Max Bell Foundation is pleased to announce that Dr. Roger Gibbins will be a Max Bell Senior Fellow from October 2014 – March 2016.

Dr. Gibbins received his doctorate in political science from Stanford University in California. He moved to Calgary in 1973 to begin an academic career at the University of Calgary, where he served as Department Head from 1987 to 1996. He has authored, co-authored or edited 23 books and more than 150 articles and book chapters, most dealing with western Canadian themes and interests. From 1998 to 2012, he served as President and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, a public policy research group based in Calgary.

Dr. Gibbins’ project as a Max Bell Senior Fellow will focus on the roles of Canadian charities in both delivering public programs and engaging in public policy. It is summarized as follows:

It is a widely shared observation or at least assumption that the Canadian charitable sector has become increasingly engaged in (a) the delivery of social programming that in the past had been delivered directly through the public service and/or (b) new public policy initiatives designed from the outset with charitable sector delivery in mind. The sector, therefore, has become more engaged at the delivery end of a policy chain that stretches from agenda setting and the earliest recognition of the need for public policy through policy principles and design to implementation and evaluation.
This increased policy engagement raises a number of important questions and challenges for the charities sector:

  • Does engagement in program delivery empower the sector by providing additional resources and community profile – allowing the sector to touch the lives of more people more directly – or do public sector funding and delivery expectations constrain the sector, inculcating a reluctance to bite the hand that feeds?
  • Can we establish a clear line between policy engagement and political engagement? To what extent can policy engagement expand before it engenders overt political activity, thus endangering the charitable status of charitable organizations? (Bob Wyatt is the expert here; this project may do little more that recast his work in a broader policy context.)
  • Does the charitable sector have the necessary tools, human resources and expertise for greater policy engagement?
  • If not, what might be done to strengthen organizational capacity should the sector decide to become more engaged?
  • Will increased policy engagement be seen as a distraction, an unwelcome source of internal stress if policy engagement edges up against political engagement?
  • To what extent are Canadian patterns of charitable engagement in service delivery similar to those in other countries such as Australia, Britain and the United States?
    A final question, and one that provides the moral compass for this project, is whether the sector’s engagement in policy delivery creates an obligation for engagement throughout the policy process.