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Themes & Methods


Teams will be invited to address complex policy challenges seen through the diversity and inclusion lenses, including:

The issues at stake have no ready, or easy, solutions. As a result, these kinds of issues are well-suited to experimenting with new approaches.

Open and Transparent Government Back to themes overview

The digital landscape is changing people’s expectations of government. It is driving new demands for transparency, creating new forms of engagement, and allowing citizens, businesses, and other institutions to reimagine how they might participate in the policy and program development processes. At the same time, the digital landscape is also influencing how citizens and other actors hold their governments accountable.

The Government of Canada has embraced these trends and signalled its interest in developing policies and services to support greater transparency, accountability, and participation. Under this project theme participants will explore new approaches to bring diverse voices to the policy development process, and identify ways to improve policy outcomes by opening Government’s relationships with citizens and other sectors.

Socio-economic Inclusion Back to themes overview

The social and economic fabrics of advanced economies around the world are under pressure. Economic restructuring, the integration of new technologies, and the international influences of trade and migration are driving support for populism, protectionism and a resistance to immigration. Citizens are increasingly concerned about their personal economic status, identity, and sense of belonging. Left unchecked, these trends threaten to fragment Canada’s social fabric, deepen existing socio-economic divides, and further marginalize those populations on the sidelines of Canadian prosperity and social cohesion.

The Government of Canada has articulated the importance of addressing these trends, and signaled a commitment to socio-economic inclusion and inclusive growth. Under this project theme participants will explore how emergent trends in domains like technological development, demography, and immigration, among others, present opportunities to fuel greater prosperity and social cohesion.

Feminist Government Back to themes overview

Governments in Canada and internationally are increasingly recognizing the need to implement policies and programs to further advance gender parity, confront violence against women, support women at work, and embrace women in leadership positions. As these objectives materialize, there is a drive to further embed feminism in all aspects of government work, to go beyond the gender-based analysis approach, and to deploy a broader, intersectional approach to feminism in government that encourages and embraces inclusion and diversity (e.g., LGBTQ2, visible minorities, persons with disabilities).

The Government of Canada has signaled a wish to further advance its commitment to feminism and feminist government. Under this project theme, participants will explore concrete ways to apply, adopt, and/or undertake a feminist approach to federal policy, program development, and operations.

Sustainable Development Goals Back to themes overview

Over the last two decades, substantial progress has been made globally in reducing poverty and hunger, and improving access to health, education, water and sanitation. However, some 702 million people continue to live in extreme poverty, and challenges such as inequality, insecurity, poor governance, natural resource depletion and climate change could reverse gains made and hinder the efforts of countries and communities to achieve sustainable development.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an exciting opportunity for concerted global action to confront these challenges and others head-on. Importantly, this agenda applies equally to all countries – including Canada. Under this project theme participants will explore how shifts in social, economic, environmental, technological, and policy spheres present opportunities to advance Canada’s achievement of and contribution to the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Reconciliation Back to themes overview

Major investigations of Indigenous issues, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have found that Canadian policies have created a legacy of unresolved intergenerational trauma and have had a profound effect on the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canadian society. Collective efforts from all Canadians over multiple generations will be necessary to renew this relationship and advance reconciliation.

The Government of Canada is committed to advancing reconciliation. Under this project theme, participants will explore concrete ways to engage Canadians in reconciliation, to foster community-building and healing with respect to relationships with Indigenous Peoples.


Strategic Foresight

Strategic foresight helps us understand the forces shaping a system, how the system could evolve and what challenges, opportunities and surprises could emerge. It is a systematic process that surfaces and tests our assumptions and mental models about an issue and then uses our capacity to simulate and visualize how it could evolve. The objective is not to predict the future, but explore the range of plausible futures that could emerge and develop vision, strategies and policies that are robust across that range. By exploring how issues or systems could evolve, strategic foresight ensures that we are preparing for the problem as it will be, and not solving the problem as it was. Applied in concert with design thinking, it is used to inform a project in order to develop future focused interventions. A number of countries and businesses use strategic foresight at the most senior levels.



Design Thinking

Design thinking is a discipline used to develop interventions for complex problems. As a human-centered approach to problem solving, it employs qualitative and quantitative research to gain insights on people’s lives and a contextual understanding of the system and its components. It does this through a process-centric method using a number of design techniques to empathize and clearly define or reframe the issue before the stages of ideation and prototyping. Design thinking promotes the use of tools like ethnographic research, prototyping and stakeholder mapping.

The Human Element

Ethnographic research, or ethnography, is the sociological study of people and cultures. Used in a design process, ethnography employs engagement tools (e.g., 9D Observation, Cultural Probes and Expert Interviews) to gain insight from users and subject matter experts in order to inform the design process and develop creative solutions that reflect these evidence-based findings. Scrapbooking, having participants communicate important experiences of places and people through imagery, is an example of an open ended ethnographic research method.

Stakeholder Maps

Stakeholder maps are used to visually consolidate and communicate the key stakeholders for a project or design challenge. These include stakeholders within the organization initiating the project, important allies and collaborators, clients, and individuals and groups likely to be affected or affecting the system in which the project exists.


Prototyping, or iterative design, is the process of creating an early mock-up of a product or service in order to allow collaborators to communicate, test and improve on ideas. Prototyping is a cyclical process, rapidly making, breaking and learning thereby improving the concept during each design rotation. For example, using Lego blocks to quickly create a small scale simulation in order to allow collaborators to walk through a service innovation.

Narrative-based Text Analysis

Narrative-based text analysis, or narrative inquiry, is employed as a tool to analyze large volumes of qualitative or anecdotal data. It challenges the philosophy of quantitative data-gathering that does not allow for interpretation and better outcomes for people. Research tools, such as Atlas, help teams tackle large amounts of data. Transcript coding is a more accessible approach where researchers classify all interview statements in order to organize qualitative data and gain insight from the individual comments, patterns and frequencies within the created statement categories.

Experiential Futures

Experiential futures, or design fictions, are objects, illustrations or experiences conceived to help an audience explore ideas and concepts about possible future scenarios. Used to evoke a visceral reaction from the audience, experiential futures help the viewer quickly imagine how they would live, interact and react to changes explored in a foresight study. The practice uses art, industrial design, graphic design, narrative and theatre to create experiences that go beyond written reports. An example is the Museum of the Future from the Dubai Future Foundation.