Good Governance Project: ‘Reformcraft

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Annex B

Helping Canada to Steer Itself Better

The Challenge:

Governance in Canada needs attention if we believe that what defines us matters. Canadians greet the promise of the new millennium with a mixture of optimism and concern about their future and the future of Canada in the global community. The world is turbulent, fast moving and the globalization of information and markets is a reality. Canadians are increasingly faced with the unimaginable and novel issues without good choices. Canadians grapple with uncertainty, and many feel alienated, disconnected and worried about the future and hope that their governments (who sometimes say there is little they can do) can help them to cope.

Why it Matters:

Governance is how our society steers itself. Canadians’ dissatisfaction with government is reducing its relevance and eroding the capacity for good governance at a time when the need is great. Canadians are increasingly ‘working around’ governance systems, sometimes in unhelpful ways, because they do not believe the systems will change. If Canadians do not make their governance systems work for all, if we do not start moving towards better governance now, Canadian society and its future will not be steered by us collectively. It may be steered by a few (who, however well intentioned, aren’t focused on the wants and needs of Canadian society as a whole); or by others outside Canada (who are focused on needs and wants elsewhere), or by no one. Good governance will enable Canadians to make public choices and to discuss and influence the societal and public consequences of private choices, including those that affect us as humans.

Concerns Have Been Raised by Others:

Others have come to the same conclusion - that improving governance matters. They have helped make ‘governance’ an emerging issue in discussions about how societies cope in the new millennium. People like Steve Rosell of the Meridian Institute and Yehezkel Dror, advisor to the Club of Rome, have written books on the subject. Organizations like the OECD have identified it as an important area of focus. The University of Ottawa has established a Governance Center to explore the subject, and the federal Policy Research Secretariat has identified governance as an emerging issue.

We Must Think Differently:

The evolving status quo is not bringing enough change fast enough. Canadians must start improving governance in Canada now, by thinking differently. Shifting mind sets to focus on people, processes and capabilities. Because if change is the key feature of the landscape for the foreseeable future, then continuity in our governance systems must come from shared values and a commitment to live and work together not just from institutions and structures, which will have to become more flexible. What emerges as crucial, is the existence and health of the on-going public conversation that slowly builds and sustains the understanding of and commitment to the broad values we share as well as the willingness to embrace our differences and to work together.

This means enabling and supporting individuals moving from being casual users of governance systems to feeling pride, and doing the same at the level of society as a whole - moving people from a sense of inclusiveness to a sense of belonging. By starting where we are, building on what grows spontaneously, and by planting seeds and amplifying them.

The Reformcraft* Model Can Help:

The reformcraft model that I have developed can help. It says strengthen values, consent, and learning using three action levers, and measure progress with seven success criteria (see diagram below).

Reformcraft means strengthening values. For the first time in human history we are able to destroy our species and our planet. Reformcraft’s goal is to help Canada to ‘weave the future’ using values to guide choices as part of a pluralistic political philosophy. To see shared values and the willingness to work together providing continuity in our governance systems along with more-flexible institutions and structures; and to put morality back at the center of politics and government. It will require Canadian society to make more-explicit and globally-sensitive value choices, and to have a healthy on-going public conversation in order to define and sustain the evolving shared values as well as to manage the differences in interpretations of values constructively. Values that bind us together as humans around the world, as well as those that define us as Canadians.

Reformcraft means strengthening consent by assisting leaders to re-think how to enlighten, empower and engage citizens; to enable informed participation; to improve inclusiveness and transparency; and to get consent in the right places in Canadian society. And asking if enough Canadians feel secure enough to participate.

And Reformcraft means strengthening learning in a climate of blaming. In other words, knowing what learning means (including truth telling); designing for learning, using what is learned both to make adjustments and to share what is learned; and above all, walking the talk.

Canadians can start by using the action levers to move towards good governance now. These are: politicians helping understanding (by asking the right questions and framing issues the right way); network-based institutional innovation (to strengthen collaborative relationships in our complex federation); and horizon scanning entities that link effectively both to citizens and decision makers. And we can measure progress with the success criteria.


Reformcraft is thinking differently in order to achieve good governance. This would result in: real improvement in Canada’s ability to steer its future; relevant institutions, processes and leaders; and increased public confidence and support for our system of governance. We can make a difference. But Canadians have to want good governance, and believe that individual contributions can make a difference.

* The term ‘reformcraft’ was coined by Yehezkel Dror, advisor to the Club of Rome; I use it as a label for my model.

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