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Government of the Future Series: Collaborating Externally to Find New Ideas, Expertise and Advice (FON1-V31)


This event recording explores some of the ways that public servants can access new ideas, expertise and advice through collaboration with other departments and agencies, communities of practice, the public, experts and other external sources.

Duration: 01:31:28
Published: May 4, 2023
Type: Video

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Government of the Future Series: Collaborating Externally to Find New Ideas, Expertise and Advice

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Transcript: Government of the Future Series: Collaborating Externally to Find New Ideas, Expertise and Advice

[Video opens with animated CSPS logo.]

[Melanie Copeland appears full screen.]

Melanie Copeland: Hi everyone. My name is Melanie Copeland, a Manager with the Transformation Accelerator Hub at ESDC. On behalf of the School, I'd like to welcome all participants to this event. I'm pleased to introduce today's event entitled, Collaborating Externally to Find New Ideas, Expertise, and Advice, which is the final event in the mini-series on Collaboration in the Government of the Future Series. It's been a ride.

Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that I am taking part in this event from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. Some of you may be joining us from this territory as well, while others may be participating from other parts of the country and beyond. I encourage you to take a moment to recognize and acknowledge the territory from where you are participating today.

We have a great discussion planned, and I want you to have the best experience possible. Therefore, I've got a few housekeeping rules to go over. Today's event will be in English, simultaneous interpretation, as well as the service of CART real-time captioning are available should you need it and want to follow in the language of your choice. To access these features, please click on the respective icons directly from the webcast interface, or you can refer to the reminder email that was sent by the School.

To help you experience the event to the fullest level possible, we encourage you to disconnect from your VPN. If you are experiencing technical issues, it's recommended to relaunch the webcast link provided to you. We'll be taking questions throughout the event via the Collaborate video platform. To submit your question, click on the raised hand icon at the top right hand of your screen. We'll try to get to as many questions as possible today. We encourage you to participate in the language of your choice as well.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: We will be joined by three speakers on the panel today, who have all had a wealth of knowledge, [and] experience in this particular area, and who bring different perspectives to share with us today. First, we have Dr. Leah Levac, an Associate Professor from the University of Guelph.

[Dr. Leah Levac appears full screen briefly, and is replaced by Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: She holds a Canada Research Chair in critical community engagement and public policy. She has built relationships and research collaborations with nations, governments, community organizations, and individuals across Canada. She is involved with several collaborative projects that use intersectionality, deliberate democracy, anti-colonialism, and other theoretical ideas to consider how public policy making processes and outcomes can be more attentive to the experiences and knowledge of invisible and hyper-visible communities. Welcome Dr. Leah.

[Dr. Sandra Lapointe appears full screen briefly, and is replaced by Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Next, we have Dr. Sandra Lapointe, who is a professor of philosophy at McMaster University. She is a Commonwealth Alumna, a fellow of the Humboldt Foundation, and an award-winning scholar. She is a past president of the Canadian Philosophical Association and a past member of the Board of Directors of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Her contribution to philosophy focuses on the history of logic, mind, and knowledge. Her current research agenda revolves around bringing a social sciences and humanities perspective on issues connected to knowledge mobilization, skills development, and policy for innovation in the social sectors. Dr. Lapointe is the Director of The/la Collaborative, a Pan-Canadian Partnership funded by SSHRC, Mitacs and the Future Skills Centre. The/la Collaborative's mission is to foster better collaborative cultures for social science and humanities education, talent and impact. Welcome.

Jessica Zéroual appears full screen briefly, and is replaced by >Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Last but not least, we have the formidable Jessica Zéroual, Manager of Research and Design Operations with Service Canada. For those of you who might go to the website, apolitical, you'll recognize Jessica's name from there, as she has written several articles about her work, including one called Testing Out New Ways for Citizen Engagement and Product Development. Welcome, Jessica.

[Melanie Copeland appears full screen.]

Melanie Copeland: A way we support collaborative or collaborating widely to solutions [to] today's complex problems here at ESDC is through teams like mine with the Accelerator Hub who guide multidisciplinary groups in building and testing client-centric solutions in a safe, creative space with users at the table.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland Dr. Leah, your research touches on many of these important foundational elements. I'd like to invite you now to speak to us about your work and your findings on collaborating externally, over to you.

[Dr. Leah Levac appears full screen.]

Dr. Leah Levac: Great. Thank you very much Melanie. And thank you to you and the School of Public Service for the invitation to participate today. So, my name is Leah Levac and I am based at the University of Guelph. I use she/her pronouns, and I am coming to you today from the traditional territory of the Attiwonderonk people. This is treaty territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and for me, an act of offering an acknowledgement is a signal to flag that I continue, in my work and life, to think about how colonialism continues to shape the lives of Indigenous people, particularly through decisions that settler governments make.

So, I identify as a settler scholar, but I have worked hard to build relationships over the years with various Indigenous colleagues and partners. And through these relationships, I continue to learn more about how Indigenous knowledges have been undermined, dismissed, and in many cases violently denied, and how public policies could be substantively and procedurally improved if we could learn from some of those knowledges. So, while this is not my focus today, since I think that articulating Indigenous knowledges is better left for Indigenous people, I do want to acknowledge that I have benefited from these relationships and these learnings over the years. And so, this benefit will sneak into some of my comments today.

So, my plan is to give you a fairly brief overview of two particular research collaborations that I'm involved with right now, and then highlight what I think are three important lessons that we can draw from across them, connected to this theme of collaborating externally to access new ideas and expertise.

So, the first example, I'm going to call it equity and inclusion planning, in the District of Kitimat. So, this is a collaboration between the district of Kitimat, which is a municipality in northwestern BC, and a project team comprised of university researchers, members of the Haisla Nation in whose territory Kitimat sits, and members of a local women's serving organization called the Tamitik Status of Women Association, or TSW. This work is funded by the district.

So, broadly speaking, the goal there has been to create an equity inclusion and reconciliation framework that can guide municipal policy and planning activities. The current collaboration emerged from a long standing, six or seven years old at this point, community-based research collaboration that was initiated in 2015 at the behest of TSW in response to concerns about increasing instances of gendered violence and racism in the community, and in turn about the wellbeing of marginalized community members.

So, fast forward four years, and one of the things that emerged from that longstanding collaboration was the goal of working with governments, including the district of Kitimat, to improve the experiences of women and young women, particularly by finding ways to ensure that their voices and their lived realities were being reflected in local decision making. What emerged from that goal, supported by one particularly dedicated district counsellor, was the collaboration that I'm describing right now.

So, in this partnership, as a very high-level overview of what we did, we started by recruiting and appointing a resident advisory committee to guide the project. We then used an iterative process to develop a qualitative policy analysis framework that builds on previous qualitative policy analysis work developed by a scholar called Olena Hankivsky, and several of her colleagues. We then identified a number of policies that shaped the key operations of municipalities. So, in this case, the financial plan, the official community plan, and the leisure services master plan. We held interviews and community engagement sessions with staff, and residents. We completed a document analysis, and we used all of this information to create a policy analysis of these documents with an eye to increasing inclusion and reconciliation. And then we developed a checklist that the municipality could use moving forward that would help to guide future policy and planning related to equity diversity and inclusion.

In the second example I'm thinking about here now, about a collaboration that I'm involved with, with Health Canada. So, this collaboration includes a federal department; a mid-sized private scientific and regulatory consulting firm; a national nonprofit organization called the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women; and researchers, including faculty members such as myself, a graduate student, and a post-doctoral scholar from two different academic institutions. This work is being funded through the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada's research program.

