Public problems are by definition public. They don't belong to any one person or sector; they belong to all of us.
Kathy Quick, who will join the Humphrey School this fall as an assistant professor of leadership, is interested in building individual and organizational potential for solving public problems.
"This means citizens, political leaders, nonprofit organizations, business--everyone," she says. "Leadership has a lot to do with making needs explicit and making it OK for people to step up to the plate and do more. I am interested in how government can create platforms that include everyone in characterizing problems and working on solutions together."
Quick originally trained in ecology and environmental affairs, earning a Master of City Planning degree from the University of California-Berkeley and a doctorate in planning, policy, and design from the University of California-Irvine. She worked in the environmental movement in Indonesia for several years between her master's and Ph.D. degrees, which gave her the opportunity to observe the intersection of environmental planning and development.
Quick has seen some more successful--and less successful-- models of civic engagement and public leadership over the years.
"I worked a as a stringer for the local newspaper when I was in college [at Swarthmore] and I was stunned by the lack of leadership at the local level in that part of rural Pennsylvania. Some of the cities had such dysfunctional responses to problems," she says.
By contrast, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan--which was the subject of Quick's dissertation--"has made persistent and successful attempts to engage citizens in creating solutions together, which has helped the city weather a lot of hard times."
But, even in a city with a strong commitment to civic engagement, some efforts turn out better than others. Based on hundreds of interviews with senior government managers, political leaders, and community members, Quick has compared several efforts to engage the citizenry, including the management of a citywide environmental master planning effort, a process to address neighborhood gentrification conflict, city budgeting choices, and organization of a major new international art competition in Grand Rapids.
Her dissertation focused on what she describes as "inclusive public leadership practices," which are practices that facilitate adaptive community change through involving a broad array of public and private sectors to address public issues. She found that the inclusive nature of leadership generated several positive impacts, such as facilitating new connections among people and issues that produce new ways of seeing and addressing problems; generating additional resources to address problems; enhancing leadership; and strengthening buy-in and capacity for ongoing engagement and implementation of related policies and programs.
Quick says that she is excited about her move to the Twin Cities and to the Humphrey School.
"Irvine is lovely, but I am ready for some real city living," she says.
The classroom may be the most exciting place for Quick of all. "I have been impressed by Humphrey students--their energy, their enthusiasm--at conferences. Meeting them has confirmed that. This really is a very outward-looking institution, and I welcome that."