2021 GRA Virtual Conference – Agenda and Materials
Please note: all times are Central

NOTE: To view videos of the sessions, click the links named- Kickoff Event: The Post-COVID New Normal, Bail Reform Efforts Across the U.S, Reforming Police Budgets Roundtable, Broadband and the Digital Divide

Click here to access a PDF agenda! (all times Central)

Click here to see links to all 2021 GRA award winning research and communications.

Thank you for joining the Governmental Research Association and the Civic Federation at the 108th Conference and Annual Meeting July 19 – July 21, 2021.  

To watch a video about the Gatherly platform the conference will use, click here. Please note:
   *Gatherly must be accessed from a laptop or desktop computer (not a smartphone).
   *The recommended browser for Gatherly is Google Chrome.
   *Please click here for instructions on how to download Chrome.

Select materials and speaker bios linked below.

MONDAY, JULY 19, 2021 (all times Central)

9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. — Gatherly 101 and Helpdesk
Gatherly Lobby

10:00 a.m. — Welcome
Gatherly Ballroom
Sarah Wetmore, President, GRA
Laurence Msall, President, Civic Federation

10:15 a.m. —  Kickoff: The Post-COVID New Normal—What Will Detroit’s Revenues Look Like Post-Pandemic
Gatherly Ballroom
Leslie McGranahanVice President & Director of Regional Research, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
Rick MattoonVice President & Regional Executive, Detroit Branch, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

11:00 a.m. — Break

11:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. — Panel 1: Bail Reform Efforts Across the U.S.
Gatherly Ballroom
As pretrial reform efforts continue to sweep across the nation, some areas of the country are further along than others in moving away from a money-based bail system that has for centuries marginalized low income and people of color. With the passage of a landmark criminal justice reform law in February 2021, Illinois will end the use of cash bail and institute new pretrial release procedures in January 2023. New Jersey has proven that pretrial reform can be done successfully and without harming public safety, while efforts have had mixed success in places like Texas and New York.

This discussion will explore bail reform efforts across the U.S., with a particular focus on the unique experiences of Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. State leaders and criminal justice reform experts will discuss the challenges and barriers associated with achieving reform and the lessons learned that can be applied as more states and local jurisdictions pursue evidence-based and risk-based pretrial practices.

12:15 p.m. — Break

12:30 to 1:30 p.m. — Facilitated Group Discussions: Choose One or Some
Gatherly Small Group Discussion Room (Reforming Police Budgets Roundtable in the Gatherly Ballroom)

Topics and Facilitators:

Table 1: Pandemic Learning Loss: Policy Options, Criketa Matlock, Charter Schools USA
Table 2: Forming a Taxpayer Relief Task Force, Dominic Calabro, Florida TaxWatch
Table 3: Communications Collaboration + Shrinking Newsrooms, Katy Broom, Civic Federation
Table 4: Helping Downtowns Recover with Conversion Tax Credits, Kent Swanson, Riverside Investment & Development; Jared Fleisher, Rock Central; Roland Calia, Civic Federation
Table 5: Fundraising During a Pandemic: What Have We Learned? Jaye Hobart, Civic Federation

Ballroom: Reforming Police Budgets Roundtable, Rob Henken, Wisconsin Policy Forum; Chris Morill, GFOA; Annie McGowan, Civic Federation; Karen Volker, Cure Violence Global; Ivy Lee, Office of the Mayor of San Francisco; Maureen Quinn McGough, Policing Project at NYU School of Law; Sandy Jo MacArthur, University of Chicago Crime Lab.

1:30 p.m. — Break

2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — GRA Roundup
Gatherly Ballroom
After two years, we’ll all have a lot to share at this roundtable discussion of our achievements, goals and challenges. We’ll call on one person from each organization to talk about how they have weathered the pandemic storm, their top projects and any organizational updates they wish to share.

3:30 p.m. — Adjourn for the Day: Attendees should feel free to stay on or return to the platform in the evening and arrange meetups with colleagues

TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2021 (all times Central)

10:00 a.m. to 10:30a.m. — GRA Staff Group Meetings
In previous years, this time was reserved for the Presidents and Executive Directors meeting. This year, we look forward to several group meetings for different types of GRA staff to discuss organizational issues.

