IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Building Resilience in State and Local Government IT

As we turn toward the new year, the Center for Digital Government looks at what it takes to survive and thrive as a gov tech leader in even the most challenging of circumstances.

Illustration of a person in a purple suit holding up towers of dominos with each arm
Adobe Stock/Konstantin
As the year draws to a close, the days start to become shorter, and our thoughts begin to turn to friends, family and holiday celebrations, it is a natural time to stop and reflect a little over the year that was and ask, “What the heck was that?"

If you are wondering if the craziness of the past year is how it is going to be from now on, rest assured, you are not alone.

At the Center for Digital Government (CDG),* we too have been watching how quickly changes and challenges are coming at state and local governments, and the magnitude and complexity of those challenges seems to be greater than ever. As we worked with our colleagues in the field this year, one word kept coming up in response to what is happening, and that is "resilience": the need for it and the challenge of developing it. But what is resilience?

In general terms, resilience is the capacity to withstand stress, adversity and challenges and adapt to change. That sounds like just another day at the office for most of us in state and local government IT. Perhaps these days it should be added as a mandatory qualification in job descriptions for anyone wanting to spend some of their career in public service. It is also what people expect of their public institutions, especially in chaotic and challenging times like these.

As a result, earlier this year, together with the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) and IBM, we produced a paper titled Preparing for Future Shocks: A Resilience Roadmap for State Government IT Leaders.

Through a series of interviews with state CIOs, CDG discovered their dashboard of potential future shocks contains enough things to unnerve even the most stouthearted: cyber attacks and fraud, natural disasters and climate change, technical debt and legacy systems, insufficient workforce talent, economic recession and insufficient budget, leadership turnover and administrative instability, AI and partner resilience, housing and homelessness. And while not specifically mentioned in the interviews, we can throw in the current issues of social unrest related to military conflict and an extraordinary level of political polarization and distrust of government institutions. How is anyone supposed to handle all of that?

It is enough to test anyone’s mettle. Fortunately, our paper provides some practical advice from people on the front lines who are not only surviving, but thriving, on how you can prepare and position your organization to successfully respond to whatever comes your way.

However, institutional preparation is not enough. If we are not able to be personally resilient, withstanding stress and adapting to change, we can’t help our teams, organizations, states and localities. It's like the flight attendants say during the pre-flight safety briefing: “In the event of an emergency, you must secure your mask before helping others.”

Since the emergence of generative AI has been identified as one of the factors currently testing our resilience, it only seems fitting that generative AI should be able to offer some basic advice on how we can strengthen our personal resilience.

Courtesy of Google Bard, here are five things you can do to strengthen personal resilience:
  1. Take care of yourself. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Taking care of your physical and mental health will make you better able to cope with stress and adversity.
  2. Develop a problem-solving mindset. When faced with challenges, don't give up. Instead, focus on finding solutions. Break down large problems into smaller, more manageable ones.
  3. Develop a strong support network. Surround yourself with people who love and support you unconditionally. These are the people who you can turn to for help and advice when you're going through tough times.
  4. Be grateful. Take the time to appreciate the good things in your life, big or small. Gratitude can help you stay positive and focused on the good, even when things are tough.
  5. Forgive yourself and others. Holding on to grudges and resentment will only hurt you in the long run. Learn to forgive yourself and others for their mistakes.

There are more, of course, but these are things that mission-driven leaders who put others first may overlook. Building personal resilience takes time and effort, but it's worth it. By following these tips, you can develop the strength and resilience you need to overcome any challenge that comes your way and better assist and lead those around you.

The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.