Blogpost by Kathy Goldschmidt, Congressional Management Foundation
Innovations in technology have revolutionized how people communicate with one another and with their elected leaders, which has caused the number of messages to House and Senate offices to skyrocket. In many House offices, managing and responding to constituent correspondence requires about 50 percent of Washington staff time, and that’s not including staffers’ individual email inboxes. Yet Congress by and large still operates the same way it did in the 1960s. The result: offices find themselves stretched thin handling ever-increasing volumes of communications and devoting more resources to the management and administration of the messages than to their substance. Staffers’ time and attention for other duties, such as working on public policy and legislation, is restricted. Constituents’ needs and expectations are not met. The current state is not meeting anyone’s needs and it is not facilitating the constructive discourse between citizens and legislators that is the very foundation of our democracy.
The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) is helping to change the dynamic by providing guidance to congressional staffers and citizens. For nearly 40 years CMF has been a resource to Congress for solutions to the management, operational, and communications challenges that make it harder to fulfill its role in democracy. CMF’s mission is to build trust and effectiveness in Congress. We do this by enhancing the performance of the institution, legislators and their staffs through research-based education and training, and by strengthening the bridge and understanding between Congress and the people it serves.
It’s easy for congressional staffers to feel overwhelmed and overworked. CMF aims to lift some of the burden by promoting better office management and constituent communications. CMF has many resources – and staff expertise – to help. Programs such as “Taming Your Personal Email Monster” and our Legislative Operations course at the Georgetown Government Affairs Institute provide staff with strategies for doing their jobs more effectively. Through projects such as Congress 3.0 and Life in Congress, CMF offers research-based solutions to some of the biggest operational challenges facing congressional offices. We also offer advice to citizens and grassroots advocates for improving their interactions with Capitol Hill (without clogging the inboxes) via our Communicating with Congress research and our Partnership for a More Perfect Union.
In addition, CMF provides customized management services targeted to the specific challenges an office is facing, and we host a range of training programs for congressional staff, with 86 programs and over 300 congressional offices served in 2015.
For more information, surf to http://congressfoundation.org/ or call 202-546-0100.