So, the goal of this specific piece of work was to create a set of guidelines for informing the incorporation or integration of Gender Based Analysis Plus into health impact assessments, which are part of the broader impact assessment process used to review and assess federally designated resource extraction and infrastructure projects. So, this piece of work is the most recent in a series of small, consecutive projects that have built on each other since the introduction of the new Federal Impact Assessment legislation, which entrenched the requirement for conducting Gender Based Analysis Plus as part of the assessment process was passed in 2019. The current project builds on, like I say, three other small projects that various combinations of the current team have worked on since 2020. And our approach, along with the knowledge that we contribute, draws on over a decade of experience before that, working with communities at the intersection of gender and other social identities and the effects of resource extraction.

So, as part of achieving the goal of creating this set of guidelines for informing the integration of Gender Based Analysis Plus into health impact assessment, we produced a series of deliverables that included a summary of the state of knowledge in this field, building on some of our and others' previous work; a plan that we worked through with Health Canada related to how we would gather feedback on the tool that we were creating; a draft summary of these guidelines. Then we designed and hosted a workshop that was participated in by civil society organizations; federal public servants; agency staff; and others to provide feedback on the draft guideline, and then a final version of the guideline followed by a presentation to around about 50 public servants to provide them with an overview of how you might think about using these guidelines and the ways in which they were grounded in a host of scholarly evidence. I'm belabouring these steps a little bit, not so much because the exact details matter, but because I hope what they highlight is that the design of this work, not only the projects that came before it, but also the way that we were engaged in this iterative process were essential to realizing our collaborative ambitions.

A third example that I won't give you right now, but I just want to flag that I could speak about in case it's of interest to folks during the discussion, is another municipal example, in this case being hosted by a formal partnership arrangement between the University of Guelph and the city of Guelph called the Guelph Lab, which is essentially a design lab where we look specifically at trying to discover solutions, bring research to bear on local public policy and design problems.

So, building from these examples, what are three important lessons that I can offer about collaboration? The first is that inclusive participatory policy and governance processes demand careful consideration of how to create space for participants with varying levels of comfort and experience with a topic. So, in our work with the district of Kitimat, for example, a simple way that we did this was to create short clear language summaries of each policy that we decided to analyse, and then use these summary versions in our subsequent collaborative working efforts, including with the resident advisory committee during these public meetings.

This made the policies themselves more accessible without preempting residents' potential contributions by telling them, for example, which specific pieces of the policy we wanted them to focus on. This and other steps we took were intentional, and their particular focus was to disrupt the kinds of structural inequities that easily creep into collaborative policy processes, including, for instance, those that privilege particular technocratic expertise, privileged particular dominant forms of discourse, and so on.

The second lesson is that these relatively small sequential projects actually give us space to evolve and iterate ideas as we work through and as we learn things. So, this lesson comes through both of the examples that I've described, but it's particularly evident through our work with Health Canada. In that case, we started with a relatively straightforward, essentially an environmental scan that allowed us to establish the fact that there were no such guidelines that Health Canada was interested in us developing. And then that initial scan allowed us to do things like build a network of key informants who might be useful to engage with for future collaborations; think about how the information that did exist could be modified to use in the particular kind of circumstance that we were working in, and so on. This design has also allowed us to engage in a productive and ongoing conversation with Health Canada about their internal needs, and then subsequently how we might design subsequent stages of the project to respond to those needs.

And finally, the third lesson is that rather than thinking about a formula for how to build these types of collaborations, instead we think about the principles that underpin them. So, the principles that guide community engaged and participatory forms of research are fairly instructive here because many of them are also shared by Indigenous research methodologies and by other frameworks that take up these commitments to collaboration. So, I'm going to gloss over a whole lot of nuance and diversity for the sake of time. But in general, I can point to things like the importance of practicing reciprocity and respect, so everybody needs to benefit or get something out of the partnership. Relationships need to be fostered through building trust in intentional ways. Everybody's contributions need to be valued. Another important principle is to respond to identified community needs. So, the goal is to solve a problem that's understood as a problem by the community who's affected, and not by the policymaker necessarily. And the democratization of knowledge, which involves understanding that knowledge is produced in multiple places. And this is as much a lesson for academics as it is for the public service: that we don't hold a monopoly on the production of knowledge. And so, we have to understand that knowledge is produced in different sites and through people's experiences.

So, I'll close here but really look forward to hearing from the rest of the panelists and also to the discussion that ensues. Thanks.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Thank you so much, Dr. Leah, pulling at all my heartstrings here in terms of the values that we're pushing for within the public service. For our public servants on the line, this is the GC Digital Standards in action. You've heard today bringing in a resident expert; working with users from the onset; iterating frequently; making data-driven decisions; plain language; and exploring the impact biases; structures; building off the work of existing projects. I know that Jessica and I from ESDC are all ears as well when we heard you talk about the mindful and careful approach you took at preserving that integrity of conversations for participants, giving everyone an equal voice there. Thank you so much for sharing.

Dr. Sandra, we'd love to hear more about The/la Collaborative and how it intersects with today's topic on collaborating externally to find new ideas, expertise, and advice over to you.

[Dr. Sandra Lapointe appears full screen.]

Dr. Sandra Lapointe: Merci, Melanie. I must say that I'm just going to see an immediate transition between what Dr. Levac was just describing, and what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is how hard collaboration is. It is very labour intensive and it requires efforts that we sometimes don't anticipate. And I mean, collaboration is, of course, at the heart of The Collaborative. The Collaborative is a cross sectoral, pan-Canadian network that's led from McMaster University. And that brings together stakeholders who are interested in finding new ways to mobilize social and human research specifically, and to mobilize it, to bring that knowledge where it is actually needed, to respond to needs that actually exist and to do that according to best practices. Those are the practices that Dr. Levac is describing. So, along the lines of critical community engagement.

And we're also very much interested in finding new ways to leverage experiential learning, for instance, to make sure that our graduate students in the social science and the humanities and in the arts, acquire the skills that they would need to be able to foster these kinds of collaborations that are around knowledge, whether they are in academia or whether they end up working in the social sector or in the public sector. And so we've been around for about five years now. And we first tried to understand how we could help teachers around inquiry learning by mobilizing the kind of broad disciplinary know-how that is available in university. You know, there are piles of broad disciplinary know-how that are available. And so, we built a collaborative platform that's called the Collaborative Inquiry, and which is available to all teachers, and which is open to any academic in Canadian universities.

And that was really what got us started. And along the way, we discovered that there are many needs in the community and the social sector; in government at all levels that social science and humanities researchers could cater to. But there were very few opportunities to do so. And part of it is a misalignment between the cultures and academia and the needs in the social and public sector. And part of it are just knowledge gaps. So, we've done a lot of research over the last few years on the one hand, to understand what are needs of social sector organizations, for instance, around capacity for innovation? On the other hand, what is already being done in universities when it comes to community focused, social sector focused, policy focused knowledge mobilization, so that we understand what we can build on. And at this point, we're bringing all this research together around a new initiative that's called the Forum on Innovation and Societal Impact, the Canadian Forum on Innovation and Societal Impact, which brings stakeholders from government; from education policy; science policy; innovation policy; from academia but also from the social sector to think about what innovation looks like when social science and humanities are actively contributing to it. And of course, that has a very broad span. So, the Collaborative is really social science, humanities and arts focused, and we are very much interested in trying to understand how to foster effective collaborations also with the government. And if there is one message that I could bring about today, it would be the following: I think that every single university in Canada is really eager to be able to mobilize knowledge to support government effort to support social sector effort. And that's the reason why over the last decade, maybe only even five years, we've seen a number of new offices grow in universities that are dedicated to community engagement and to knowledge mobilization. And these are offices that would be eager to be able to facilitate the kind of collaborations that would help us achieve the best possible policies in Canada, of course.

