Throughout the year, ICMA staff members work on various programs and initiatives to drive the organization’s mission. The Annual Conference, or in this year’s case, UNITE, serves as a place to promote these initiatives with educational sessions and professional development opportunities. Examples include ICMA Coaching, racial equity and social justice, and first-time administrator support, to name a few.

Below, you will find a list of sessions we recommend attending during UNITE:

International Academy Series

Are you looking for ways to make a contribution beyond the boundaries of your community? Learn how your knowledge and experience can be applied to working with local governments around the world to strengthen their capacity to promote transparent, efficient, and sustainable governance practices. Led by ICMA staff and ICMA members who have extensive international development experience, this series of sessions will help you understand how you can use your skills to address the challenges faced by governments to deliver services, promote economic development, create sustainable growth, and improve the quality of life for citizens around the world. These sessions will showcase ICMA’s global portfolio as well as put you in the boots of your fellow members and their experiences both abroad and in their backyards. ICMA members who have made the transition to international work will discuss what is needed to be prepared. For further information or questions, please contact Harleen Kovela at

Check out the following sessions in the series:

  • Member Experiences Abroad (followed by Q&A with members)Tuesday, September 22nd 3pm-3:45pm ET
  • Global Programs in Your Backyard (followed by Q&A with members) – Tuesday, September 22nd 4pm-4:45pm ET
  • Introduction to Global Programs (followed by Q&A with ICMA staff) – Wednesday, September 23rd 4pm-4:45pm ET

ICMA Code of Ethics Sessions

Being Politically Neutral in a Partisan World: The Benefit of Embracing the ICMA Code of Ethics

Presenter: Martha Perego, Director of Member Services & Ethics

Thursday, September 24, 5-5:45pm ET

We live in a world where there is no shortage of divisive and intractable issues facing society. Demands for immediate and radical change are escalating.  We are divided by polarized politics and hampered by the inability to find common ground on the way forward.  In this climate, maintaining your ethical commitment to political neutrality can be challenging. How can we be part of our democracy while modeling the civility and non-partisanship that is at the core of our profession? How do you join the debate and effectuate change while respecting your commitment to the values of the profession?  What’s your strategy for successfully navigating the upcoming election season?

This session is designed to reinforce the value of political neutrality in the profession complete with advice for you and your staff to address common and complex issues.  The session is followed by a Q&A.

Please note: This session is very sought after since it is a Presidential election year.

ICMA Code of Ethics Refresher

Presenter: Jessica Cowles, Ethics Advisor

Saturday, September 26 | 12:00pm-12:45pm EDT

Promoting an ethical culture in local government management has been at the core of ICMA’s mission since the membership adopted the first Code of Ethics in 1924. The Code expresses the professional and personal conduct expected of ICMA members as well as defines the values that serve as the basis for building and maintaining trust in the local government management profession.

This session will be an opportunity to explore those facets of the Code where members have often sought guidance such as how to best meet their ethical obligations concerning a length of service in a position, avoiding potential conflicts of interest, and navigating political activities in an informal roundtable discussion with ICMA’s ethics advisor.

Policing Black America: A Deeper Understanding of the Conflict from Multiple Perspectives to Explain Why More Progress Hasn’t Been Made and Why We’re All Only One Incident Away from Racial Unrest

September 25, 2020 | 5:00pm to 5:45pm ET

From Ferguson to Kenosha, low-profile communities all over the nation quickly became high-profile communities as they gained the unwanted attention and scrutiny that often accompanies the policing of Black America.  Is your community next?  Do you have a plan?

This session won’t validate or condemn what you’re already doing, but will provide a framework of recommended actions to get through the two most important parts of the process: 1) learning how your community (including marginalized and law enforcement) feels about the issue by hearing what they say and why they say it, and 2) Identifying a realistic starting place to combine understanding and action in a way that meets the needs of community members and law enforcement officers alike.

Learn more about the session.

ICMA University Micro Learning: Essential Knowledge for Leading Communities

If you’re like most professionals, every hour of the day seems filled to capacity with work responsibilities and family matters. ICMA University has taken learning that works in the real world and packaged it into 30-minute bite-sized lessons that are clear, adoptable, engaging, and relevant to help you adapt to change, improve leadership skills, and manage your well-being.

Join us for the following Micro Learning Opportunities:

Wednesday, September 23:

Thursday, September 24:

On-Demand Sessions:

“Speed” Coaching at UNITE: Using the CoachConnect Platform

Speed Coaching is normally a fast-paced, in-person coaching event at the live annual conference. This year, we are encouraging coaches and learners to still make time to connect with each other using ICMA’s CoachConnect platform.

