Public Sector Governance

Public Sector Governance

Ensuring good governance

Public governance is about the broader governance eco-system of a society. It is the examination of the role of institutions, citizens, civil society, norms, and processes that effect societal priority setting and service delivery. Our work in this area involves studying current trends, analyzing root causes, predicting emerging influences and advising practitioners on a principled path forward.

Access leading expertise through our advisory services

Our highly experienced team of consultants has over 20 years experience exploring and developing innovative approaches to responsible and responsive public sector governance and leadership in Canada and abroad. We have worked sector-wide in public, private and not-for-profit institutions and bring a full network of expert resources to everything we do.

Our advisory work addresses your specific needs

Our approach takes account of your particular objectives, history, stakeholders, personalities and culture and is underpinned by our extensive research in all areas of governance. We can help your public sector organization by:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of your governance systems by conducting governance assessments that address their complexity and resolve any conflicting interests
  • Conducting policy research, bolstering your policy capacity and providing strategic advice
  • Designing and facilitating multi-stakeholder meetings to suit your unique needs
  • Developing governance tools, including bylaws, policies and terms of reference
  • Supporting strategy development and strategic planning through in depth analysis and expert facilitation
  • Helping you better understand the unique challenges of distributed governance as more power and responsibilities are distributed out among the broader public sector
  • Conducting customized training, facilitation and moderated workshops and retreats
  • Determining the most effective division of responsibilities between elected and appointed officials in your department, agency or board
Access leading expertise through our learning products

We have developed a wide range of learning products that give you the knowledge and tools you need to be successful in an environment where change is the only constant. We offer an Executive Leadership Program, leadership boot camps, day courses and custom courses. All of our learning products are developed, tested and taught by former senior public servants and reflect the most up-to-date knowledge of policies, practices, structures and the true functioning of the enterprise. Learn more about learning opportunities at the IOG.

Customize your learning experience

We can customize our course content to meet the unique needs of your department, agency or functional community. Our custom courses couple practical exercises with our research, our experience, and action-oriented case studies to provide you with actionable insights and practical tools that enhance your learning experience and inspire you to lead transformative change. Contact us for more information on our custom courses.

Access leading expertise through our research

The IOG’s signature research project over the past several years has been the Public Governance Exchange (PGEx). PGEx has yielded a number of new insights into the structures of government and how its various relationships and accountabilities have and will continue to evolve.

The purpose of the PGEx is to engage government organizations at the federal, provincial and municipal levels in rigorous analysis of governance issues and trends, with a view to identifying practical approaches to real-world challenges. PGEx provides cutting-edge research and analysis on issues of direct interest to our members. It is a forum for the exchange of ideas and lessons learned and the basis for many of our customized workshops and large-scale learning events.

PGEx research thus far

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 approximately 80% in the case of the provinces. We describe this distribution of responsibilities to agencies, tribunals, Crown corporations and Delegated Administrative Authorities as “distributed governance”. Our work has led to the creation of a conceptual model– the Governance Continuum – that explains how distributed governance works and that helps us assist organizations in their analysis and planning.

public sector governance

The evolution of public sector entities along the continuum 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.

One of our key evaluation tools – the Governance Scorecard – stems directly from this research. The Scorecard is a 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 to stress test governance. 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. Contact us to learn more about the Governance Scorecard.

Support leading expertise in public sector research

The focus of the next iteration of PGEx is Risk and Oversight and the creation of an analytical framework for understanding risk in the governance ecosystem and subsequently a more effective approach to managing risk when compared to the current oversight regime in place in many jurisdictions. Contact us to learn more about becoming a PGEx member.

The benefits of PGEx membership

PGEx builds governance capacity among its members by building a community of practice that shares experiences, insights and practical approaches to governance as it adapts to fiscal, economic and social policy pressures. In this shared space, we offer members the benefit of our facilitation, expertise, analytical tools and directed research. PGEx members will learn more about:

  • 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 and how 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
  • The relationship between governance, risk and outcomes.

Specific benefits of PGEx membership are always adaptive to member needs. Our early work focused on foundational, member-directed research and the development of analytic frameworks. We have run large-scale learning conferences and small-scale workshops featuring presenters and panels of senior government officials. As a member you will benefit from access to advice and research on specific issues of immediate concern and a facilitated application of our Governance Scorecard. Contact us to learn more about becoming a PGEx member.

Our virtuous circle of research, advisory and learning

Our leading expertise is rooted in the balanced growth of our research, advisory and learning activities. This “virtuous circle” means that you benefit from a strong applied research focus that strengthens our ability to provide advisory services and informs our learning products; advisory services that shape our research and leverage our learning programs; and learning products that are based on evidence and experience.

Our virtuous circle in action

Treasury Board Secretariat (Ontario)

We have been working with the Government of Ontario to improve transparency, accountability and oversight across the public sector, including in its classified and non-classified agencies since 2010. Specifically, we have supported the Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) in its commitment to fostering stewardship in its board-governed agencies by leading in the development of a new training system. We designed a comprehensive yet focused curriculum with TBS guidance, and are delivering this training in 2014 and 2015 to new Board appointees, chairs of board-governed agencies and senior staff for several ministries.

We designed the curriculum on the basis of recognized adult learning principles, in which students are active participants and learning approximates real life situations as closely as possible. Additionally, our work through PGEx directly contributed to the development of the unique conceptual framework that shaped the curriculum. Lessons from these and similar recent work informed the program’s discussion of the challenges in a contemporary Canadian public sector governance ecosystem and the best practices for addressing those challenges.

Industry Canada

We undertook a project with Industry Canada in 2013 examining portfolio stewardship and the roles involved in leading and supporting this responsibility by Ministers and Deputy Ministers under the Government of Canada. Government guidance documents and management tools have noted the importance of board alignment with the government’s agenda, robust communications, coordinated support for the Minister’s accountability and the need to support policy and operational coherence. We conducted a structural assessment of the Industry Canada portfolio and its constituent organizations to better meet these expectations. We systematically examined the Industry portfolio and, through tools developed via PGEx, measured precisely the nature and extent of their autonomy from the Minister of Industry, as well as described the kinds of relationships they have with other members of the portfolio and other actors in government.

Such an assessment is valuable for determining the appropriate engagement between the organization and the department acting on behalf of the Minister. Issues of coordination, communications, policy, management and administration, planning and reporting were reviewed. Our work with Industry Canada has informed our expertise in public sector governance and has helped us work and advise in other areas of government.

Elections Canada

We provided services to assist in reviewing, assessing and framing the work of Elections Canada over an eight-month project in the context of the a newly introduced comprehensive electoral reform Bill in 2013. Our work included establishing an Elections Canada Advisory Board and filling it with eminent Canadians. We established the board in October 2013 to help the Chief Electoral Officer better serve Canadians, strengthen his role as the guardian of Canada’s democracy, and to provide him with mandate specific advice on an ongoing basis.

Over the course of our continued work with Elections Canada we have provided executive-level advice and expertise to the Chief Electoral Officer and his management team on stewardship, governance and engagement, principles of the Westminster system as they apply and the assessment and development of training programs. Our approach for this project was based on our extensive facilitation and advisory services as well as our comprehensive learning programs.

Contact us

  • Sylvain Dubois

    Vice-President, Public Governance
    613-562-0090 ext. 263

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our Twitter

Quick Links

Connect With Us