But collaboration is hard. Also, one thing that is hard is to figure out exactly what academics can contribute sometimes to these kinds of discussion. There's a lot of getting to know each other that is often involved. But I think just in theory when we're thinking about collaboration, I think we have to be prepared to put in the effort. Collaboration can mean many things. There's actually a spectrum on which collaboration happens, and I think that you have received a link with shared resources. And if you look in the resources that you've received for the Tamarack Institute's Collaboration Spectrum, this is a really good short paper to understand how to build strong collaboration. The Tamarack Institute is actually publishing a lot on that topic. So, if you're interested, please take a look. They have just published a new guide on collaboration as well.

And so, you take any two persons or any two organizations that have a relationship, and that relationship's going to be on the spectrum. And the spectrum goes from, well, they're competing, right? They're competing for resources, or they're competing for customers, to a kind of relation that is going to look like an integration. And of course, the tighter the connection is between two persons or two organizations the harder it is, because one aspect of collaboration is the kind of trust that you need to build.

If you don't have trust, you can have cooperation, maybe. You may have coordination, but you won't have an actual collaboration that really integrates the objectives of the two parties. And definitely when we're thinking about collaboration, especially when we're thinking of collaborations on the background with the idea that collaborations will go through contracts, through research contracts, or through the kind of provision that are the models for which have been developed for government, it's hard to imagine how actual trust is needed, but it is an important part of it. And I think that the kind of very hands-on processes that Dr. Levac was describing showed that trust is not something that is going to grow organically. Even when things go very smoothly, if you haven't explicitly worked on establishing ways of working together that are explicitly designed to make the collaboration fruitful, you might end up in situations that are going to compromise your collaboration. So, there's a lot of effort that goes into building these relationships. Fortunately there is also a lot of knowledge that we have now about how to build fruitful relationships. And that's the reason why I'm pointing out to the work that Tamarack Institute is doing is because they really are the leaders.

When it comes to the Collaborative, of course we embrace these best practices for collaboration, but another aspect of what is needed for collaborations is not only a setup, it's also the kinds of skills that are going to be conducive to having a team that is exchanging smoothly. And some of the work that we've done at The Collaborative was to try to understand precisely what kinds of skills are needed for our graduates to be able to do the kind of work that is going to be required of them, whether it is in academia later on, but also in industry and government. And what we found, even though the topic of the research was really, so what are the employability skills? What we found is that there's really two clusters of skills that employers are looking for. And one of these clusters revolves entirely around collaboration.

So, you have a cluster of skills that revolves around innovation, that's going to include things like critical thinking; ethical thinking; problem solving; creativity; and capacity for continuous learning as well. But then there's another cluster of skills that employers see as extremely valuable for their organization to be able to be successful. And those skills revolve around what I would call collaboration and partnership. They are skills such as communication; integrity and judgment; teamwork; people skills; self-management; and most importantly perhaps, intercultural awareness. That is the sort of skills that are going to enable an individual to really contribute to an environment that is inclusive, that is diverse, where equity is being fostered, and where accessibility, of course, is also one of the principles of cooperation.

So, as someone who comes from academia and who is thinking about the future generation of public servants, what I can do and what I can testify to is the fact that there's a need for skills building and maybe also for upskilling, but for skills building around collaboration that is going to constitute a baseline for any sort of collaboration that is cross-sectoral. And I think it's part of our vocational mission in universities that we prepare our students to be able to engage in collaborations that are fruitful. That's the reason why The Collaborative exists. It's to make sure that in the social science humanities and the arts, these needs are for skills are at the focus of both undergraduate and graduate education. So, I don't think that I have much more to say. So, Melanie, I don't know if you want to take the mic.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Thank you so much, Dr. Sandra. You heard it here, folks. Connect with Dr. Sandra and her team if you're wanting to leverage their facilitation skills and expertise on these very important topics that are so relevant to the work we do here in the GC. And as you said Dr. Sandra, things don't just happen or they don't always just happen. You have to be really intentional about it.

On the topic of the skills needed to deliver against public service outcomes, Jessica, I'd love to hear how you and your team are leveraging collaboration, engaging with others to advance service Canada's mandate. Over to you.

[Jessica Zéroual appears full screen.]

Jessica Zéroual: Thank you so much, Melanie, and a big thank you to Dr. Levac and Dr. Lapointe. I learned so much just sitting here. So, I am really excited about being able to share my presentation. So, whoever is doing tech, please put up the slides and we'll get started.

Jessica Zéroual: As mentioned, my name is Jessica Zéroual. I am the Manager for Research and Design Operations. Today I'm going to be talking to you about collaborating in the public service.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.]

Jessica Zéroual: I think the three most important things about this brief presentation today is that first of all, we're going to talk about the challenges. The challenges I'm going through and that you're probably going through as well as you're trying to collaborate with colleagues, stakeholders, and partners. I'm also going to talk about the five Ws of collaboration in the GC and then hopefully leave you with some ideas and opportunities that you can take to level up at your next meetings, whether they're with colleagues, senior management, stakeholders or partners, internal or external. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.]

Jessica Zéroual: Why is it so hard? Why is collaboration so hard? I'm going to actually ask that the screen be a little bit bigger because I'm having a little bit of an issue reading my own slides. And if not, I'm going to just pull up my own slides very quickly. I just realized it's very small for me. I'm so sorry. Add a pen. Ah, there it is. Okay. I see things clearly, so it's going to be a lot better for you if I can read things. Okay. So, the first thing is that everything that we do, we have to collaborate. And there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all when it comes to collaboration. We heard it in Dr. Levac's presentation, but also in Dr. Lapointe's presentation that, you know, it's really not a formula, it's not a one-size-fits-all. And we need to be very aware of that as it's an important component as we're thinking about collaboration.

Most of the time in the public service, we needed to collaborate yesterday. I don't know how many times I've said to my supervisors, decision makers, when should we start talking to this group or to these individuals? And most of the time it'll be, two months ago. So, a lot of us are feeling like we don't really have the upper hand when it comes to building those relationships in order to collaborate.

We also need to find a relationship that's mutually beneficial to all parties. And that can be quite tough when we think about the fact that most of the time when we're coming from a government context, we have our objectives, we have our questions, we have what we actually need, but we don't always think about what the other parties are going to need in that relationship as well.

And at times we need to have a plan about how the collaboration will start and end, even before we hit the ground running.

So, those are some of the big challenges, at least that I'm seeing in some of the work that I've done with my team currently as Manager of Research and Design Ops at Service Canada, but also throughout my whole career when I was a working level employee as well. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.]

Jessica Zéroual: So, we're going to talk about the five Ws. The who; when; where; what; why. But I'm also going to add a "how" as well when it comes to collaboration. I want to say that this is not prescriptive, this really comes from my own personal experience, which I won't really give a lot of examples during this presentation because I want to save enough time to answer the questions and potentially give you some more context of examples around the work that I've done around collaboration. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.

