Communication
February 13, 2013

A case study in promising talent

Quote of the week

“Canada made me do this.”

— Competition case study

Editor’s Corner

Last week, Queen’s University held the Third Annual National Public Administration Case Study Competition. I was asked to be one of the judges.

Ten schools from across Canada competed. They came from the east (Dalhousie) and from the west (University of Victoria). They were big (Carleton University) and small (Glendon College). They were all stimulating.

They were given a case study, called the “Tragic Death of Nelly Traverse.” In this fictional case study, Ms. Traverse, an Aboriginal teenager from Bear Lake, commits suicide. Before doing so, she posts a video on YouTube that goes viral. The incident leads to a series of challenges – some predictable, some not so – for the government.

Each team had to make a 20-minute presentation to a “Cabinet Task Force” set up by the Prime Minister to “formulate a response.” After twenty minutes, members of the committee – the judges – had ten minutes to ask them questions.

The event showed that the next generation of public servants is indeed a promising cohort. The presentations were universally thoughtful, trying to get the right balance between a short-term response and the need for a long-term approach to deal with Aboriginal issues.

Many were innovative, proposing (for example) ways to engage the disenfranchised through social media.

There were a couple of universal learnings that the groups took away. One was that they needed to understand more thoroughly the notion of risk and what that means in a charged, political environment. Another related to priority setting: initiatives cost money. How much? Where will it come from? What will have to be sacrificed?

There were awards given out for the best, and while they were all terrific, the winners were Simon Fraser, the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, and Ryerson.

This competition provides valuable experience to the participants, not to mention a lot of fun for the judges. Queen’s is to be congratulated for the initiative; all schools are to be congratulated for their fine work.

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