Reconnecting and Renewing: 2022 PPTI Alumni Gathering

On September 9, Max Bell Foundation convened its fourth Public Policy Training Institute (PPTI) Alumni Event at the BMO Centre in Calgary, gathering more than 60 people from the PPTI community over a full day of professional development that included plenary conversations, networking, and group reflections. The event featured expert speakers who discussed a range of issues important to public policy advocates today.

Max Bell Foundation’s Board Chair, Brenda Eaton, opened the event with a keynote on the value and importance of hope. She provided a compelling list of reasons why non-profit organizations should continue driving public policy change:

“You have knowledgeable people who care; they have specific insights from other players in the sector, they have their finger on the pulse of what matters to communities, and they can leverage their incredible networks. You are the right people to do it!”

The first plenary session featured guest speakers Jared Wesley (Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta) and Zain Velji (Partner and VP Strategy at Northweather) who provided insights on how to develop and deliver a wise communications strategy, especially in today’s environment. They offered advice to policy advocates in the non-profit sector on how to identify audiences, messages, messengers, and tactics depending on the desired goals and the policy context, which can shift in real time as advocacy efforts unfold.

The second plenary session featured guest speakers Lana Wells (Brenda Strafford Chair in the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Social Work, and Fellow and Faculty Member of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary) and Geoff Braun (Director of Policy at the Muttart Foundation) who addressed the role of evidence in policy development. They offered advice to policy advocates in the non-profit sector on when and how to marshal evidence both strategically – as foundational to their “asks” – and tactically to bolster their persuasion efforts, and how to maximize their chances of success by anticipating how those who would oppose them might use – or abuse – available evidence. Both speakers converged on the notion of having somebody on the receiving end for whom the evidence matters and that, at the end of the day, it’s a function of being there and addressing their priorities and what’s on their agenda.

The third and last plenary session featured a multidisciplinary panel of three experts – Karen Perla (Director of the Energy Futures Policy Collaborative at the Energy Futures Lab), Pam Krause (President and CEO of the Centre for Sexuality) and Anila Lee Yuen (President and CEO of the Centre for Newcomers) – sharing their case studies, stories and experiences about what worked or ‘policy wins’ and what didn’t work, the success stories, the lessons learned, and the challenges faced while leading policy change in settlement and immigration, environment and climate change, and sexual health education.

More than 300 individuals have now completed the PPTI program since its inception in 2008, many of whom are senior leaders in the sector. Over the 14 years, participants have consistently reported that the PPTI is an important professional development program in the sector. Max Bell Foundation is grateful to have played a role in contributing to the ripple effect of the PPTI program on a large and growing community of talented and committed people working to improve, through better public policy, the lives of their fellow citizens.

photo credits: © 2022 · Benjamin Laird