NASPAA Competencies

NASPAAStandards

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Competencies in public service developed by NASPAA

The Commission on Peer Review and Accreditation (COPRA) of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) developed the NAPAA Standards that include five domains of universal required competencies (Standard 5.1).

NOTE 1: NASPAA describes itself on its About page as a “membership association with over 300 institutional member schools at U.S. and non-U.S. universities that award degrees in public administration, public policy, public affairs, non profit and related fields. NASPAA is the recognized global accreditor of master’s degree programs in these fields.” It states that “NASPAA’s twofold mission is to ensure excellence in education and training for public service and to promote the ideal of public service.”

NOTE 2: The NASPAA Standards and Self-Study Instructions were revised in 2019. The changes in the latter are described in the document dated 10 December 2019, Detailed Summary of Changes. A version of this Atlas page that was based on the earlier documentation can be seen at NASPAA Competencies (pre-2019). For a discussion of how these relate to other typologies, see An Outcomes-based Framework for Evaluating MPP and MPA Programs.

Domains of competencies

The five domains of universal required competencies are:

  1. to lead and manage in the public interest
  2. to participate in, and contribute to, the policy process
  3. to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems and make evidence-informed decisions in a complex and dynamic environment
  4. to articulate, apply, and advance a public service perspective
  5. to communicate and interact productively and in culturally responsive ways with a diverse and changing workforce and society at large
Competencies (student learning outcomes)

Competencies within each of the five competency domains are elaborated in the form of  student learning outcomes (also referred to in the documentation as “competencies” or “competency statements”). These are listed in Appendix B, Examples of Competency Statements (pages 75-78) of Self-Study Instructions, November 12, 2019 and are reproduced below.

“The following are illustrative examples, stated in terms of specific student learning outcomes (competencies), not required elements of each domain. A program can include other competencies within each of the domains to meet NASPAA’s requirements. The emphasis that a particular program places on each of the domains of universal required competencies should be consistent with its mission. A public affairs program might put greater emphasis on the domain, “to lead and manage in the public interest” than on “to participate in, and contribute to, the policy process;” the latter might be more the emphasis of a public policy program.

“Examples of competencies in the required domain of to lead and manage in the public interest might include but are not limited to:

  • Apply public management organization theories.
  • Appraise the organizational environment, both internal and external, as well as the culture, politics and institutional setting.
  • Demonstrate the ability to lead change in a complex environment.
  • Lead, manage, and serve a diverse workplace and citizenry.
  • Assemble and manage inclusive and productive cross-sector paid and volunteer workforces.
  • Lead and manage people effectively, whether volunteers or compensated, fostering team building, commitment, creativity, and performance.
  • Manage large and complex programs and projects.
  • Manage information and networks.
  • Leverage data and technological change for public good.
  • Adopt agile technologies to solve complex mission problems.
  • Lead or operate in networks of people and organizations.
  • Manage contracts and public-private partnerships.
  • Apply risk management principles to support organizational missions.
  • Resolve conflict through negotiation and consensus-building processes.
  • Understand the relationships between public policy, whether proposed or enacted, and leadership and management in implementation.
  • Identify and apply key elements of a strategic planning or other community-based planning processes to a nonprofit or government organization.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation for the complexities of decision-making in the public interest.
  • Create sustainable communities through effective public budgetary and nonprofit fund development practices.

“Examples of competencies in the required domain of to participate in, and contribute to, the public policy process might include but are not limited to:

  • Apply techniques for program evaluation and forecasting.
  • Demonstrate the ability to structure a policy problem and analyze policy alternatives, using a variety of frameworks and tools.
  • Understand the value of citizen participation and social inclusion in the policy process.
  • Formulate and communicate an impact evaluation plan.
  • Describe and work within the institutional, structural, and political contexts of policy making and implementation.
  • Describe and execute the policymaking process, including defining the problem, setting the agenda, formulate policy, implement policy and evaluate policy.
  • Incorporate interest groups, executive-legislative relationships, judicial decision-making, and the media in the policy process.
  • Prepare a budget reflecting policy priorities.
  • Use risk management to meet the mission.
  • Recognize the social construction of problems.
  • Build consensus.

“Examples of competencies in the required domain of to analyze, synthesize, think critically, solve problems, and make evidence-informed decisions in a complex and dynamic environment might include but are not limited to:

  • Articulate and apply methods for measuring and improving organizational, program and individual performance.
  • Demonstrate ability to apply a variety of analytical frameworks to analyze complex problems and formulate recommendations.
  • Employ evidence-informed analytical tools for collecting, analyzing, presenting, and interpreting data, including appropriate statistical concepts and techniques, such as data analytics or artificial intelligence.
  • Develop and use statistical models to support strategic decision-making.
  • Manage data as a strategic asset.
  • Identify and employ alternative sources of funding, including grants, taxes, and fees.
  • Develop and implement strategic plans.
  • Understand and apply theories of decision-making and models.
  • Select and implement a data-collection process appropriate to a resource-constrained small nonprofit organization or local government.
  • Demonstrate the ability to collect, analyze and use data from constituent or program beneficiaries.
  • Use appropriate technology to evaluate policy problems and offer solutions.

“Examples of competencies in the required domain to articulate, apply, and advance a public service perspective might include but are not limited to:

  • Apply concepts of social equity to public service.
  • Identify and analyze ethical dilemmas involving fiduciary stewardship of public resources, stakeholders and a variety of power relations, and will weigh alternative courses of action in terms of responsibility, fairness and achieved public interest.
  • Know the meanings of due process, authority and social equity; and recognize the role of these values for the assurance of democratic governance, and understand the implication of upholding them for public management practice.
  • Behave ethically and with integrity: Tell the truth, keep confidences, admit mistakes, and do not misrepresent oneself, one’s goals or the facts for personal advantage. Behave in a fair and ethical manner toward others.
  • Distinguish short- from long-term fiscal consequences of program and policy decisions.
  • Exercise ethical responsibility when conducting research and making decisions.
  • Identify the short- and long-term impacts of program and policy decisions on the physical environment.
  • Understand and apply criteria appropriate to public service.
  • Use effective oral communication to articulate policy decisions.
  • Negotiate outcomes sensitive to the interests and values of others.

“Examples of competencies in the required domain to communicate and interact productively and in culturally responsive ways with a diverse and changing workforce and society at large may include but are not limited to:

  • Communicate effectively in writing by preparing clear, concise and well-organized written materials tailored to the audience’s level of expertise and needs.
  • Demonstrate interpersonal communication skills required to serve empathetically and effectively diverse sets of people.
  • Communicate effectively in speech by presenting oral information accurately, clearly, concisely and persuasively tailored to audience’s level of expertise and needs.
  • Demonstrate flexibility by adapting behavior and work methods to differences (whether they are differences in thought, communication style, perspective, age, interests, fairness or some other variable); to new information, to changing conditions and to unexpected obstacles.
  • Demonstrate self-knowledge through awareness of one’s own stylistic preferences for relating to others, communicating with others, making decisions, managing yourself in groups, and the impact that this has on relationships and your ability to influence others.
  • Demonstrate sensitivity and responsiveness to beliefs and behaviors associated with differences among people because of their ethnicity, nationality, race, gender, physical characteristics, religion, age, etc.
  • Demonstrate facilitation skills by actively and effectively eliciting information, views, input, suggestions, and involvement of others in pursuit of common goals.
  • Build actionable consensus.
  • Discern the interests and values of others; surface assumptions; secure agreement on ground rules and tolerable outcomes; gain cooperation of others to accomplish goals.
  • Relate to all kinds of people and develop appropriate rapport that leads to constructive and effective relationships; finds common ground with a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Work productively in teams by demonstrating composure, professionalism and effective working relationships, including understanding others’ priorities, needs and concerns and sharing information, expertise and resources.
  • Recognize, and adapt to, cultural differences in community interactions and communication.”
Assessment of student learning

Appendix B, Examples of Competency Statements (pages 79-80) of Self-Study Instructions, November 12, 2019 provides six “examples of examples of direct assessment of various definitions of student learning for competencies in the domain of to lead and manage in the public interest and to participate in, and contribute to, the public policy process.” The “evidence collected” and the “analysis & findings” in these examples are reproduced in Table 1.

Table 1: Illustrative examples of assessment of student learning
Learning Outcome
(Competency)
Evidence Collected
Analysis & Findings
Manage projects Project management report Six-dimension rubric applied by faculty; poor performance on some dimensions
Resolve conflict and negotiate Teams perform in negotiation simulation Evaluation by panel of practitioners using faculty-designed rubric; all teams met expectations
Manage public and non-profit partnerships Students write a paper on a specific non-profit Evaluated by faculty and the non-profit using 5-point rubric; students need more information on good partnership practices
Recognize and contribute to the public policy process Students write a thesis on the policy process Program faculty exchange student theses with faculty at another university; students weak at literature review
Manage public and non-profit partnerships Student grades in course on generic management All students get either an A or a B grade [The document notes that “this program would have to explain how its assessment meets the intent of the Standard as course grades are not sufficient evidence of conformance.”]
Formulate and communicate a project that adds public value Student project requiring development of public policy information and analysis course External faculty members evaluate student projects against a rubric that details 4 distinct expectations, assessed at below expectations, complies with expectations, or above expectations; students weak in considering stakeholder feedback

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 3 July 2020.