• Convene and enable the Policy Community to make connections across organizations, sectors, and fields of expertise.
  • Engage participants in dialogue around the 'how' and 'who' of policy development and implementation.
  • Highlight and involve community members in the Policy Community Partnership Office's key deliverables; competencies, mobility and portal on new instruments and approaches.
  • Provide an immersive learning and professional development experience where participants can explore policy approaches to create outcome focused policy.
  • Build off the topics e.g. (Indigenous engagement, open government, and experimentation) explored during the 2017 Policy Community Conference.  

Our approach

Our approach to designing the 2018 Policy Community Conference can be summed up in one word: intentional.

We were deliberate about the design, content and delivery to ensure the Conference would reflect the needs and values of the Policy Community.

The core principles of the Policy Community include collaboration, partnership and co-creation. We know that some of the best ideas come when many minds get together to explore and create.

The conference Design Team was made up of some 20 members, and the 24 concurrent sessions were developed and delivered by more than 100 collaborators. These partners came from across the federal, provincial, and municipal public service, think tanks, academics, and non-profits. 

Another guiding principle is being user-centric and community-driven. Participants of the inaugural conference in 2017 told us that they would appreciate more interactive sessions and more opportunities to create connections. We listened and designed the Conference plenary sessions as short FedTalks to allow for more concurrent sessions in four different formats: Workshops, How Might We Conversations, Speaker Salons, and the Connections Lounge.

We paired 100 participants up on Blind Coffee Dates - conversations with someone from a different organization. All of these allowed for immersive experiences that empowered participants, let them get hands-on with policy issues, tools and approaches, and make lasting connections.

Another principle of the Community is inclusion. We extended the invitation to the conference widely to ensure broad representation: we encouraged funding departments to consider allocating their tickets of all those who shape policy (e.g., non EC’s, regional employees), had a ticket contest for community members, and invited partners across the broader policy ecosystem to attend.

We assembled a line-up of speakers and panelists while balancing gender, backgrounds and perspectives from inside and outside of government.

We also used inclusive tools and approaches. For example, Sli.do, an online polling tool allowed anyone, using a mobile device, to ask questions anonymously from anywhere.

We created a virtual “one-stop-shop” where all the tools that a virtual participant might need were available on one page—the webcast of plenary sessions, Sli.do, Twitter, a dialogue box, and a link to GCcollab.

We also developed an experience for those who were unable to attend the Conference in person in the NCR and regions to have the dialogue, learning and interactions that happen at the Conference with their home teams and colleagues. With help from our content partners, we built the Conference In-A-Box (CIAB) experience: a collection of facilitation guides and conversation starters that mirrored the content of the in person Conference. Groups from across Canada took up the CIAB and had rich and lively discussions and learning. 


In person

525 participants from 68 organizations


  • 45 Federal
  • 2 countries
  • 5 provinces (AB, MB, ON, QC, NB)
  • Innovation hubs and labs,  Development & recruitment programs, networks and functional communities


  • Elders
  • Public Policy Schools
  • Think tanks


150+ participants

  • Webcast viewers from 9 provinces, 19 cities

45+ organizations 

  • Federal, provincial, municipal
  • NGO, Industry, Academia
  • Retired public servants


The Community has spoken. More than 120 people completed our post conference survey and provided feedback on their conference experience. We heard some great comments and were offered ideas for changes and room for improvement.

Impact of the Conference


Over 88% said they learned something new that is applicable to their day-to-day job.


Over 87% said they were challenged to think differently.


Over 85% said they were challenged to behave/do things differently.


Over 76% said they met and connected with people who work in a variety of departments and roles across the federal government and outside of the federal government.


"I have a rekindling of hope that things can be different"

"Exposure to speakers and different/new ideas I would not have typically considered in my work life, or day-to-day personal life for that matter. In my opinion, this is the most impactful strength of the policy conference because it is what inspires all who attend to take action."

"Learning that the policy work I am doing is actual policy work - as a non practitioner of policy making, it was very validating."  

"The blind (coffee) date was a fantastic idea, I highly encourage more of these" 

Room for Improvement

This was only the second annual conference, so we have much to learn. We are taking note of what our community indicated as areas for improvement. 