Jessica Zéroual: Who should you be collaborating with? I want you to take a moment and think about what you're currently working on. And I want you to think about all the different parties you're currently interacting with. I put a few on the screen that came off the top of my head when I think about who I should be collaborating with based on any work that I'm doing right now, whether it be policy development; program change; service delivery; product delivery; future of work; and all of these really came to mind. So, other government departments, federal; provincial; territorial counterparts; municipalities; community organizations; international organizations; other governments around the globe; academia; and consulting firms.

Now I know a few of you are probably saying, well, you're missing this group from the list, this group from the list, I can tell you that this is not exhaustive. But hopefully for those of you might be only talking to one or two of these groups, I think you might be limiting your collaboration on whatever you're working on. So, just planting that seed right now. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.

Jessica Zéroual: Why should you diversify your collaboration? This was a really important slide for me, and I wanted to ensure that I communicated with you why it's important for me to collaborate with so many people and hopefully it resonates with you.

And the first one is to ensure you are getting different perspectives at the table. I can't tell you how many times I've sat at tables in the government where everybody just had groupthink and I don't blame them. It's easy to want to go around the table with people who are saying, yes, absolutely, I totally agree. This is the perspective, this is the way forward. But when you're doing that, you're more than likely limiting yourself and missing people who are going to be most affected by the changes and the decisions that you're making.

The next one is to promote greater cross collaboration and promote horizontal integration. You know, it's one thing to talk to folks across the board, but it's also to integrate them in the work that you're doing, whether it's at the decision-making table, but also those who are doing the work on the ground.

I like to say that I diversify my collaboration to get inspired. I don't know how many times I've brought ideas to the table and people are like, wow, that's a great idea. And I go, I want to take a moment to tell you where I got inspired and what conversations had to happen in order for me to come to this table and share this idea with you. So, I feel that sense of needing to give back to those who spent time with me to collaborate as well.

And then the last one is, it really makes your plan more holistic in its approach. You really limit yourself when you're only going to one group of individuals, which is most likely where you're going to be most comfortable. So when you're thinking about different groups that need to be at the table, think about the ones that make you a little bit uncomfortable, because they're probably the ones that you're going to need most when you're thinking about what's next; what needs to change; what needs to come about. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.

Jessica Zéroual: What should you collaborate on? Now I know that there are multiple things you could be collaborating on with the various stakeholders, but these are four things for me that are deep-rooted and most relationships that I'm going to build in order to collaborate. And I'd like to say that I like to build the relationship before we collaborate, because if there's no relationship, hard press at collaboration is really something that's going to succeed.

So, the first one is start with, what is mutually beneficial for all parties? Where are you all meeting at? What is the thing that is aligning you? What is bringing you to the table to have conversations?

Another thing is, where you can help without receiving anything in return. I know I said I didn't want to give an example, but I can tell you that one example that I love giving is when I was working on the Canada Service Corps and we were meeting with youth who were giving us their entire day to give us ideas around what they needed in order to participate in volunteering and service. And we knew that we needed to come prepared with something to give to them. So, we spent time to show them how to apply for micro grants. So, not only can they participate in various opportunities in their communities, they can create them. And that's a really exciting opportunity. We didn't expect anything in return, and we didn't expect that they would give us more in our conversation in our workshops. We just wanted to make sure that we were extending ourselves, and it was the right thing to do. And there is always a thing that you can do with your parties or your stakeholders in order to show that wanting to extend yourself in order to collaborate.

There's also points of surface and deep collaboration. I like to think that a surface collaboration is building an agenda together. So, when you're setting up a meeting and you're pulling items together, think about sending that to your various stakeholders, especially if you only have two or three on the call or two or three that you're meeting wit. Getting them to be involved with items that should be on your agenda can be a really easy way to have that surface collaboration. Deep collaboration is putting yourself, I like to say, in the trenches. I don't like to use that example, but it's an example of saying you're working on something everybody is accountable for.

So, it's the creation of a new program, the change of a major policy that's going to affect a large segment of the population, that's deep collaboration. So, there are various types and I like to think that there's a spectrum. Sometimes you're really on the surface end, sometimes you're on the deep end. And to be quite honest, if you're looking to building long-term relationships, you're going to need to do both most of the time.

And then any parts of your plan that can be co-developed over consulted. I can't emphasize enough how many times I've attended different organizations where they're saying we're doing co-development and then I sit there and it really is a consultation. This takes a lot of deliberate action, it takes a lot of intentionality. When Dr. Levac talked about being intentional, I was sitting here almost screaming on the inside because it's very true. Co-development is an intentional decision. You don't just do it. You are intentional about how the environment is set up; how people are showing up; who might need to pull back a little bit more; who might need to step in a little bit more. So, again, it's not a one-size-fits-all, but it's definitely one where it's going to take a little bit more effort, but that's something that you can collaborate on. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.]

Jessica Zéroual: Where should you collaborate? Everywhere, but to be a little bit more tangible for you on the call here today, I'm going to say virtual and in-person meetings; conferences and events; workshops and training. And the last one I think is the most important for me when I think about external engagement, but also internal is where people, potential partners and stakeholders are at.

So, sometimes we're very quick to say they're going to come to us, it's going to be really great. We're going to put them in a boardroom, they're going to love it, they're going to want to have conversations with us. We're going to have some nice water and some snacks. But sometimes it's actually putting yourself in the situation and saying, where would you like to meet? And sometimes that's in their community because that's where they feel most comfortable. That's where they feel like they can be their true authentic self and where they know they're going to feel safe throughout the conversation. That's a really important element, especially with specific groups. But I like to think that anybody might be like that. Even with your employees when you think about the fact that we're often going to town halls, but sometimes maybe decision makers and those big leaders can go to the smaller groups and say, how are things going here? How are you feeling about it? And you automatically see a shift in people and how they interact with you when you meet them where they're at. Make sure you ask permission and don't assume that they're going to let you come where they're at. But that's always a good way to consider building a relationship. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.

Jessica Zéroual: When should you collaborate? Again, this is just a few examples, but when you have done your environmental scan and you know who you should be connecting with, that's when you should do it. Not when it's here and there, maybe we'll talk to these two people and see where things go and move to the next thing. Sometimes you can do that. Most of the time you can't, especially if you're going to be deliberate about your collaboration.

You want to have a plan. You want to be able to have that environmental scan, you want to be able to have a plan and then you want to have enough time and the right people to start collaborating.

I know time is missing on my slide, but I can't emphasize how important that is. If you only have one month to engage a community and expect a lot out of them, don't expect them to want to collaborate with you. That's just the reality. I think any of us as well, if we were in a particular situation where we were going to be asked to give a part of ourselves or a part of our community, it would take a long time to kind of build that relationship.

And when I say the right people, I mean the right amount of people. You know, having one person being your stakeholder engagement person for 300 stakeholders or for a lot of big relationships is unfair. Not only to the person but to all the people that they're collaborating as well. That's why I think there's always a nice - especially in government. You've got to have a dedicated amount of resources that are doing this work. As a researcher myself, I've often had to split my time between building the relationships and doing the research. And I always felt like I could build the relationships while my other colleagues helped set up the research so that nothing was being left behind. No relationship was not getting my full attention as well. So, it does take some commitment.

And then the last thing is when you have the intention to meaningfully explore a potential relationship that is mutually beneficial for all parties. That is my biggest takeaway with when you should collaborate. It's when it's mutually beneficial for all and when you're really setting the intention to build that relationship. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.]

