Moving Policy Forward through Collaborative Practice
March 31, 2005
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The Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector Affairs Division (Social Development Canada)
and the Voluntary Sector Forum wish to acknowledge the assistance of the New Economy
Development Group for managing and facilitating this workshop and for their significant
contribution to this report.
The opinions expressed in this document are those of the participants at the “Moving
Policy Forward through Collaborative Practice” workshop, and do not necessarily
reflect the views of the Government of Canada.
The Non-Profit and Voluntary Sector Affairs Division, Social
Development Canada (SDC) and the Voluntary Sector Forum (VSF) convened the “Moving
Policy Forward through Collaborative Practice” workshop in Ottawa, Ontario on
March 31, 2005 to examine the lessons learned from the Sectoral Involvement in Departmental
Policy Development initiative.
The Sectoral Involvement in Departmental Policy Development
(SIDPD) initiative is a 5-year $28.5 million program which had two major objectives:
a) to enhance policy development in federal departments by strengthening
opportunities for input by voluntary sector organizations; and
b) to strengthen the policy capacity of the voluntary sector to contribute to departmental
Using the lessons learned from SIDPD as a starting point, workshop
participants discussed strategies for strengthening collaboration between the federal
government and the voluntary sector in the policy development process.
The workshop brought together over 50 representatives from the
voluntary sector and federal departments to share lessons learned with respect to collaboration
in the policy development process, and to identify concrete strategies for sharing these
lessons and facilitating voluntary sector and government collaboration.
Copies of the workshop agenda, presentations and list of participants
are available in Appendices I, II and III respectively.
TRENDS IN COLLABORATION: “LESSONS FROM SIDPD AND BEYOND”
The New Economy Development Group conducted an analysis
of the lessons learned from the SIDPD projects, over the months of January to March
2005. The following is a summary of the key findings of this analysis presented by Dal
Brodhead (CEO of the New Economy Development Group) to workshop participants.
In summary, at the policy development level, there appears to
be an emerging understanding of the nature of collaboration and its relationship to
partnering and the need for horizontal governance. The understanding of why we need
to coordinate and collaborate is an evolving notion – but in essence it is about
governance – the mobilization of both public policy levers and the knowledge of
the voluntary sector and other stakeholders for society’s well being.
Virtually all interviews conducted by New Economy in undertaking
their analysis indicated that there has been increased voluntary sector policy capacity
along with real changes in the way in which voluntary sector partners are working together.
However the results are more mixed in terms of strengthening
the voluntary sector's opportunities for input into departmental policy development.
While there are several interesting examples of improved opportunity to input into departmental
policy development processes, limited innovation has appeared to date across government.
Significantly, several of the successful projects reviewed have received continued funding
from several sources including the federal government to continue their work.
At the project level, successful projects exhibit similar characteristics
including a clear understanding of purpose. Project managers talked about time spent
identifying issues, mapping strategies, identifying stakeholders, determining a process,
confirming and clarifying objectives, identifying indicators of success and preparing
for evaluation. Successful projects also had clear governance structures that included
in some cases signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) or partnership agreements signed
by all parties.
Successful projects had well thought out engagement strategies
that operated at multiple levels – which ensured that the strategy included key
players across multiple sectors; including senior government management, other key officials
from all relevant levels of government, community organizations, and citizens.
Successful projects took into account the importance of building
relationships. Interviewees spoke about the time required to both define the parameters
of the relationship and develop the relationships required to make the project work.
Lastly, successful projects exhibited the ability to continuously learn throughout the
life of the project, to build in review mechanisms and to be open to evaluation as a
LESSONS LEARNED FROM SIDPD PROJECTS — “COLLABORATION
Presentations were made on three SIDPD projects which exhibited
many of the characteristics of success and which represented a range of subject matter
and geographic areas of the country:
- The “Rural Voices for Early Childhood Development
and Care” Project (Rural Voices and Manitoba Family Services and Housing);
- The “BC Network of Associations for Internationally
Trained Professionals” (Immigrant Services Society of BC and MOSAIC); and
- The “Reducing Poverty through Multi-Sectoral Collaboration”
Project (Caledon Institute)
The presentations were all informative and illustrative of the challenges and benefits
of working horizontally and collaboratively — in some cases across jurisdictions,
including multiple stakeholders and multiple communities.
The small group discussion focused on three areas: the key differences
in working in collaboration and the ways of working when collaboration is not present,
what would have to change within each sector to work toward increased collaboration
and what actions need to be in place in order to support collaboration.
Working in Collaboration
- Working in collaboration means identifying and bringing
solutions forward with a common purpose. It also means the silos within the voluntary
sector and the government need to break down.
- There is a growing recognition of the need to sort out inter-departmental
roles and responsibilities and to address interjurisdictional issues. Issues are increasingly
seen as multi dimensional and interrelated with a desire to get to the root of the
problem and not just throw money at it.
- Insufficient time to develop thorough policy options is
- Developing and managing relationships add a new dimension
and demand on resources.
- There is more of a focus on outcomes and accountability
and acknowledgement of the roles and importance of civil society and the need for
- Collaboration requires a focus on respect and trust and
takes a “we” rather then a “they” perspective. Communication
is two way and there is acknowledgement of the need to understand each other’s
language and develop a common language. True collaboration is difficult to do and
requires commitment and resources.
