. We were meant to walk directly home, shut the door behind us, and under no circumstances were we to open it. This meant endless weekday evenings indoors. What I would have given to have had an Adventure Playground in my neighborhood! To run, jump and explore the outdoors alongside other children. 

As a new mother to a little one, I am happy to know there is a place like Adventure Playground where supervision is secondary to exploration so that my little one can grow up unafraid and emboldened by the power of play. Currently, about 1,000 adventure playgrounds exist in Europe, largely in Denmark, Switzerland, France, German, the Netherlands and England. Japan has a number of Adventure playgrounds as well. This European model of an after school program encourages play as a way to develop the imagination, creativity and education of children. It provides the space for children to learn and grow and relies on volunteers like the members of NxtGov to provide adult supervision and help with cleanup and set-up. Perhaps more importantly, it provides children of all income levels with the open space they need to roam indoors and outdoors in a safe and engaging environment. 


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Path to Service Profile featuring Laura Carr

Path to Service Profile featuring Laura Carr

Name: Laura Carr

Job Title: Air Pollution Specialist

Recommended Reading: Walkable City by Jeff Speck

What was your path into public service?

Lots of my family have had careers in the public sector, so I grew up with public service in the back of my mind as an option that was not only viable but attractive, presenting an opportunity to help people and leverage the power of government for good. Two environmental studies classes in high school posed big, concerning questions about the state of the planet, and a B.A. in environmental policy provided both a framework to grapple with them and further confirmation for me that policy work in the public sector was the best pressure point to try to address them. I volunteered part-time at a Caltrans district office to get experience working for the State, and then committed fully to that millennial rite of passage, the unpaid internship, at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research in Sacramento. The internship evolved into a paid position, which I held for more than a year before opting to go back to school for a brief ten-month stint to earn an M.S. in economics. Four months after completing my Master’s, I got the job I’d been envisioning since college at the California Air Resources Board (CARB). I’m hoping for and planning on a full career in public service. The work is fulfilling, the colleagues are inspiring, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead.

What do you do in your current position, and what is something you are working on right now?

At CARB, I’m part of the air quality planning staff, focusing on the San Joaquin Valley. The planning effort to clean the air and meet national air quality standards involves putting together usually quite lengthy documents laying out the strategy to cut emissions. Earlier this year, I helped write and compile a thousand-page plan for the Valley that had been in the works for well over two years—longer than I’ve been with the agency. Now that the plan is finished, we’re moving into the implementation phase, making sure everything is progressing as laid out in the plan. It’s a big task with lots of moving parts, but it’s a team effort, which makes it doable and rewarding.

What cautionary tip would you give to someone looking for a job in state service?

Know that you might not hear back about a job you’ve applied for; sometimes that courtesy isn’t provided, but don’t let it get you down. Relatedly, be patient, be persistent, and don’t despair if you don’t get the first position, or even the first dozen positions, that you apply for. Applying for jobs with the state is at least partly a numbers game, and finding the right fit is liable to take time on the order of months rather than weeks.

What’s it like living and working in Sacramento?

Great! It lives up beautifully to its City of Trees designation, has an eminently walkable downtown (see recommended reading), and it’s invigorating to be surrounded by so many other people who’ve chosen a path of public service.


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2019 California Innovation Playbook for Government Change Agents (Cal-IPGCA) Scholarship Award Opportunity for one lucky NxtGov Member!

2019 California Innovation Playbook for Government Change Agents (Cal-IPGCA) Scholarship Award Opportunity for one lucky NxtGov Member!

Registration is now open for Cohort 2019 of the California Innovation Playbook for Government Change Agents (Cal-IPGCA).

NxtGov is excited to announce that registration is open for the Cal-IPGCA Cohort 2019! This program aims to transform government with enterprise innovations that Cal-IPGCA teams and their departmental Champions are deploying right now – Watch for updates! You have the opportunity to join this effort! We are pleased to announce that NxtGov can award one $2,850 scholarship for attendance in this 5- Month program. The program and registration under “LEARN MORE” below will guide you through the details of this 5-month journey.

WHAT IS CAL-IPGCA?

Cal-IPGCA is a leadership and innovation training program unlike any other available to state employees. Six teams are assigned one of six statewide Innovation Priorities/problems to create Moonshot solutions with 10x improvement. Top state and industry leadership host a monthly 2-hour “Change Challenge Forums”, which give insight and guidance to team Innovation

Priorities. Final moonshot presentations are presented to State leaders on the final day of the program. Between the instructional days, offsite video instruction from state leadership on CalHR’s 9 Leadership Values teach personal, professional and innovative team growth.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Cal-IPGCA is designed for line staff who are rising stars with management potential, first line supervisors, middle managers, executives, and executive leadership. Each Cal-IPGCA Cohort creates a multi-generational, multi- cultural and multi-professional environment of change, integrating and synergizing participation across all levels of government classroom and work environments. And the 62 Professional Development Hours for full-time trainees meets the State of California’s biennial leadership training requirements. (GC 19995.4.)

