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Full Conference Recap

2023 Conference: Worcester, MA

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By Mebane Rash,
CEO & Editor-in-Chief, EducationNC

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Paul Matthews/Worcester Regional Research Bureau

National association of researchers study the most pressing public problems facing our communities

At the end of July, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau (WRRB) hosted the nation’s top governmental researchers at the annual conference for the Governmental Research Association (GRA).

Since 1914, the GRA has been connecting researchers from across the country working to improve their communities, according to their website.

Just what is a GRA organization? Widely thought of as independent think tanks, back in the early days they were described as agencies of “alert citizenship,” conducting research on issues of “vital interest,” servants not only to the government entities they research, but to the residents of those places.

At the conference, researchers explored the challenges and opportunities confronting government on the most pressing issues facing our communities in the 21st century, including housing, transit, education, public workforce shortages, and federal financial relief. 

Worcester is the smallest community served by a GRA member, with peer organizations serving cities like Philadelphia, New Orleans, Boston, and Chicago. It was the perfect place to study how cities are changing in the modern economy.

Visiting Worcester for the 2023 GRA conference has been an amazing experience. The city is interesting, beautiful, and jam-packed with friendly people.
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Shawn Teigen
GRA President '23

Connecting practice to policy on the ground in Worcester

A tour on the school district’s newly acquired buses provided attendees the opportunity to understand Worcester’s evolution since 1990.

Narrated by the city’s Chief Development Officer Peter Dunn, the tour included notable redevelopment successes, with visits to the Polar Park, the Reactory, and the Worcester Memorial Auditorium.

A look at these projects and a panel discussion with Ché Anderson of UMass Chan Medical School; former Massachusetts Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler, Tim McGourthy, Chief Financial Officer of the City of Worcester; and Tim Murray, president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce demonstrated the importance of public-private collaboration and coordinated advocacy for state and federal funding.

“While Worcester’s future is bright, it is vital to learn from our past and understand how our community has undergone such profound change, to ensure we overcome challenges ahead. We all can learn from this analysis and inform ongoing development strategies and decisions that impact our community’s future,” said Paul Matthews, the executive director and CEO of WRRB.

Panels provide deep dives on public problems

Dive into our 2023 conference’s expert panels, covering subjects from affordable housing to the public workforce. 

Also, learn how research organizations are using tools like ArcGIS and producing their very own podcasts.

GRA Ed Panel

Creating momentum for real change

Each year, across panels, practical skills sessions, meetings, field trips, and informal networking opportunities, the conference gives researchers a chance to reflect on whether we are actually creating momentum for real change, asking ourselves five questions:

Have we tested our assumptions about the nature of our problems?

Are we creating learning environments that are safe and challenging in our organizations and communities?

Are we building relationships that breed trust and collaboration?

Are we examining problems from a range of diverse and inclusive perspectives?

Are we using empirical data and creativity to cultivate and drive innovation?

— Arun S. Prabhakaran, president of the Urban Affairs Coalition

Annual awards honor the leadership of government researchers

GRA organizations conduct research on the most pressing issues facing our communities, yet their research is too often not lifted up and celebrated.

Shout out to all the 2023 award winners!

Frederick P. Gruenberg Award Honors Laurence Msall, “our human compass”

At the conference’s awards dinner, the GRA’s 2023 Frederick P. Gruenberg Award for lifetime achievement was awarded posthumously to the Civic Federation’s president, Laurence Msall, often referred to as a human compass.

The Frederick P. Gruenberg Award is the highest honor that the Governmental Research Association bestows on individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of governmental research during their careers.

Most Effective Education

Best Digital Communications & Short-Form Writing

Most Outstanding Policy Achievement

Most Distinguished Research

Bureau of Governmental Research

Join us in Western North Carolina in 2024

Thanks to the generous support of the Blumenthal Foundation, the presidents of GRA organizations will be invited to retreat at Wildacres in Little Switzerland from July 14-20, 2024.

EdNC will host the GRA’s annual conference in Asheville and Haywood County from July 21-24, 2024. Contact mrash@ednc.org about sponsorship opportunities at all levels.

Save the date and join us!

Thank you for your support of these leaders who make meaning of our world.

GRA strengthens government research through peer relationships. Start connecting today.