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Thought Leadership & Convening

The IOG’s thought leadership and convening activities are focusing on the most critical governance issues of today. Here you can read about and participate in ideas and events aimed at applying and advancing good governance for Canadians. We are focused on five main themes.

Parliamentary Democracy and Governance

Good governance is the bedrock of Canada’s system of parliamentary democracy and responsible government. This theme aims to enhance public awareness of the functioning of our democratic institutions, their importance to governance, and how they can generate fresh perspectives to address contemporary challenges.

Canada’s parliamentary democracy is under duress. Heightened partisanship in political discourse, a hyper concentration of power within the executive branch, and a corresponding decline of parliament are all apparent. With a federal election slated for October 2025, a profound understanding of parliamentary democracy and governance is more crucial than ever. Public discourse on the governance surrounding election periods and transitions is a particular imperative.

  • What are the implications of the caretaker convention, which applies during the writ period to constrain the actions of government while the House of Commons is vacant?
  • What does this mean for the day-to-day work of public servants?
  • How does the public service effectively support government transitions?

Populism, Disinformation and Governance

The relationship between governance and populism is complex and under-studied. Populism has become a buzzword in politics in recent years, but it is not a novel concept. The central ethos of populist politics is the defence of the “ordinary people” against exploitation at the hands of an elite class. Both the ‘right’ and the ‘left’ exploit it in a democratic appeal for votes. 

This theme will seek to understand what populism mean for public institutions, public servants, and the broader public interest. Can traditional governance adapt to populism, and what does this means for trust in our institutions?

Trust in our governance institutions is more precarious today, due to the emergence of divisive populist rhetoric, the active dissemination of disinformation, and the rise of a toxic political culture. Now more than ever, robust public institutions that are perceived as effective and legitimate by citizens are essential. This perception is critical for maintaining national unity and building a consensus on collaborative solutions to the challenges we collectively face.

  • Is there a populist form of government and governance? What would this look like and how would it operate?
  • What challenges does populism bring to the public service and how can it adapt in providing effective advice and support?
  • How can public servants navigate in a world of disinformation and misinformation?

Collaborative Governance, Federalism, and Civil Society

Governments and elected officials grapple with public policy challenges that transcend borders, cutting across departmental silos and spheres of accountability. Canada needs better collaborative governance to address the big issues of today and tomorrow. This theme will explore new approaches to effective collaborative governance, intergovernmental relationships and governance arrangements, and engaging civil society and communities. 

The biggest social and economic challenges we face as a country require multi-governmental responses. From the housing crisis to climate change, to healthcare system reform, and Indigenous reconciliation, addressing each demands new forms of collaborative governance. As challenges manifest uniquely in different regions, the fabric of our national unity is undergoing significant strain. Regional tensions are being felt across the country.

  • How does the use of the federal spending power, as an instrument of governance, blur the lines of accountability between orders and levels of government?
  • How can we co-develop policies and programs that integrate inter-governmental, intra-governmental, and extra-governmental perspectives?
  • What specific skills and competencies do public servants need to thrive in collaborative governance settings?

Future of Public Service Work

The “future of public service work” refers to the anticipated changes, trends, and developments in how government agencies and public servants operate and deliver services to citizens. From organizational structures to workforce dynamics to technological advancements, policy frameworks, and new citizen engagement methods – the future of public service work involves adapting to changing societal needs, technological advancements, and global trends to ensure effective and responsive governance that serves the public interest. This theme contemplates agile and adaptive governance structures, digital transformation, and citizen-centred service delivery. Canada needs to ensure public servants have the skills, literacies, and competencies needed to be more innovative and less risk-averse if we are to successfully manage the big issues facing us.

In December 2023, the Deputy Ministers’ Task Team on Values and Ethics published a report to the Clerk that outlined the key concerns and challenges facing the public service in the post-pandemic era. These include: the importance of public trust in Canada’s institutions; the need for stronger service delivery; the complexities of performing the advice function in an increasingly polarized political world; the practice of respect in the workplace; the meaning and significance of public sector values and ethics in the present and future.

  • What values will inform the culture of the future public service? How will these values be transmitted to new public servants?
  • How can we build capacity and resilience in government? Can innovation and risk-aversion co-exist in our present culture of accountability and governance?
  • What skills, literacies, and competencies does the current and future public service need to manage policy challenges and deliver services more responsively and effectively?

Science and Innovation Governance 

Science and innovation must be integrated into public sector governance to address the complex challenges we face. This theme emphasizes the pivotal role of scientific insights and evidence in the realm of public and democratic decision-making. It delves into the effective mobilization of scientific knowledge for decision-making, adept science communication, foresight methodologies for policy development, and the promotion of evidence-based decision-making. Beyond Endless Frontiers – our research and convening project funded through a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant to be co-led with the University of Ottawa –  will examine the governance that underpins Canada’s scientific enterprise. Read more here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the critical need for processes and approaches that facilitate the incorporation of science and innovation into decision-making within the public sector. Future complex public challenges will equally require the integration of science and policy, as well as effective communication of complex information with citizens.

  • How can science, data, and evidence inform good public sector governance and decision-making?
  • What competencies do public servants need to navigate a governance landscape marked by rapid and profound change?
  • What skills do public servants need to communicate evidence and science-based decision-making with the public?

Read more about our research initiatives in these areas and our latest ideas and insights by visiting the Governance Knowledge Hub

Independent and non-partisan, we convene meaningful and applied governance events that bring together a wide range of expert voices. You can see our upcoming and recent list of conferences, roundtables, webinars, and workshops here

We actively collaborate with other organizations to convene these important conversations. We can also help your organization or group build a deeper understanding of a complex topic in governance in a safe and neutral environment.

If you are interested in partnering with us, or if you would like us to convene a governance conversation for your organization, contact