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

There are many more reasons why you should attend or send staff to the Cal-IPGCA Cohort 2019. Here is a link to a Cal-IPGCA Fact Sheet of important features and objectives for consideration. The full program and
 online registration are linked here. For more information, you can connect to Cal- IPGCA’s Training website, KollaborNation. Should you have questions, please email program chair, Rebekah Christensen at rchristensen@orasystems.net.

Join us as a Change Leader and Innovator! This is a training program that will continue to produce results for you, your staff and your organization!

The Cal-IPGCA Association has a key role in this year’s Cohort. We think we are going to break new ground in change leadership and innovation! As an NxtGov member, if you want to learn more about the training program and/or join the Cal-IPGCA Association as a member, come to our Taco ‘Bout a Fiesta celebration on June 6 from 5:30-7:30 PM in Midtown. Here’s the flyer for logistics and registration.

NxtGov is proud to partner with Cal-IPGCA! We value the contribution Cal-IPGCA continues to make in pioneering innovation and change in state service. It takes all of us, working together as partners, to support each other’s efforts to assure real change and innovation occurs. Equally important, we are excited to be able to have a

NxtGov member participate in Cohort 2019.

This scholarship will be awarded by NxtGov no later than June 29. You must be a subscribed member of NxtGov to qualify for the scholarship.

What’s Next for NxtGov?

What’s Next for NxtGov?

Learn more about our plans to develop NxtGov from a thriving grassroots community into an inclusive and sustainable organization.

With hundreds of members and growing, NxtGov has embarked upon an incredible journey over the past couple of years to become the strong community it is today. So where do we go from here? How do we build upon our momentum to do even greater things?

With these questions in mind, I’m pleased to present the NxtGov Strategic Plan 2019-2021 which will help guide NxtGov toward a bright future in the years to come. This plan was developed by the NxtGov Executive Team to set the strategic direction for our organization to realize its mission. Our goals include attracting and retaining members and partners, ensuring our organization runs smoothly, and develop NxtGov from a thriving grassroots community into an inclusive and sustainable organization.

I want to share how proud I am of the Executive Team in living out NxtGov’s values as we developed the strategic plan together. Their forward-thinking and collaborative approach resulted in a solid foundation upon which the organization can continue to grow. In addition to all their usual work of coordinating events and opportunities for our members, the Executive Team came together in March and April to conduct an environmental scan and align on visionary goals and action plans that will take NxtGov to the next level.

This kind of planning is critical as we develop from a grassroots startup into a nonprofit organization. Shortly before the development of the strategic plan, NxtGov was officially registered as a nonprofit in the State of California and is now in the process of filing as a nonprofit with the federal government as well. This process has allowed us to solidify who we are as an organization and what value we offer to public servants and government operations.

I hope you will take the opportunity to review the NxtGov Strategic Plan 2019-2021 and learn about all the ways to get involved in NxtGov and contribute to the community we are building together.

Danielle Metzinger
Deputy Director, NxtGov


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Vote: A Message and an Invitation

Vote: A Message and an Invitation

*updated 11/8/18

We are a nonpartisan organization, but we recognize the opportunity of engaging in the process of electing leaders that reflect our values. Election Day brought a significant increase in civic engagement in most of the country.

NxtGov is hosting our Election Event this Friday November 9th.

This smaller, but significant election represents our work in serving the public, collaborating across the silos, and inspiring the current and next generation of public servants; those that will stay and continue to serve for a better good no matter the politics.

The NxtGov Executive Team Election is a representation of growth and the acceptance of change. We learn, we grow, we pay it forward, and we adapt.

Over the last year, NxtGov has continued to expand thanks to the support from our members, leaders and partners. It is your support that allows us to flourish in our mission to bring pride back to public service and break the silos that can help us transform government.

The diversity of our effort is uplifting.

Our NxtGov Ambassadors represent 15 departments across state and local government with experience spanning from a few months to 10 or more years in the public/private sector.

Our network has over 400 members from across all backgrounds and we are proud to continue to support local organizations that connect with our values of service, collaboration, and inspiration.

Join us at the NxtGov Election Event Friday, November 9th from 5pm to 7pm at Sacramento City Hall where you will be able to hear from our NxtGov Executive Team Candidates and have the opportunity to meet members, partners, and sponsors; including one of our first and biggest supporters, GovOps Agency Secretary Marybel Batjer.

You can still engage and support our public servant leaders. They are ready to take NxtGov to the next level. Cast your vote now.

Sincerely,

Angie

RSVP for Election Event

Meet the Candidates

Vote Now

PS: As we enter the month of Thanksgiving, I want to recognize and give thanks to our current Executive Team. You have all been there from the start and it’s your dedication to our mission and the passion that you bring to your role that generated the energy and support that has taken us this far and allowed us to grow. I am forever thankful.

DISCLAIMER: This is an unofficial organization that is not connected to any one government entity.

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