Not Working in Collaboration
- Policy work in the past has been highly adversarial with
the voluntary sector often taking up positions focused against government. The government,
on the other hand, has always been largely the funder and was thus seen to have power
- For the most part government does not view the voluntary
sector as a legitimate policy player with expertise, but rather as an advocate. Communication
is largely one way – out from government – “we will tell you what
you need to know”.
- Lastly, government departments and the various jurisdictions
in government do not necessarily work together but rather remain largely in their
separate areas of responsibility.
- Government would have to shift to a real understanding of
the value and expertise of the voluntary sector. There is a need for a systemic and
structural shift in government that includes a permanent commitment to interdepartmental
and intergovernmental collaboration.
- The Accord and Codes of Good Practice are visions that require
mechanisms to bring them into action.
- There is a requirement for investment in skills and leadership
training in both government and the voluntary sector. Government also needs to invest
in its own policy capacity – there is currently a gap in policy expertise in
- Administrative/funding mechanisms and practices need to
be developed that support innovation and collaboration. Present administrative practices
act as a disincentive to collective action. Government needs to develop a culture
that includes a willingness to innovate and risk tolerance. Reward incentives for
government personnel need to take into account the resources, time and commitment
required for successful collaboration.
- The take-up on SIDPD has been uneven.
Non-Government Sector Changes
- There needs to be a shift in the culture of the voluntary
sector from entitlement to accountability.
- The voluntary sector also needs to move from organizations
that are defined by representation to ones that are more focused on issues.
- Their needs to be more emphasis on building relationships
among the key players.
- The voluntary sector needs also to become more collaborative
with and amongst its members and to be less competitive.
- Lastly, the voluntary sector needs to understand and acknowledge
the need to be more accountable. It needs to understand and take seriously the need
for evaluation and review of objectives and projected outcomes.
- There is a requirement for cultural shifts on the part of
both the voluntary sector and government.
- There is a need for new mechanisms for reaching out and
engaging citizens in issues that concern them. These mechanisms need to be able to
identify issues and means of addressing them. There is the need for increased capacity
for working in collaboration in both Government and the voluntary sector.
- There is also a need to be jointly accountable for outcomes
(successes and failures). This includes shared leadership and the common development
of objectives, projected outcomes, indicators of success and the management of evaluations.
- A leadership statement from senior levels of government
and politicians that indicates support for collaboration
- Senior level accountability mechanisms for collaboration,
including performance reviews
- Central agency guidelines on collaboration similar to Results-based
Management Frameworks (RMAFs)
- Implementation of the Accord and Codes of Good Practice
- Report to Parliament on implementation of the Accord and
- Capacity Training for government and voluntary sector staff
linked to the Accords of Good Practice that puts the Codes into Action
- Distribute SIDPD and similar success stories wherever possible
to government and voluntary sector
- Set aside resources in all similar funding programs for
the development of collaboration
- New funding and reporting mechanisms that support collaboration
and the long term nature of policy development including core funding and multi-year
approaches to projects and funding
- Development of a practice guide on what makes for good collaboration
- Address continued problems with the Charities Act
- Political strategy for the voluntary sector with respect
to their role
- More political commitment to and means for citizen engagement
- Use of the Voluntary Sector Portal to disseminate results
and build a knowledge strategy on collaboration
Several themes resulted from the group discussions and were
summarized by Dal Brodhead:
Change is possible but there is a need for major cultural shifts
if collaboration is to become common practice. There is recognition that this is a two
way street –both the voluntary sector and government need to change the way they
do things. There is a need for change in style and commitment from leadership in government
and the voluntary sector all the way up to the highest levels.
The issues are owned by and are the responsibility of both government
and the voluntary sector. There is a need for redefinition of accountability, for shared
investment and commitment, and joint responsibility for dissemination of results and
Commitment and Clarity of Purpose and Roles
Commitment to collaboration is essential in order to move the
collaboration agenda forward and to enable consistency and continuity. This requires
multi-year goal-setting and long-term commitment.
Capacity and Training
There is a need for training and commitment in order to develop
the capacity required both within government and the voluntary sector.
It was noted that collaboration is not always necessary. There
are times when just consultation and coordination are appropriate.
WRAP UP AND NEXT STEPS
The workshop succeeded in bringing together government officials
and voluntary sector representatives to discuss their successes in collaboration in the
policy development process, and identify strategies for promoting future voluntary sector
and government collaboration.
Next steps to be undertaken by SDC and the VSF following this
workshop will include the dissemination of lessons learned from SIDPD, and other materials
resulting from the workshop, and the development of further mechanisms to facilitate
collaborative policy development between the federal government and the voluntary sector.
In addition to the lessons learned from SIDPD, there are several
incremental initiatives that have been identified by SDC that will assist with furthering
the sector’s capacity to collaborate and innovate, and to engage in local, regional
and national public policy dialogue, including:
- establishing the Task Force on Community Investments;
- implementing the regulatory reform initiative which will
focus on service improvements for charities;
- establishing a Voluntary Sector Human Resource Council;
- ensuring the successful launch of the Voluntary Sector Portal;
- working closely with the non-profit and voluntary sector
on a transition strategy to move beyond the Voluntary Sector Initiative.
List of Participants