Social Cohesion and Trust: Join IOG, Rachel Curran, Don Lenihan, and Matthew Luloff for the Failing State debate on October 16th

6 minute read

By Rhonda Moore, Senior Advisor, Science and Innovation

On 16 October, IOG will host a debate between Rachel Curran, former Director of Policy for Stephen Harper, and Don Lenihan, IOG Senior Associate. The debate will be moderated by Deputy Mayor of Ottawa, Matthew Luloff.

Under the title The Failing State: Is it the politics or the process?, our debaters begin where the IOG’s recently-released paper Rebuilding Cohesion and Trust: Why Government Needs Civil Societyleft off.

IOG research reveals that declining levels of public trust are eroding the capacity for productive public dialogue and debate in Canada. The research also suggests that a primary obstacle to rebuilding social cohesion and repairing public trust is neither the population nor the issues, but the process. While people can be united through effective public engagement processes, poor or non-existent public engagement creates divisions among citizens and may even polarize or paralyze public discourse. A second obstacle is often the disposition and skills of those in government and civil society who are tasked to work together.

Indeed, the paper offers three recommendations to improve the ways in which governments at all levels work with civil society to strengthen dialogue and debate, and they respond to the two obstacles identified above. The first two recommendations tackle an increasing lack of deference to government and political leadership and attempt to bring the controversial parts of the government process out from behind closed doors. They reinforce that government and civil society need each other if they are to achieve meaningful change. The third recommendation targets potential ambivalence about government’s and civil society’s openness to engagement.

The recommendations of the IOG research are to:

  • Strengthen government’s and civil society’s capacity for rules-based dialogue and debate. Advocacy and policy engagement are a big part of what civil society organizations do. A rules-based approach to advocacy and dialogue promotes fair and informed dialogue, and mandates participants to work together to analyze, compare, and even consolidate, their views. Under a rules-based approach to dialogue and debate, advocates would be required to: be open and transparent about their objectives and concerns; listen to one another and try to empathize with different values and viewpoints; respect rules of evidence; and ensure that all the parties affected are fairly represented in the process.
  • Deepen government’s and civil society’s understanding of how partnerships work and why they are essential for the future. Civil society organizations typically work in closer contact with communities, citizens, and their needs, than do governments, and as a result, they sometimes deliver services more effectively. Yet the history of government/civil society partnerships and the history of contracting demonstrates that rigid, competitive mechanisms erode trust and communication, undermining the expertise of non-government actors (e.g., expertise in the needs of local communities and in the appropriate design of services). Thus, these mechanisms may actually produce unintended consequences and result in a failure to address communities’ needs.
  • Government and civil society should develop the skillsneeded to assess and empathize with one another’s contexts, priorities, and concerns. Empathy plays a key role in sensitive enterprises such as conflict management and negotiation. Empathy is defined not as a skill but as a disposition underlying the soft skills that enable individuals to identify different perspectives and then devise solutions for the problems that those perspectives bring to light.

What do you think of these recommendations? Join us at the debate on 16 October for a deeper dive into this topic.

The Debate: The Failing State: is it the politics or the process?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019
5:30PM – 7:00PM
Institute on Governance
60 George Street (in the Byward Market), Ottawa

The Debaters:

Rachel Curran, President, Wellington Advocacy and Fellow and Instructor, Clayton H. Riddell Program in Political Management, Carleton University

Rachel Curran is a lawyer by training and has nearly fifteen years of experience in public affairs, including extensive experience providing strategic and policy advice to the Prime Minister of Canada and federal and provincial Cabinet ministers. She is known for her intelligence, work ethic, and analytical ability, as well as her capacity to deliver on objectives. As Director of Policy to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Rachel was closely engaged in all matters involving the federal government, including foreign and defence policy, trade negotiations, economic affairs, immigration, transportation, energy and the environment, indigenous affairs, social development and intergovernmental relations.

Don Lenihan, IOG Senior Associate and President & CEO of Middle Ground Policy Research

Dr. Don Lenihan is an internationally recognized expert on public engagement, accountability, and governance. He has over 25 years of experience as a project leader, writer, speaker, senior government advisor, trainer, and facilitator and is the author of numerous articles, studies, and books. To learn more about Don’s work as a practitioner and a thought-leader, visit his website at:

Matthew Luloff (Moderator), Deputy Mayor, City of Ottawa

Born and raised in Ottawa, Matthew Luloff has always felt strongly about service to community and country.

As a member of the Governor General’s Foot Guards and later the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Matthew served as a member of the Ceremonial Guard and deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. Fighting out of small combat outposts along the Arghandab River, Matthew and his platoon patrolled the volatile Panjwai-Zharey districts of Kandahar Province.

After leaving the Canadian Forces, Matthew graduated from The Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs at Carleton University with a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management. He has worked as an advisor to several members of parliament and federal cabinet ministers, including most recently the Minister of National Defense.

Matthew continues to serves his community as City Councillor for Orléans. Entrusted as Deputy Mayor in his first term, the role affords him a seat on the influential Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO). Councillor Luloff also serves on both the Transportation and Community and Protective Services committee, and is the Council Liaison on Accessibility.

With an experienced and dedicated team, Councillor Luloff oversees the vision, direction and budget of the City of Ottawa. He builds trusted relationships with senior managers and works collaboratively with City of Ottawa staff to ensure the needs of the residents of Orléans are met with everything from snow clearing and transit service, to garbage pickup and development proposals.

As a strong mental health advocate, Matthew produces and co-hosts Veteran X, a podcast for veterans and first responders transitioning to civilian life.

Passionate about local arts and culture, Matthew has fronted the award-winning local band Hearts&Mines and continues to write, record and perform music.

He lives in Orléans with his wife Laura, newborn Elizabeth and their two dogs, Norman and Elliot.

Register Now

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