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Analysis and Critical Thinking

What is the hardest task in the world? To think. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the era of Big Data, public officials have access to significant amounts of publicly available secondary data on a wide range of topics.  One such secondary data source is the 2019 US Cities Sustainable Development Report published by Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a global initiative of the United Nations (“UN”).  This report measures the achievement of 105 U.S. cities towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) through the collection of data on 57 different indicators (a.k.a. variables) across the SDGs.  Using the data from this report, one can explore potential causal relationships between various variables. 


As a public administrator, knowing how to access and analyze such data is an essential component of part of making informed decisions in a complex, ever-changing environment.  The work product example provided below uses the data from the above report to explore the potential causal relationship between obesity and life expectancy using a regression analysis.


This work example is a revised version of an assignment completed for my Applied Research Design class.  The memo was completed solely for the assignment and was not sent.

As shown with the regression analysis example, public administrators often need to rely on secondary data sources.  Being able to identify reliable secondary data sources and critically assess the data’s strengths and weaknesses, therefore, is a necessary skill for all public administrators.  Mastering this skill will allow public administrators to make informed data-driven decisions. 


The work product example provided below is an analysis of two journal articles, published in peer-reviewed journals, both of which analyze the implementation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by court systems and their effectiveness of enhancing delivery of judicial services and access to justice.  As a public administrator working within a court system, prior to investing scarce resources in ICTs, being able to critically analyze other judicial systems experiences provides vital insight into the effectiveness of such investments. 


This work example is a revised version of an assignment completed for my Applied Research Design class.

A common practice in both the public and private sector is to rely on existing resources and templates rather than starting from scratch.  This is true particularly true in public contracting where most, if not all, documents for new transactions are based on existing, previously approved templates. Starting with an existing template, however, does not mean the public administrator is only filling in the blanks or not exercising professional judgement.  Rather, the success of using existing templates depends on the administrator’s ability to analyze the specific needs of the transaction and think critically about what terms need revision and in what way.


The work example provided below is a contract I drafted utilizing two different existing templates:  one an information technology system acquisition template; and the other a construction manager/general contractor (CM/GC) construction template.  The transaction was for the acquisition and implementation of a new electronic management system.  Using the standard information technology system acquisition form, I revised the form to include elements commonly included in a CM/GC construction agreement.  Specifically, CM/GC template’s concept of a two phased approach with not-to-exceed costs, was incorporated into the system acquisition template. Using this combined approach, Phase 1 work included evaluation and confirmation of the costs and requirements for Phase 2 work.  If the confirmed Phase 2 costs were within a specified cost range, then the Phase 2 work proceeded.  If, however, costs were outside of the specified range, the public entity could terminate the contract without further liability.  This allowed for work to commence while the unknowns of the information technology project were being determined, thus providing a level of protection for both parties.


The work example was created based on existing templates originally created by the State of Oregon. The attached work product example has been redacted to remove identifiable information and anonymize the contract. 

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