"I would find a way to make it more accessible to regional staff. Perhaps hold multiple conferences in regional centers, if resources allow "
"It was very packed and the agenda got a little out of control at a couple of points. A little more wiggle room in the agenda might help keep things running smooth even when certain speakers run long "
"There were too many concurrent sessions to choose from... I was missing something I wanted to see no matter what! Maybe offering the same ones at different times would provide more flexibility?"

Room for Improvement

This was only the second annual conference, so we have much to learn. We are taking note of what our community indicated as areas for improvement. 

"I would find a way to make it more accessible to regional staff. Perhaps hold multiple conferences in regional centers, if resources allow."

"It was very packed and the agenda got a little out of control at a couple of points. A little more wiggle room in the agenda might help keep things running smooth even when certain speakers run long."

"There were too many concurrent sessions to choose from... I was missing something I wanted to see no matter what! Maybe offering the same ones at different times would provide more flexibility?"

Plenary Talks

Read the summaries below or re-watch the webcast. 

Your Community

Rachel Wernick and Neil Bouwer opened the conference by highlighting the journey since last year’s inaugural conference.

In the past year, the Policy Community, which is inclusive and cross-functional, has been formalized: it is supported by over 20 funding departments, an ADM governance board, and a dedicated office.

Three pillars of action and associated deliverables to support the community are:

  • Convene – annual conference, workshops and events throughout the year
  • Enable – modern competency framework as a basis for learning, recruitment and a mobility program to develop well-rounded cross-functional policy professionals portal
  • Share – on policy approaches and instruments to disseminate innovative practices and learning. 

The principles guiding these efforts include (1) partnerships, both inside and outside of the Federal Government, (2) community-driven and (3) biasing action. Wernick and Bouwer ended the talk with a call to action to community members: be open, daring, creative and audacious!  

Measurement Matters

 Jason Saul, CEO, Mission Measurement

Jason Saul's talk on social policy measurement highlighted some of the challenges in measuring outcomes in the policy profession: the lack of predictive tools available to effectively measure outcomes before investments are made and the 'black box' of evaluation outcomes.

Current evaluation measures are subjective, and by embracing the power of standardization to create a common language, we can enable benchmarking and systematic learning.

Saul left participants with the challenge to create tools that will advance our profession and asked the question, "How do we innovate in our field"?  

Building trust in Innovative policy making

Nitika Agarwal, Chief Operating Officer, Apolitical

Nitika Agarwal gave a plenary talk which focused on four practical steps to building trust in government: 

STEP 1 : Create a culture recognizing the high Return on Investment on building trust; 

STEP 2: Arm yourself to build trust internally with knowledge, experience and connections; 

STEP 3: See Policy, Delivery and Communication as one team, not three;

STEP 4: Be a human, not a faceless bureaucrat

Nitika subsequently blogged about her talk - available here 

Being a Modern, Relevant and Impactful Policy Practitioner

Marta Morgan, Deputy Minister, Immigration and Refugee Canada

Jean-François Tremblay, Deputy Minister, Indigenous Services 

According to DM Marta Morgan, being a modern, relevant and impactful policy practitioner requires:

  • The capacity to develop policy proposals that can be taken up - needing vision and peripheral vision;
  • The policy initiatives make a difference - relying on evidenced-based analysis; and the coming together of policy-operations-comms;
  • Support for these policies inside and outside of government - being sensitive to the needs and will of the people.  

DM Jean-François Tremblay shared his 10 tips for Policy Practitioners:

1. Engage as you go.

2. You’re only as smart as your network

3. Protect time for deep policy and innovation

4. Always be ready for the opportunities that arise

5. Think about the short-term and long-term vision

6. Work with others  

7. Focus on your value added

8. Get out of your comfort zone

9. Ask yourself if the policy can be sold

10. Nurture (not impose) innovation, then scale up  

A Discussion with the Clerk: Policy Approaches in support of Reconciliation

MichaelWernick, Clerk of the Privy Council

Madeleine Redfern, Mayor of Iqaluit 

Jonathan Dewar, Executive Director, First Nations Information Governance Centre

Richard Budgell, Regional Executive, QC, First Nations Health Branch, ISC

Deborah Richardson, Deputy Minister, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, ON  

The Clerk led a discussion on the way we approach policy matters to advance reconciliation. The panelists discussed what reconciliation-oriented approaches to policy look like in practice, and the continued evolution required to incorporate reconciliation-oriented policy approaches into the DNA of the Policy Community.