10:30a.m. — Break

10:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. — Panel 2: The Future of Conventions and the Hospitality Industry: The Case of Chicago
Gatherly Ballroom
Conventions and hospitality are crucial industries to Chicago’s economy, but have also been the most impacted by the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists will explore how the tourism, convention and hospitality industries might recover from the pandemic and how they will continue to evolve after a year lived virtually.

11:45 a.m. — Break

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. — Skill and Knowledge Shares
Gatherly Small Group Discussion Room
Creating Short Videos, Christopher Collard, Utah Foundation
Event Planning: What Comes Next? Group Discussion


12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. — Panel 3: Broadband and the Digital Divide
Gatherly Ballroom
Accessing the internet is fundamental to modern life. However, according to the American Community Survey, approximately 17.3% of US households lack access to a broadband connection. This lack of connection is isolating in “normal” times. The pandemic has further exacerbated this issue with millions of households unable to access tele-health, remote learning, and remote work. This panel of experts will discuss the work their organizations have done on internet accessibility, community impacts, disparities, and solutions.

1:00 p.m. — Break

1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. —  Awards Luncheon
Gatherly Ballroom

    Keynote Speaker: Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor for Cannabis to Illinois Governor JB Pritzker

    Presentation of the 2021 Frederick P. Gruenberg Award to Janet Howard

    Announcement of the Winners of the 2021 GRA Awards Competition

2:15 p.m. — Adjourn for the Day: Attendees should feel free to stay on or return to the platform in the evening and arrange meetups with colleagues

WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2021 (all times Central)

10:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. —  GRA Annual Meeting
On Zoom

10:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. —  Panel 4: How can GRA Organizations Promote Equity through our Work?
Gatherly Ballroom
The GRA has long served as a nexus to promote best practices in government, but we can also learn from each other’s experience in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in our work. Whether your organization has a longstanding equity lens or you’re just getting started, this discussion will allow you to learn from peer organizations’ efforts to be more inclusive and reflect the communities we serve.


11:30 a.m. — Break

11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Award Winner Virtual Tables
Gatherly Award Winner Tables Room
Winners of the 2021 GRA Awards will have “tables” in a virtual presentation hall to describe their projects and answer questions from attendees. Attendees can move around the virtual presentation hall to visit the projects that interest them.

12:30 p.m. — Adjourn

Click here to access a PDF agenda! (all times CDT)


The Governmental Research Association and the Civic Federation invite you to the 108th Conference and Annual Meeting July 19 – July 21, 2021.  

Click on this link to reserve your spot in the conference. We will follow up with Gatherly orientation information once you are registered.

The format will follow previous in-person conferences with three half-days of conversation on topics ranging from the impact of the pandemic on future city revenue, bail reform, broadband and the digital divide and the future of conventions and hospitality post-pandemic.

However, we are also taking advantage of the opportunities that a virtual conference provides by featuring facilitated group discussions on a number of issues that will appeal to all of your staff—communicators, development professionals, finance and operations staff and researchers. The lower ticket price of $50 is intended to allow member organizations to send the whole team to the conference—and we’ll have plenty of content to interest everyone. 

Keynoting our Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, July 20th will be The Honorable Toi Hutchinson, Senior Advisor for Cannabis to Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and a former Illinois State Senator. She’ll discuss the social equity aspects of the landmark law legalizing adult use cannabis in Illinois she helped develop and pass and the future of the industry. The Frederick P. Gruenberg Award for outstanding contributions to the field of government research will be presented to Janet Howard, Retired President and CEO, Bureau of Governmental Research. And the winners of the 2021 GRA Awards Competition will be announced!

The Gatherly platform is designed to facilitate interactive meetings. Its design mimics the layout of an event hall. Using a virtual elevator, you can move around different floors and rooms as you would in an in-person event. It also allows attendees to join individual and group conversations by clicking on the group or the individual’s name, allowing interaction similar to joining a group of your GRA colleagues in the lobby of the hotel or outside the conference space. This video provides an overview of how Gatherly works. The platform is very intuitive, but rest assured there will be plenty of tutorials and assistance on hand leading up to and during the conference.

We look forward to seeing all of you—and your whole staff—in July!