Our coaches on ICMA CoachConnect can help you chart a path in local government, find information you need, and guide you to the answers that are right for you to difficult career questions. ICMA has over 160 coaches on CoachConnect ready to help you advance your career in local government. We encourage you to sign up for CoachConnect now so you can schedule coaching sessions for the conference!

We are always recruiting coaches as well! If you are passionate about helping the next generation of local government professionals succeed, sign up a Coach to meet with learners during UNITE and beyond!

Sign up for CoachConnect. 

Want to learn more about the coaching program and CoachConnect? Check out this on-demand session that will introduce you to the platform, provide information about ICMA’s Coaching Program, and offer a tutorial on joining CoachConnect.

Veterans Programming

IGNITING YOUR COMMUNITY: Providing Support to Veterans in Your Community

Tuesday, September 22, 4 PM ET

There are no shortage of agencies that support Veterans, however, many Veterans don’t know how to connect with them. Join us for a session with Army Soldier for Life to learn about how to form collaborative networks of Veteran Support agencies in your community.

Best Practices to Form Partnerships with Your Military Installation

Thursday, September 24, 4 PM ET

Are you a community that borders military installation? Do you have a large project that would benefit both your residents as well as the installation? Then this is the session for you! Join us to learn how other communities are partnering with their installation for huge cost saving benefits. Best Practices to Form Partnerships with your Military Installation.

Have you ever thought about serving as a member of ICMA’s Executive Board?

Regional Vice-Presidents play a critical leadership role within the local government management profession and represent ICMA members in their geographic region. Consider the unique background and guidance that you can bring to ICMA. Nominations for the 2021 election cycle will be accepted November 3, 2020 through January 8, 2021. Connect with us during UNITE by visiting the Member Center in the ICMA Booth Pavilion to learn more about this opportunity to serve your peers and the profession!

Want more information now on the ICMA Executive Board nomination process? Visit the ICMA website.

Other Staff Recommended Sessions

Defunding the Police

Friday, September 25, 3-4pm ET

Those three words may be a political hot-button in your community, with groups on opposing sides disagreeing even on what the words mean.  In that context, will every budget discussion devolve into a shouting match?  How do you have a reasoned dialogue about policies, priorities, or the right mix of staff and resources to handle cases involving mental health, domestic disputes, or homelessness?  This session will explore how other communities have addressed these challenges, whether in simply convening those thorny discussions or in actually implementing new approaches to staffing, training, or service provision.  The presentation will conclude with plenty of time for Q&A.

Keeping Performance Reporting Relevant as Priorities Change

Wednesday, September 23, 4-4:45pm ET

Continuity is key in being able to track progress over time, but so is adapting your performance metrics to new circumstances.  Given that, the metrics you report in 2021 should include some mix of established and evolving metrics.  Does your dashboard include COVID-related metrics or an assessment of equity in service delivery?  If your key indicators are all based on in-person service provision, but you’ve shifted to virtual interaction or event stopped some activities altogether, do your targets or definitions need to be updated?  Share ideas with your peers on how to keep your data collection meaningful, inform the public about trends that matter, and facilitate better informed decision-making.  This roundtable will be led by two members of ICMA’s Performance Management Advisory Committee.

Rethinking Benefits

Thursday, September 24, 4-4:45pm ET

Traditional benefits offerings have served local governments well, but what if the staff you’re looking to recruit today are not motivated by the same things?  If they’re planning for multiple careers throughout their lives, does the time horizon to vest in a pension plan make sense?  Are they more interested in student loan repayment assistance than dependent care withholding?  Join managers, HR staff and others for a roundtable discussion on alternative approaches to benefits and what might work best for your organization.

Hiring, Onboarding, and Supervising Remote Staff

Friday, September 25, 4-4:45pm ET

With so many staff working remotely, how are you dealing with the challenges of hiring?  Even if you review applications online, how are you integrating any new, predominantly offsite staff into the culture of your organization?  This roundtable will explore the nuts and bolts of the current pandemic-induced moment and help to consider the larger questions of supervision in a more technologically-connected work environment.

New City Types for Improving Health and Equity: Understanding America’s Cities

Saturday, September 26, Noon to 12:45pm ET

America’s small and midsize cities face numerous unique socioeconomic challenges that are often overlooked in national public health conversations, and COVID-19 has exacerbated these gaps. NYU’s City Health Dashboard recently completed an analysis to help city stakeholders spotlight trends, learn from outliers, and inform possible policy approaches to change-making. Come learn how the City Health Dashboard can be used by local governments, health departments, and community groups looking to adopt data-based approaches towards decision-making, resource allocation, and policymaking.


Register for UNITE, today!

Best value rates last until August 26!

If you haven’t already, register for UNITE: A Digital Event and start planning your experience. Hint: Block off your calendar now (September 23-26) and make room for an exciting week of networking and education. Exciting announcements coming soon!