The discussion resonated well in the room and online, as evidenced by a great stream of thoughts on Twitter. As far as immediate next steps, the Clerk challenged the Policy Community to develop a Indigenous reading list. Participants were also explicitly told to get out and talk to Canadians!  

AI & Disruptive tech in policy making

Gayemarie Brown, CEO and Founder, Wintam Place Consulting

Gayemarie Brown opened her talk by highlighting that AI is much more a part of our daily lives than most people realise. In order to fully explore the possibilities in using AI to help solve problems, Brown suggested that we must shift our mindsets and perceptions of what AI can do. She argued that we need to embrace our creativity and think about how AI can help cure diseases, improve accessibility, and provide better services for Canadians.

However, we cannot move forward unless all Canadian citizens have access to the Internet and functioning devices - what Brown argues we must view as a human right.

Brown suggested that siloed thinking and siloed organizations will disrupt advancements in AI. AI is and will continue to impact the job market, as more and more work becomes automated. In order to make the best use of AI, we need each other, and how we continue to structure our organizations is limiting us.

Participants felt her address was timely, forward-thinking and realistic. She left us with the discussion of what needs to be addressed in the era of AI; silos, speed, encouraging mindsets, fixing education, internet as a human right, workforce, and digital identity.  

Working as One Team 

Kit Collingwood-Richardson, Deputy Director, Universal Credit Program, UK Government 

Kit Collingwood-Richardson and her colleague James Reeve, fuelled by the desire to rejuvenate the passion they once had for their jobs in the public service, launched the One Team Gov movement in 2017.

The movement’s mission is to be “a community of innovators focused on radical public sector reform through practical action.” Kit outlined the seven principles of One Team Gov:

1. Work in the open and positively

2. Take practical action

3. Experiment and iterate

4. Be diverse and inclusive

5. Care deeply about citizens

6. Work across borders

7. Embrace technology

To emphasise the need to bring these principles to the fore, Kit highlighted why this work matters: we’re helping to make our sector fit for the networked age; we’re experimenting with new ways of leading; we’re democratising change; we’re creating space to say unexpected things; and we’re giving people hope.

She concluded her talk with a call to action that resonated deeply with conference participants: If you’re tired of waiting for the revolution, start it yourself!  

Session Summaries

Our "Speakers' Salon" explored six topics

The role of evidence in shaping policy and regulations

This session used the process to legalize cannabis as a case study to examine how a broad range of evidence is needed to shape policy, regulations, and industry, resulting in better outcomes for Canadians.

Organized by Monia Lahaie and Lynn Barr-Telford (Statistics Canada)

Guest Speakers:

Eric Costen (DG, Cannabis Legalisation and Regulation Secretariat),

Lynn Barr-Telford (DG, Statistics Canada), and

Austin Lawrence (Manager, Public Safety Canada)  

The Interplay Between Communications and Policy 

The goal of this session was to illustrate the importance of working together across policy and communications functions and the powerful outcomes that can result when it’s done well. 

Organized by the Communications Community Office 

Guest Speakers:

Jennifer Hollington (ADM, Health Canada),

Suzy McDonald (ADM, Health Canada),

Melanie Sullivan (Executive Director, Communications Community Office)  

Two-eyed seeing

This session introduced participants to two-eyed seeing. Two-eyed seeing is learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing… and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all. 

Organized by Rebecca Johnston and Carolyn Laude (CIRNA) 

Guest Speakers:

Albert Marshall (Elder, Mi'kmaw Nation),

Dr. Cheryl Bartlett (Professor Emeritus, Biology and Integrative Science, Cape Breton University),

Karen Lawford (Indigenous Midwife, Academic) 

Experimentation in Action

In this session, participants learned about policy and program experimentation through multiple case-studies, including a Q&A on applying experimentation to policy issues.  

Organized by Sean Turnbull (TBS Experimentation Team) 

Guest Speakers:

Michelle Lattimore (DG, IRCC),

David Gyarmati (Research Director, Social Research and Demonstration Canada),

Sarah Chan ( TBS Experimentation Team)

GBA+ and Inclusive Policy 

Through examples of GBA+ done well and what happens when GBA+ is applied poorly,this session explored why GBA+ matters for Canadians, and the skills needed to do great GBA+ analysis .

 Organized by Jillian Sexton (PCPO) and Natale Dankotuwage (ESDC)

Guest Speakers:

Kit Collingwood-Richardson (Deputy Director, Data team, Universal Credit Programme, UK Gov),

Rachel Wernick (Senior ADM, Employment and Social Development Canada),

Tatiana Fraser (Co-Founder of Girls Action Foundation) 

Creating Smart Cities: Technologies, Big Data and Citizen Engagement

This session, featured a dynamic and multi-sector discussion exploring the transformational impacts of technology and their socio-economic dimensions in creating smart cities.

Organized by Chantal Barton and Ursula Gobel (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)) 

Guest Speakers:

Gerard Peets (DG, Infrastructure Canada),

Pamela Robinson (Ryerson University),

Stephen Willis (City of Ottawa),

Paul Vallee (Pythian),

Ursula Gobel (Associate Vice-President, Social Science and Humanities Research Council).

Moderator: Ian Capstick, (Power & Politics Analyst, Founder of MediaStyle and Camp  

How Might We...

Sessions were designed to get diverse groups of people thinking about the art of the possible on the “how” of different aspects of policy shaping.

  • Co-create Policy
  • Create a Culture that Supports Policy Excellence
  • Rethink the Policy Cycle
  • Work as One Team across the policy ecosystem
  • Develop Policy in a Digital World
  • Listen for Unheard Voices

Each conversation gave us time and space to think with others and explore what we currently do and what we might imagine doing differently. Having the opportunity to engage as a community in this way generated new questions to be discussed.

Connections Lounge

The Connections Lounge was a direct response to 2017 Conference feedback that networking is valuable aspect of any conference. We provided a semi-structured context for meeting and forming connections to test how actively this benefit needs to be supported.

Results: theme-based activities brought more people, "expert" sessions led to rich conversations. More testing required. 

  • Expert Connections
  • Policy Community Construction Zone
  • Expert Connections - Digital Edition
  • Canada Beyond 150 Insights Gallery 


The Conference’s interactive workshops provided participants with experiential learning about different policy making methods, tools and best practices. At the same time, the sessions afforded people an opportunity to meet, work and play with colleagues from across policy functions.  

  • Policy Innovation 101
  • Public Engagement within the Policy Lifecycle
  • Engaging Internally on Program & Policy Design
  • Making Policy Real: Measuring the Results that Matter to People
  • Playing the Medium-Term Game
  • User-Designed Policy 


The Conference-in-a-Box was designed to expand the reach of Policy Community Conference beyond the venue in Ottawa, while taking into account that some experiences can only be achieved in person with colleagues.

It provided instructions and materials necessary to organize a two-day mini-conference which could include:

  • Group viewing of the webcasted portions of the Conference
  • A policy innovation session delivered exclusively to the virtual audience
  • A choice of group exercises that could be conducted with the participants of the mini-conference. These group exercises remain available to the policy community.
  • Connecting with other virtual participants through Twitter and GCcollab  

There was generally positive feelings about the experience with the Conference-in-a-Box and it led to great conversations across the country. It was particularly exciting to have our provincial partners join the discussion (i.e. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Manitoba) .

We created a virtual “one stop-shop” where all the tools that a virtual participant might need were available on one page— the webcast, twitter, sli.do, a dialogue box, and a link to GCcollab.

Call to Community 

The 2018 Policy Community Conference connected people from across departments, functions, the country and continents. We asked big questions in the How Might We room, explored and built together in the Workshops, were challenged with real policy questions and inspired in the Speakers Salon and during the plenary talks, and engaged in important conversations in the Connections Lounge. And now: we keep going.

If you want to relive some of the experiences or share with your colleagues plenary talks and teams, here are the videos of the and group exercises from the Conference-in-a-Box (now DIY Workshops). The conversations and questions begun at the Conference are just the catalyst.

We want to continue building on these themes and topics - and we need you to come along with us.

The Policy Community is your community.

So, stay connected, get involved and help shape this community to be what you want it to be!