Jessica Zéroual: And then how should you collaborate? I'm going to go a little bit fast on this one, but also I want to mention that there's not a linear path for this. This is just my mind model. Try to say that five times. When it comes to stakeholder engagement.

So, the first one is, identify your potential stakeholders and partners.

Identify three reasons why you're contacting the stakeholder and partner. People will be like, that's excessive. Well, don't waste their time because I would also want many reasons why you're contacting me to set some a conversation up. And it can be as simple as we want to understand your challenges, we need to address your needs and we want to generate solutions with you. They'll be different for different stakeholders as well.

And send communication materials that outline your content, intent, and key messages. This can be brief, but you want to make sure that whoever is going to be on the receiving end of this, especially if it's organizations that are harder to reach, you want to make sure that you're very clear with what you're looking for because sometimes there's a fractured relationship there. I think I learned that very quickly when I joined government because prior to joining government I did field research and it felt just a lot easier to be able to connect with communities and different segments of the population. But then there was an undertone of working in government and I had to come to the realization that I had to tweak my messaging around that. Just because I'm a good person doesn't mean that everything about what we're doing is going to be well received. So, don't take anything for granted.

Show up on time and listen in your first meeting. Of course, present what you're trying to be doing, but ask questions about how they are going to be potentially wanting to be involved or what they're looking for out of this relationship.

And then follow up and set up a time to meet if this is somebody you should be collaborating.

And lastly, foster their relationship during the time you're working with them, because it might not be the only time you're working with them as well. I can tell you that there are organizations that I've contacted in my first year that we had such a great relationship that years later that one person that was still there and remembered me was like, Hey, didn't they work on X, Y, and Z together? Yes, we had such a great time, let's continue this relationship. It gives me goosebumps to think that I still have that type of pool with different organizations, but that they also do as well. That's a really meaningful connection, means you're doing the work in a good way. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.]

Jessica Zéroual: I like to leave people with ideas and opportunities for you to show up differently in your meeting. The first one can be to facilitate a stakeholder mapping activity with your team. I won't go too much into what that is, but I will tell you it allows you to see the ecosystem very widely and who you should be connecting when it comes to the work that you're doing.

Host a pre-mortem about meeting with the potential partner or stakeholder. I like to do this. I find this very fun. You bring your folks together and say it's the end of the meeting, what went wrong? And you identify all the things that you're terrified of. You know, they wanted to end the call, they don't want to talk to us. They completely derailed the conversation and brought it on a different topic from a different department. And this allows you not only to identify your challenges and your fears because we have them, we're human, but it also allows you to think about potential risk mitigation and solutions, how you might approach the situation as well.

I like to leverage a brief icebreaker to set the tone for the first meeting. This really depends on the audience but I will say that sometimes it's just taking a collective deep breath, a collective stretch. Sometimes it's introducing your name and then something that we don't know about you when it comes to your organization. I'm very mindful that you won't go do a breathing exercise when you're presenting to senior executives, but sometimes maybe they would welcome that, considering the fact that a lot of them are in back-to-back meetings.

Send an email before the meeting to co-develop the agenda. It's nice to do that. It's nice to be able to say, these are the important things for us. Is there anything that should be on the agenda that you want to see there?

And then lastly, be ready to hear the feedback with an open heart and an open mind. I can't emphasize that enough. I know that's just an opportunity, but I welcome you to try to do that next time you go on to a call. Not to jump immediately into what you're looking for, but just to listen with your full heart and your full mind. Next slide.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide. Slide shows four books. Text on slide "Some resources that have helped me: Collaborating with the Enemy, by Adam Kahane; The First Minute, by Chris Fenning; Never Split the Difference, by Chris Foss; Re-inventing Organizations, by Federic Laloux."]

Jessica Zéroual: I love collaboration. I love stakeholder engagement and outreach even as somebody who has worked in the research and design space. But I will say that a lot of what I've done is not innate. It's learned. I'm learning consistently from great people in the ecosystem outside of government, inside of government, and also some great books as well. You don't have to read books just on collaboration. You can read books about how you might go into collaborating with groups that might be harder to meet with or potentially how to master that first minute of communication so that you don't make it all about yourself or you don't make it all about something that doesn't matter to the conversation, because first impressions sometimes do matter. All these books are available in French as well, so I highly encourage you to read them. And if ever you want to read them and reach out to me, I'd love to do a little book club with you.

[Split screen: Jessica Zéroual and slide, as described.

Jessica Zéroual: Next slide. And that's it for me. Thank you so much for your time and happy collaborating. Back to you, Mel.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Thank you so much Jessica. Collaborating widely to get inspired, as you mentioned, to validate assumptions.

[Melanie Copeland appears full screen.]

Melanie Copeland: I saw a quote the other day: "For each problem there is a creative and sometimes very simple solution." And a lot of parallels with what Dr. Leah was saying as well, in terms of the importance of reciprocity, identifying what matters most to the folks that you're collaborating with. Very well said.

We're now heading into Q and A. A reminder that you can submit your questions in the language of your choice by clicking on the raised hand icon at the top right hand of your screen. Again, we'll try to get as to as many questions as possible. And I've got one in my back pocket to get us started.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: So, are we ready? We hear a lot about the benefits of collaboration in the series, but I still find it challenging to figure out whether I'm finding the right people or groups to engage. Do you any tips on making sure that I'm being inclusive, diverse, and complete when I'm seeking new ideas or advice? Dr. Leah I'd love to go to you first as your opening remarks spoke a lot about the importance of preserving a diverse set of experiences and opinions. If you don't mind going first.

[Dr. Leah Levac appears full screen.]

Dr. Leah Levac: Sure. No, not at all, Melanie. Thank you. So, let me give you two different kinds of answers. My first answer is that for me, the real centre point of this question in terms of finding the right people or groups to engage, is that the number one group that I think is most commonly excluded and most critically included, is the person who is most likely to be subjected to the decision that's being made. And one of the reasons that folks who have often been excluded from these kinds of conversations get left out is because of broader discourses, broader narratives about who we think of as deserving and undeserving members of the public to be part of conversations.

So, building right from that though, my other answer to the question is that I would like to suggest a reframe away from thinking about, who are the right people, and towards thinking about more like, what are the right conditions. So, if you create the right environment in which people want to participate, then you are likely to be able to draw a more diverse cross section of folks. So, others have already commented on some of these dimensions, particularly something that Jessica said really resonated with me about going to where people are at. So, we think a lot about this in the kind of work that we do in terms of trying to understand from where people can meaningfully participate. And I've offered other suggestions related to relationship building and so on. But I also want to flag that sometimes the kinds of conditions that you need can be hindered through the processes or mechanisms that you're using to try and engage with folks from the outset.

So, let me just give you two brief examples that come from my personal experience. And what I hope that these flag is that I understand that there is a desire within the federal public service to think differently, and reach out and engage with folks. And also, there are some institutionalized mechanisms that are making that very, very complicated.

So, the first is an example where I was part of a team that was very close to securing an agreement to engage with folks with lived experience of homelessness through homelessness serving organizations in order to inform some important revisions that were coming through, that needed to come through to the National Housing Strategy Act. And the organization that holds these relationships is doing all of the things that are being described as so important. We received a, like gajillion page long privacy questionnaire about all the technical infrastructure that that organization would have to have in order for them to be recognized as a partner. It's just not possible. Small organizations just cannot maintain this kind of infrastructure. And so that mechanism, despite the very best intentions of the folks who we were working with, made it impossible for there to be access.

So, maybe the other example I have is about requests for standing offers, but maybe that'll come up later, so let me just say that my takeaway here in terms of tips is to think about what are the status quo typical procedures that you have access to that you would use to reach outside of and beyond, and ask yourself about how those procedures are facilitating or not, access to diverse voices and diverse knowledges. And then think about how you might work differently with those systems in order to shift the opportunity for whose knowledge is available to you.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: I'll definitely circle back to you on the procurement challenges there. I'm sure our audience will be eager to hear your thoughts on that. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. Dr. Sandra, what are your tips for ensuring that we're diverse, inclusive when we're collaborating externally?

[Dr. Sandra Lapointe appears full screen.]

Dr. Sandra Lapointe: Right. So, inclusion and diversity needs to be at the focus of everything we do because it's also what makes us smarter, right? When we're collaborating, we're collaborating for the benefit of the deliberative process, we're conversing together. And this dynamic, it's been shown by science, actually gives better results than just consulting experts. So, there's a lot of really interesting literature on the topic, but I want to come back to something that Leah was saying, at the very beginning of her response, she was talking about how the best answer you can give is that if you're designing a new program, you need to include the end user. You need to include the person who's going to be using the program. And it's one of the best practices when it comes to collaboration and all the activities that revolve around co-design and co-creation.

But I would go even further because when you start a new project, you have to assume that you're going to have to engage other people to collaborate with you. And the first thing that you do is to think about what you want; where you want to go; what's the kind of impact; what's the kind of change that you want to create? And as part of this reflection, you have to think not only about who's going to be the user of your program or your product, but also who else is involved? Who are the stakeholders? And that that can be much more than just the user of the product. So, think about - I'm not going to give an example because I'm very bad at examples. My students always think that I'm a boomer, so <laugh>. But it's very intuitive and having these diverse perspectives can also contribute to a better understanding of the problem that you were trying to address in the first place.

So, you have to see the collaboration, or a stakeholder approach to collaboration, as a way to make sure that along the design process you're constantly looking at the way in which you can improve on the solution that you wanted to go in the first place. So, I think this is definitely the answer that I would give. It's not so much about who you should best engage, but how you should engage those who need to be at the table. And that includes, of course, experts.

And I think this is the other place where I think there's a tradition of thinking that there's going to be one expert who's going to be the person you need to talk to. And the way we conceive of expertise, however, is not very flexible. Sometimes it has to do with a specific discipline. Sometimes it has to do with who's on the list of people you need to call at McMaster University, or Guelph University, and you don't really think about it. But there's the sense in which universities, and here, of course, I'm thinking about social science, humanities, and arts faculties more specifically, are a repository, a vastness, a richness of knowledge which is often untapped because the kind of specialization that we academics are known for and which makes us part of that ivory tower, is not the sort of expertise that you're going to look for.

But before we become these specialists, we have this vast knowledge, this vast disciplinary knowledge, which is definitely something that can contribute to enlightening any aspects of a project that requires evidence. That requires some support, knowledge support, and this is where my remark is maybe a little bit normative than descriptive. I think that we have to really be bold and to dare to think a little bit outside the box when we're thinking about collaboration with experts and not be afraid to involve people who know about that topic as part of our deliberation. And even just the brainstorming phase, it costs nothing because we're researchers at universities and this is our job. At least that's my approach. And this is something that can be the foundation for so much more in terms of collaboration down the line, because who knows where these collaborations will take you. That's a little bit of the story of The Collaborative as well.

So, I think those are the two comments that I would make on this question. But it's a very good question.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: I, for one, appreciate your boomer examples, Dr. Sandra. Thank you so much for that. You nailed it with "this fear". We need to overcome the fear of stepping outside of our virtual cubicle or physical cubicle, stepping outside and asking the people that are receiving the service, or the folks that are on the user end of whatever we're implementing, have a chat with them, ask them about their experiences, what it's like, walk a day in their shoes. We need to make that normalized.

Jess, we hear of the systemic structural things that sometimes block public servants from engaging in a way that is truly getting the most out of external stakeholders. What are your tips for navigating that? How do you do that in your day-to-day?

[Jessica Zéroual appears full screen.]

Jessica Zéroual: A lot of crying in the corner. Oh, I'm just kidding. <Laugh>. But honestly, it really does take a lot of deliberate and intentional actions. I'd like to give you some tangible ones that you can think about and even feel free to reach out and say, tell me a little bit more about that point you just said.

I'm going to reiterate the fact that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all. I really truly believe in leaning towards the stakeholder engagement tools, such as stakeholder mapping, as your first step. Really trying to see who is in the ecosystem. And as somebody who's worked predominantly with the user, I'm going to emphasize the point of Dr. Lapointe when she said, it's not only about the users. It's about everybody around those users as well that need to be connected in.

So, there are multiple layers and multiple people that will be involved at one point in the work that you're trying to do. Whether it's building a program; whether it's changing a policy; whether it's building a product. So, we need to be very mindful of that as well.

And I like to think that if you are going to try to be inclusive and diverse, you're going to need to be accessible. So, multiple access points, multiple entry points. Don't think everybody's going to think it's the perfect way or the way forward when you present them with how they might want to contribute to the conversation.

Be very open to other ways of knowing and doing. I think that's a very powerful thing to say. How would you think it's best for you to contribute to the conversation? Is it through art? Is it through us coming and taking a walk together? There are a lot of different ways that, as a researcher, people are probably like, whoa, that is super uncomfortable for me. How am I supposed to document anything? But you're building collaboration before you go into the research space. So, these are different ways for you to kind of pull people in together and build that bridge and focus on co-development.

I said I would give an example, so I will. So, when I was working on, back in 2018, the Minister of Seniors got a mandate to increase the uptake of the guaranteed income supplement, which is a top up for seniors as they received old age security. So, we were responsible for going to talk to seniors and folks that are within their circle of care. So, caregivers, senior serving organizations and other groups that are supporting seniors as they're applying for benefits, especially at the federal level. And I remember people saying, well, we don't want to just hear from people that we already have in our administrative data and are not taking up. Obviously we want to talk to those people. We also want to talk to people who are not applying, for some particular reason, to money that can potentially enhance their lives. That could potentially, and this is based on assumption before we got into the field.

So, for ourselves, we realized that for as much as our stakeholder engagement was succeeding when it came to going to bigger organizations, when it came to wanting to talk to people experiencing homelessness, low income, who might be from different demographics that have historically been marginalized and systemically oppressed, we knew we had to work with service providers and community organizations, and we built the relationship over an amount of time. And it was only with that amount of time and going into their offices, so traveling across Canada and going into their offices, that they actually were open to us meeting some of their clients. We didn't expect it, we were hoping for it. We were like, let's just do interviews with service providers and we'll see what that generates to. And it actually allowed us to talk to their clientele, which was very eye-opening.

And when you're in government and you're trying to bring about change, especially for those who are not getting what they need to live full lives, you want to make sure that you honour what they've told you. So, get help where you need. Know that you're maybe not the right person all the time to be connecting directly with those individuals. Sometimes you need a buffer, sometimes you need to build a bridge. So, I think our traditional ways in government is like, we are the right people, we should be doing the thing. But sometimes partnering to do the thing can be a lot more powerful and can feel a lot more connection. So, I wanted to give that example.

And then also the last thing I'll say about this point is focus on 20/80. So, many times when we think about doing engagement and doing the stakeholder engagement, we'll say at least if we can get to the 80% of people who will be most affected by this decision, and who are going to use what we create, whether it's a policy; a program; a service; then we're all good. Well, that 20% typically is the group who is furthest away from opportunity, who are not getting what they need, and usually have the most barriers. So, this is more from a human-centred perspective.

If you go to that 20% and you focus on understanding who they are, and you work towards building the relationship either with proxies or directly with those segments of the population, the barriers and challenges that you generate and the solutions that you generate with them from those problems are more than likely not only to help the 20%, but the 80% as well. Because more than likely at one point that 80% that might not be dealing with all the barriers that that 20% is always dealing with, they will at one point encounter one or two of those challenges so they will benefit from the solution. So, you're catching everyone.

That's a really hard frame to sink your teeth in. So, if you're sitting here like, whoa, I really don't know what she just did here, but she just kind of flipped me on my head. All I'll say is, this is a different framework of doing. Now, it goes along with co-development. It's one of those things that's really hard to do, but once you understand it and try to integrate it in the work that you're doing, it can be quite powerful. You can help a lot more people.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: My feeling exactly, Jessica, you flipped me on my head here. I'm going to definitely connect with you afterwards to hear more about that. Thank you so much.

[Melanie Copeland appears full screen.]

Melanie Copeland: We have a question coming in from the audience and I'll pass it over to Dr. Lapointe. For everyone, what networks or platforms can we leverage to find potential partners?

[Dr. Sandra Lapointe appears full screen.]

Dr. Sandra Lapointe: Yes, and I'm interested in answering this question because it's a super difficult question to answer. I mean, part of the challenges, and here I'm thinking especially about the exercise in which every single university is engaging, which is to try to really bolster our capacity to mobilize knowledge toward the community. To mobilize knowledge outside academia. It is very difficult to create networks that are going to do, but I know that there's a lot of effort, as I was mentioning earlier, universities have put a lot of efforts into doing that.

And so, one way to do this, and I think Leah will certainly know, because at Guelph, the CESI, the centre for community engagement there, and I'm sorry I'm not using the right name, certainly has extremely good relationships with their community, is to reach out to the community engagement offices and universities. They will welcome a request for expertise for collaboration, and they will help you figure out also what you need. I think that's the job. And the same thing with knowledge mobilization units.

So, we just realized the scan, an inventory, or we have a lay of the land of what it looks like in Canada in terms of knowledge mobilization and community engagement. And the terminology is not very uniform. So, you might have to look around, but usually community engagement office with the name of a university, you'll find what you need.

There are also some universities that have some really good brokering outfits around specific kinds of projects, especially around knowledge translation. For instance, in the health sector in Quebec, they're all over the place. And then there are emerging outfits like The Collaborative whose job is to find ways to connect universities and community. I'd say send me an email, but I'm not sure I can supply to demand, but do not be shy. I think if you have an idea, look up, send a message to someone randomly, the worst that can happen is that they won't reply to you, but most likely you'll be able to create a connection and the knowledge-based collaboration that you can build with someone from a university can be very fruitful for you and your team.

So, I would encourage you to really think outside the box and dare.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Merci beaucoup. Dr. Levac, I know that you want to add on to the answer for this question on how can we network, or what networks or platforms can you leverage to find potential partners? Go ahead.

[Dr. Leah Levac appears full screen.]

Dr. Leah Levac: Yes, thank you Melanie. And thanks, Sandra, for those suggestions. I have maybe an adjacent point. So, at Guelph, it's called the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute. And Sandra is right, there are many of these similar kinds of institutions that do a lot of work brokering not only relationships with individual academics who might have research programs that could connect to that kind of work, but also for instance, we have a really robust community engaged learning network within that office that helps to broker say, connections to classes; graduate classes, senior undergraduate classes where we've done some work around thinking specifically about the kinds of projects that actually could serve a dual purpose of solving an identified community problem, and also in this case where the community is the government. So, an identified non external to academia problem, but also provide really valuable applied research and knowledge mobilization experience for students hitching into this point that Dr. Lapointe is making around the kinds of skills that we're hoping for students to build. So, different kinds of avenues there.

The adjacent point that I wanted to make is not so much about where to look but building on something that Jessica said that that actual stage of trying to sort out what kinds of structural requirements do we have to be able to meaningfully engage with folks, and then where all can we look, those are time intensive activities. And so I think I would just raise the reminder that one of the challenges that I think many institutions that are increasingly productivity and efficiency driven with limited slack in the system that are very outcome oriented, while I understand some of the motivation for that, it is actually the antithesis of some of the kinds of things that we're asking, when we're thinking about collaboration.

So, building into your work plan, the time to think through where you might find some partnerships, I think is an important piece of the puzzle.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Thank you very much. Dr. Lapointe, I know you're eager to get back into this conversation. <Laugh> Please go ahead.

[Dr. Sandra Lapointe appears full screen.]

Dr. Sandra Lapointe: No, I wanted to add, because I think what Leah said, and I don't know if it was very explicit, but experiential learning is also a way to collaborate. And I think this is the idea that you can engage students as experts to collaborate is a very fruitful one. And when we're thinking about platforms where you can get support to do that, I think that Mitacs has several programs that subsidize internships for students. And it may sound like, oh, it's just a [INAUDIBLE], but it can be a very interesting collaborative opportunity, especially if the students have acquired the skills for collaborations as part of their training. But the perspective of a humanist, a social scientist as part of a project can be very fruitful. They bring in a diverse perspective and it's a very interesting way to cater to that diversity and that inclusion that you want to foster as part of your team.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Hmm, great suggestion. Thanks for that. We have another question coming in. This is a juicy one folks, so brace yourselves.

[Melanie Copeland appears full screen.]

Melanie Copeland: What are your suggestions for working with a reluctant collaborator? Jessica, I'll go to you first to pick your brain on this one. What do you advise?

[Jessica Zéroual appears full screen.]

Jessica Zéroual: Okay, so I've been in situations where this has happened both internally with colleagues <laugh> and also externally with partners. And we have to realize, I cannot emphasize enough, that being a good person does not make you a good collaborator. It is very hard to be a collaborator. You got to warm up your skills. You got to know you're going to fail and you got to know that there is going to be some homework that you're going to need to do as well in order for you to show up as your most authentic self, but also to give room to everyone.

So, I'm going to omit certain details, because I also want to preserve people's identity, but I can tell you that I worked on an internal project that was going to have legislative changes potentially explored, and we had partner organizations come together. So, I decided to build together a test team to help generate what the solutions could look like. I wanted to invite people so that they could explore even if it wasn't in the realm of the possibility. And that can be really challenging because sometimes people say, I'm only going to come if the thing is going to happen. Well, sometimes you have to show up to the conversation to creatively think, if something was going to happen, how would it all pan out? What would need to happen in the ecosystem?

And I had one specific partner, one key partner, who just kept on letting me know that he wasn't coming because for the last three years nothing had progressed on that subject. And why would my task team change that? And he was probably right because it was a very hard piece of legislation that had been standing in Canada for a very long time. But after multiple conversations, and it took a long time, I can't say it was just one email or one call, it was a lot of back and forth warming up to the workshop date. And I can tell you I was getting closer to the date that all of the partners were going to be coming to sit together. And I was a little bit nervous because I'm like, okay, well maybe the person is just having a hard time with me. It's never personal. Well, most of the time. Maybe it's just that I need to meet them where they're at and listen to where their hesitations might be because I'm here saying it's going to be different, but I don't know the history that he's been part of.

