The Public Governance Exchange (PGEx)
The Public Governance Exchange (PGEx) is the Institute On Governance’s premier applied research initiative – a syndicated, multi-jurisdictional program of applied research into public sector governance.
The purpose of the PGEx is to engage government organizations at the federal and provincial levels in rigorous analysis of governance issues and trends, with a view to identifying practical approaches to real-world challenges. It provides cutting-edge research and analysis on issues of direct interest to members, as well as a forum for the exchange of ideas, expertise and lessons learned, including through customized workshops and large-scale learning events.
A central fact of contemporary public administration is the distribution of government responsibilities to a broad spectrum of institutions beyond day-to-day government control – sometimes far beyond. Measured in terms of expenditures, most public sector activity in Canada is now distributed in this way – some 55% at the federal level and nearly 80% in the case of the provinces. PGEx describes this distribution of responsibilities to agencies, tribunals, Crown corporations and Delegated Administrative Authorities, among others as “distributed governance”, and has developed a conceptual model – the Governance Continuum – to explain how it works and assist in organizational analysis and planning.
This evolution of public sector entities has enhanced the capacity of governments to organize their activities in a manner that best achieves their policy goals. At the same time, the proliferation of organizations adds complexity to the challenges of governance and can lead to uncertainties about accountability, and problems ensuring appropriate levels of coordination, control and adherence to public sector values. Another signature PGEx initiative is our Governance Scorecard, a very granular organizational evaluation against a wide-ranging and detailed set indicators to assess both the formal machinery of the organization and the myriad of less formal governance arrangements that together constitute its “governance ecosystem”. In the context of expert-assisted self-assessment, the Scorecard is an exceptionally valuable evaluation and planning tool.
The importance of governance issues is heightened in the context of fiscal austerity, as governments plan for organizational changes that are intended to cut costs while improving the way things are done. It is critical that such changes be rooted in systematic analysis and the development of appropriate mechanisms to ensure financial probity, accountability and alignment with broader government policy.
PGEx builds governance capacity among its members by building a community of practice that shares experiences, insights and practical approaches with respect to the evolution of governance as it adapts to fiscal, economic and social policy pressures. In this shared space, members have the benefit of IOG facilitation, expertise, analytical tools and directed research.
Areas in which members gain a deeper understanding include:
- trends in how Canadian and other Westminster jurisdictions organize to govern;
- characteristics and governing principles of traditional ministerial departments and arm’s-length organizations, to support intelligent choice among organizational options;
- how accountability, policy coordination, and risk and performance management are affected by the diversity of institutions and governance structures;
- the often complex relationships among diverse institutional actors, to more effectively manage interactions across the governance continuum;
- best practices in governance, including how to measure the quality of governance in your organization and across sector-related organizations; and
- the relationship between governance, risk and outcomes.
Specific benefits of PGEx membership are adaptive to member needs. Early work was focused on foundational, member-directed research and the development of analytic frameworks, whose elaboration and refinement is ongoing, as discussed below. Other benefits include large-scale learning conferences at which PGEx research initiatives are presented and topical governance issues discussed by presenters and panels of senior government officials. Going forward, PGEx is planning more such conferences, as well as small-scale, interactive workshops on practical issues of immediate interest to members, supported by IOG facilitation and research. Additionally, PGEx is able to provide members with ready access to advice and research on specific issues of concern, which if desired could include facilitated application of the IOG’s Governance Scorecard.
The 2012-2013 workshops will focus on: Implementing Fiscal Restraint; Developing a Risk Lens on Government; the Use and Effectiveness of Boards in Ontario; and Governance in Federal Crown Corporations. They will be half-day events whose objective is to engage participants in in-depth discussion that will highlight areas for follow-up research and investigation. Facilitators and speakers will provide an analytical framework to stimulate discussion by participants that drills down to the specific experiences in their organizations.
Relevant PGEx papers: