Co-creation and open policy making

October 5, 2017


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This summer, federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers of agriculture endorsed the Plant and Animal Health Strategy (PAHS) for Canada. Partners had just one year (when the need was identified at the Emergency Management Framework for Agriculture in Canada endorsement in July 2016) from concept to endorsement by FPT ministers. How did this strategy come together? It takes more than a village – a whole country, in fact.

What is co-creation?

Co-creation is a form of open policy making where those implicated by the outcome are directly involved in its creation. This approach is one method of engaging in experimentation.

Partners involved in safeguarding Canada’s plant and animal resources co-created the strategy. FPT governments, industry associations, academia and the engaged public all played a key role. The PAHS is not a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) strategy– it’s not even just a federal strategy! The PAHS is a partner-created Canadian strategy, and the CFIA simply acted as a facilitator.

How we did it

1. Idea generation

The first step was to compile the multiple perspectives of those we consulted on the Emergency Management Framework, as well as other discussions that had been going on for years in the plant and animal health communities. 

Using this discussion document, we engaged stakeholders through:

  • face-to-face meetings, supported by webinars, hosted by 10 provinces
  • meetings with national industry associations, federal partners, and within the CFIA
  • social media using the hashtag #CanPAH
  • an interactive online questionnaire

The partners formed a leaders’ group and an interdepartmental advisory group to guide our journey.

The first phase of engagement culminated in a two-day planning forum.

This was not a conference — participants were put to work. They were provided with summaries of gathered background information: other relevant strategies, initiatives currently underway, and online survey results. Through facilitated sessions, they analyzed this information to identify key goals and planned actions. We used electronic voting for real-time feedback on the vision and objectives of the PAHS.

Participants were also invited to identify their interest in being more involved in developing the PAHS.

A summary of the forum was shared with participants afterwards and was well received.

2. Collaborative analysis and development

This phase began in January 2017 with the formation of a steering committee to guide the work of four multi-partner working groups. These working groups analyzed the reams of information that had been gathered and began to build the strategy itself. This was an interesting challenge.

How do you get 40+ geographically-dispersed people to write a strategy together? With technology! We used OneDrive as a space where everyone could work together on their respective business cases and WebEx for meetings so that everyone could see the documents on their computer screens.

In April 2017, we launched a one-month public consultation on the draft strategy. Engagement took many forms:

  • online consultations using Fluid Surveys
  • do-it-yourself consultation kitFootnote 1 for partners to use with their stakeholders, and then provide a summary to include in a database 
  • face-to-face meetings
  • webinars
  • social media (#CanPAH)

Following the April consultation, the steering committee considered all of the input received to prepare a final version for endorsement by FPT ministers of agriculture. 

3. Making it real

The process for seeking endorsement of the PAHS involved developing a presentation and testing it at various levels and roles of government governance for input. The FPT ministers of agriculture endorsed the PAHS in July 2017, completing the process of co-creation. 

Our challenge now is to begin co-delivery:

  • demonstrating the PAHS’s focus on collaboration and prevention
  • establishing multi-partner councils to provide collaborative forums for PAHS implementation
  • implementing “foundational” activities, such as analyzing and cataloguing all supporting Canadian strategies and initiatives that currently exist in plant and animal health, and determining their relevancy and how to best build on their strengths

Reflecting on the process

Overall, co-creating the PAHS was an amazing experience: it allowed for a variety of perspectives and expertise, and the finished strategy gave our partners a greater sense of shared ownership and responsibility. We look forward to other opportunities for open policy making with our partners.

Now that the PAHS is endorsed, we look forward to working with partners to co-deliver what we have co-created. Interested in co-creation? We’d be happy to discuss further!

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