Practice Makes Policy

Making connections, building skills, shifting mindsets, and sparking curiosity.

Held February 20th and 21st, 2019, our conference invited practitioners to explore policy practice in three ways: "how to", "how to when it's complex" and "reimagining how to". 

The layered design sparked conversations and reflection not only about doing policy (tasks), but also about being a policy practitioner (mindsets). 

See the Conference Agenda here.  Video recordings and some activities can be found in the DIY Workshops section.

Key take aways for the Policy Community Partnership Office

  • Making connections needs facilitation + space + time
  • "Authentic" sharing hits the mark. Thoughts, struggles, and learning help participants relate back to their context
  • An annual conference is too limited in terms of capacity. More demand means we need other ways to convene, more often and in smaller groups. 

A short story from participants

Quotations and tweets give glimpses into the experience the conference generated. 

Survey comment

"...the presentation...about systematic bias and racism,...set the tone for the rest of the day; people were opening up about very difficult conversations, and it was a window to openly discuss very difficult topics".

Tweet @FYN_FLNNS Future Leaders of NS

The Public Engagement Workshop facilitated by Serena Cassidy from the @policommpoli Conference-in-a-box is just one way Halifax's mini-conference participants will gain valuable insights & knowledge #policomm

Tweet  @ngo_an

My key takeaway from Day 2 of @policommpoli : listen to diverse voices within and outside the public service; bring your whole self to your work; make a safe space for others to do the same - and these new perspectives will help make better policy. #policomm

Survey comment

"For policy wonks, words have importance, weight, meaning. We use them with intention. We analyze their meaning. Having a poem commissioned for the conference was a marvelous idea. "

Survey comment

"Everything from the atmosphere..., to the practical policy development advice, to the inspirational and ted-talk like presentations. I feel very inspired to take these lessons I've learned to my team - there are so many messages that I think can have a positive impact on the work we do..."

Tweet @Scott_Millar_CA

"So many times we fall in the trap of not well defining the problems we are trying to solve. Was reminded during @policommpoli of the constant need to be vigilant in staying honest about our biases and in seeking diverse perspectives. "

Tweet @lecuyerkrista

"When people relate, people retain". @agarwal_nitika2 from @apoliticalco on the importance of #storytelling in policy (or anything, really). Plain language, relevance, context, humour, and pause are all components of effective storytelling. @policommpoli #GCdigital #GC #policy

Survey comment

"The conference helped me see that there is a lot more to learn about policy, and that all the things I want out of my role but don't get to do (yet) are possible and encouraged".

Five essentials elements


Over shoulder view of violin player with people below

69% of survey respondents felt the conference contributed to a shared purpose and sense of belonging - the idea that we are more than individuals, that we exist in relation to those around us, both in and outside the federal public service.


Wide staircase occupied by small groups of people in conversation

1084 - We created face-to-face and virtual space for more than 1,000 participants from 30+ federal organizations and beyond, to meet as equals. Participants connected to share their lived experiences and the challenges of practicing policy.


Several tables of individuals engaged in discussion next to

89% of survey respondents said they will practice the skills and mindsets they honed or learned at the conference in their day to day work. In particular, participants are keen to try integrative thinking, ethnographic methods and more creative and inclusive approaches.


Collection of framed photographs on a wall around

75% of survey respondents felt we presented the right mix of activities (hearing, talking, doing that is practical and relatable). Our field trip and conference ethnographer experiments were both highly valued learning experiences.


Three people looking at a survey poster where respondents select answers with string.

82% of participants interviewed said their conference experience gave them optimism and energy, which continued to resonate a month after the event. Participants also shared their inspiration with their work teams and peers.