So, it was really important for me to sit back and just listen. And to be honest, allowing them to have that space to just share, allowed him to just be like, I'm going to come to your meeting. I'm going to come to your workshop. And he was one of our greatest participants. It was really nice. You couldn't tell that there was hesitation for him to show up. He showed up like every other partner, he participated. He didn't tell everybody he didn't want to come and that he was forced. So, that was a really powerful exchange with a reluctant and key partner. And without him, I don't think we would've gotten to the recommendations that we got. So, that was very powerful.

I can tell you that there's another example that I was a part of. I was working on a program. We were trying to ensure that we were capturing specific types of organizations to bring them to the table. And we wanted to honour the different types of organizations at play. There was one organization, we'll say one organization out of the few that we had contacted, that just was not going to show up. And we had to respect the fact that it was not time for us, as a government entity, to have those conversations. You can't force anybody to come to the table and give you a piece of themselves or give you a piece of their people. And I want you to be mindful of that because sometimes people will say, well, they need to be there or we're not doing this. Well, an all or nothing mentality does not allow you to eventually potentially build those relationships with folks.

Did that organization ever come back to us and participate in our workshops? They didn't, but they did hear about the great work that was done. And, moving forward, the organization had an easier time connecting with them and bringing them into the fold on this specific portfolio. And that's powerful. We paved the way. We showed our efficacy in the work that we were doing. We honoured all the organizations that helped us create what we created. And it led the way for the future.

So, sometimes you leave the groundwork for now for the future. You don't benefit from it personally, but others do. So, just remember that when you are building relationships, you're not just building them for the now, you're building them for people coming after you. I'm curious to know what Sandra and Leah have to say about this.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Jessica Zéroual: Or even you, Mel, because I know you've worked a lot in this space. <Laugh>

Melanie Copeland: Please go ahead, Dr. Lapointe.

[Dr. Sandra Lapointe appears full screen.]

Dr. Sandra Lapointe: Yes, I think that what you're saying is actually very important. I mean, the first question that you might want to ask yourself if a collaborator is reluctant would be why are they reluctant? And I think that in collaboration, I mean collaboration is a negotiation and you have to have clear rules of engagement, or terms of reference in order for everyone to be aligned in the expectations. And one thing that's really important is that sometimes you need to relinquish control. Like as a director of a program, if I'm working with a community partner like the United Way, and we've had a very fruitful relationship with the United Way of Halton Hamilton for years now, and we co-publish, but it really requires you to relinquish control and to accept that their perspective is as good. I think that maybe there's a sense in which it's very important to see collaboration as a collaboration and not as people coming in to listen to you and giving their input.

And I think this is a thing that's coming back, right? And the kinds of skills, I'm going back to skills because skills are important, that are going to be foundational in order to be able to foster these kinds of settings where people feel that they're included. There's part of them that are very foundational and you hone them over the course of your entire existence. Like I'm thinking about things like intercultural awareness, you can't become inter-culturally aware really just through a workshop. You can start becoming aware, but it's something that takes really years and years to hone. Same thing with self-management, people skills, but there are other skills like conflict resolution and strategic leadership that are things that you can actually work [on] in a workshop. And it makes a difference if you have that knowledge in advance of a collaboration or not because it just gives you tricks. It's like, here's how to solve this specific type of collaboration. And I think that the examples that Jessica was giving show that she's done conflict resolution training, <laugh> and leader strategic management. <Laugh>.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Jessica Zéroual: Well, I'll say I have a Master's in Conflict Studies, so that's funny. <Laugh>, <laugh>. So, it's perfect <laugh>.

Dr. Sandra Lapointe: So, I would think that it really requires an effort again and be equipped with the right kind of techniques. Those are in toolkits to be able to address these solutions. But it's also a matter of structuring your collaboration to be inclusive of other people's input. Really inclusive.

Melanie Copeland: Well, I know what to add to my training next year. Conflict resolution. It seems like a very, very important asset to have. So, we've got a question here. Our last question that we're going to take from the audience. We were just talking about the importance of two-way communication.

[Melanie Copeland appears full screen.]

Melanie Copeland: The question coming in is, what common problems arise with information sharing processes and how do you overcome those problems? I'm going to leave it open to any of you, for those that would like to pitch in an address, as we're kind of getting ready to wrap up here.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Jessica Zéroual: Maybe the only thing I'll share, because it really relates to if you're working with citizens.

[Jessica Zéroual appears full screen.]

Jessica Zéroual: As somebody who's worked along the policy to service continuum, that famous policy to service continuum directly with segments of the population, a lot of the work that I do is when I do meet with citizens or organizations, the first question is, when will I see the report? When will I see the decision being made? And it's very important to be clear from the onset what pieces of information will be shared with them.

And I think that setting the tone from the onset really allows you to, first of all, reduce the amount of disappointment that might come with how private we are when we have to share things with the public as public servants. Because sometimes we know that it goes towards, what we're feeding into is a memorandum to cabinet, which is secret or it's going towards decision makers. And we don't know how exactly that writing can be disseminated. So, be very clear and deliberate at the onset with what you will be sharing. It might just be an artifact or a five-page report, which tells you who has been consulted, what the next steps are, and where they can read a very high summary of what has been generated from the research itself or the consultation or the collaboration.

So, I think that that's one of my biggest takeaways is you're not going to be able to share everything. You're going to need to be very transparent and clear. And if you do that, it feeds into one of the most important elements of collaboration, which is trust. I'm curious to know from the other two.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Go ahead, Dr. Leah.

[Dr. Leah Levac appears full screen.]

Dr. Leah Levac: Yes, thanks so much. And Jessica, you stole many of the things that I was going to say. So, let me try and say them in smart ways that make it sound like I thought of them. <laugh>. So, I think that was really great. And one of the things that I was going to comment on is that we actually also have some research in and around the field of public participation and participatory democracy that highlights that people actually - there's often a concern that we'll go, we'll engage with people, they'll share ideas, and then they'll be angry because we didn't act on those ideas. What people tend to get upset about is not knowing what happened to the ideas <laugh>, right? So, I think Jessica is really making a very useful point here.

The other thing that I was going to say in terms of, excuse me, in terms of building these relationships is that you can also enter into particular kinds of - so we use lots of different mechanisms in our research relationships just to build agreements about how we will share information with each other. What kinds of tools are the most useful with different groups. We literally have different mechanisms to say these people prefer to receive information via email. These people want us to call them, these people want.... And so, we honour those different kinds of arrangements. It's trust building, it's time intensive. But it's an important part of ensuring that people genuinely understand that you are coming to them, and honouring their particular perspectives and their contributions. I'll turn it back over to Melanie.

[Melanie Copeland, Dr. Leah Levac, Dr. Sandra Lapointe and Jessica Zéroual appear in video chat panels.]

Melanie Copeland: Thanks so much. Folks, thanks for being with us today. This concludes our event for the day.

[Melanie Copeland appears full screen.]

Melanie Copeland: On behalf of the School, thank you to our speakers and to all of you across the country for being part of the conversation today. I hope that you enjoyed your time and you leave this session inspired. The School will take a look at the questions received and keep those in mind as they iterate for future events and series. The School has more to offer. Make sure to stay connected to their website to keep up to date with more learning opportunities. Wishing you all a wonderful day. Thank you.

[The CSPS logo appears on screen.]

[The Government of Canada Logo appears and fades to black.]

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