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EdGov Summit 2024: A Recap on Advancing Workplace Culture in Higher Education and Government

Updated: May 15

Written by CultureCon Co-founders, Nick Lombardino and Zach Blumenfeld

The inaugural EdGov Summit was our first industry specific event. With our history of hosting multi-day, industry agnostic events, we didn’t know what to expect…

The idea to create a conference exclusive to individuals working in the public sector was born out of continued feedback and support from our Culture Geek community; specifically, individuals working in higher education and government. They believed it was time to create a conference that recognized the unique challenges and opportunities inherent in these sectors - the interlacing of public responsibilities, diverse stakeholder expectations, and complex regulatory environments. Thanks to their guidance on topics, it took five short months to create the scaffolding for attendees to share ideas, make connections and take action.

During Public Service Recognition Week, and with a Certificate of Commendation from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, we hosted the first EdGov Summit on May 9th, 2024. Taking place in Madison, Wisconsin, attendees traveled as far as Canada and California to participate. 

This year's conference focused on empowering public sector professionals through a series of expert-led keynotes, panels and reflective sessions, all aimed at fostering workplaces that are innovative, safe and conducive to personal and collective growth. 

After debriefing with our attendees, here are the five main takeaways from the EdGov Summit:

1. Psychological Safety: Brain Hacks for 'Higher Brain Dominant' Thinking

One of the standout sessions was on the theme of psychological safety, which is crucial for effective teamwork and collaboration. Dr. Niraj Nijhawan discussed innovative "brain hacks" designed to promote 'higher brain dominant' thinking—a state where individuals are more creative, joyful and more open to feedback. Techniques such as neuroplasticity exercises and cognitive reframing were highlighted as techniques that encourage individuals to step outside their comfort zones, which is pivotal for activating this advanced state of thinking.

2. Innovation: Cultivating a Risk-Tolerant Environment

A key theme of the summit was innovation, specifically how to create a culture that encourages risk-taking without fear of negative repercussions. Secretary Dan Hereth shared his successes in growing his organization’s risk tolerance where team members can explore new concepts and experiment without fear of job insecurity. This approach not only nurtures creativity but also positions organizations to be more adaptive and forward-thinking.

3. Employee Experience Data: Driving Cultural Improvement through Analytics

Data analytics emerged as a powerful tool for cultural assessment and enhancement. Our “Data Driven Strategies for Enhancing Employee Experience in Higher Education and Government” panel detailed methods for capturing, analyzing, sharing and acting on employee experience data. By leveraging employee engagement data, climate surveys, industry benchmarking metrics, and change readiness analytics, organizations can gain actionable insights that drive strategic decisions in developing a supportive and engaging workplace culture.

4. Resilient Leadership: Essential Skills for Today’s Leaders

Resilient leadership was identified as a critical component of thriving workplace environments. Dr. Jennifer Askey explored essential skills such as emotional regulation, cognitive agility, optimism, self-efficacy and self-compassion. Dr. Askey shared, “Innovation relies on a foundation of resilience.” As attendee Jennifer Anderson reflected, “Resilient individuals fall down and get back up to adjust, tweak and regenerate.” 

5. Strengths-based Career Development: Maximizing Engagement

Darren Virassammy focused on the importance of recognizing and leveraging personal strengths in career development. He emphasized how strengths-based approaches lead to higher engagement and job satisfaction, as employees feel more competent and valued. He provided tools for leaders to help employees identify their unique strengths and align them with organizational goals, facilitating more effective and fulfilling career paths.

Core Reflection

As we reflect on the lessons learned from EdGov Summit 2024, it's clear that the path forward involves a deep, individual commitment to creating workspaces where innovation, data-driven strategies, psychological safety, resilient leadership and personal growth are prioritized. By implementing these strategies, public sector organizations can not only expect to enhance their workplace culture, but by doing so, deliver better results to their constituents. 

Happy [Public Sector] Employees = Better Communities

Moving Forward

Without previously knowing what to expect, our once “proof of concept” is now a mainstay. Thanks to the overwhelming engagement from attendees and generous support from sponsors (pictured below), we’re thrilled to bring EdGov Summit 2025 back to Madison on Tuesday, April 22nd, 2025.

About CultureCon:

As a Certified B Corporation®, CultureCon is on a mission to inspire positive change around organizational culture. Through large conferences, online courses, consulting services, and certification programs, we deliver experiences that provide practical tools and motivation for our customers to become cultural change agents within their organizations. Our customers include business owners, CxOs, HR leaders, senior management, individual contributors, and anyone who wants to build more uplifting, inspiring, and healthy workplaces.


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