08/15/2013 09:47 am ET Updated Oct 15, 2013

Rebuilding trust in government

In May, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker launched the Volcker Alliance, in part to rebuild trust in government. Tom Fox spoke with long-time public servant Shelley Metzenbaum, a former Office of Management and Budget leader and the founding president of the Volcker Alliance, about the organization's top goals and the management challenges facing our government. Fox is a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. He also heads the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership.

What motivated you to pursue a career in public service?

My parents and others instilled in me the belief that it's important to leave the world better than you found it. Growing up in the 1960s, I remember being upset about so much discrimination and poverty in America. It was wrong and needed to be fixed, and I saw that government could make a difference. Government gives an opportunity to make the world a better place - that's what got me into public service.

What are your top goals for the Volcker Alliance?

We're focusing on effective execution of public policy and rebuilding public trust in government. We plan to work as a catalyst for change, in alliance with educational institutions, government, business and non-profit groups. Also, we want to increase attention to the nuts and bolts of government. Debate about smarter policies gets attention from the best minds, and government problems get everyone's attention. We want the best minds also giving serious attention to the challenge of implementing policies and to enabling people to be great government implementers.

What steps can federal leaders take to rebuild public trust in government?

That's an important question we want to answer. One way is to help the public understand what government is trying to accomplish, why, strategies being used, progress being made and problems encountered. We also need to learn how to break this information down into digestible pieces. Take clean air, for example. When you compare pictures of the air quality in Beijing to air quality in major U.S. cities, the difference is incredible. Does that build your trust in government and its ability to make a difference in people's lives? It should.