About the CGC

CGC is the last piece of the puzzle to bring ideas and thoughts together.

The Centre for Global Challenges (CGC) is a bilingual public policy forum associated with the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. The CGC promotes public discussion of key issues. It brings together thought leaders — practitioners and scholars, policy makers and researchers — to explore the Canadian implications of key challenges.  Such issues include:

  1. Harnessing the global economy for human well-being;
  2. Reshaping the social and health architecture in the face of technological and demographic change;
  3. Understanding diversity, solidarity and the role of religion in public policy and public life;
  4. Reforming our institutions of government to promote ingenuity and engagement as a counterweight to the constricting “cult of accountability.”

The Centre’s mission: international, Interdisciplinary and Intergenerational collaboration

Current public policy tools and institutions do not seem to be up to the task of addressing the new and emerging challenges facing us, challenges that are: increasingly complex, cutting across traditional disciplines and often with both local and global dimensions; unfamiliar, so that old assumptions and old approaches do not readily apply; and contentious, or at least with multiple poles of conflict and competing interests.

Canada has not developed institutions that bridge the considerable gulf between academia and public service. The research and cumulative knowledge that should be informing policy is often unknown and inaccessible to policymakers and to the public. Interaction between these communities is sporadic; each has its own language, its own relevancies and its own blind spots.

The global challenges before us should force us to question our assumptions and put a premium on sustained discourse and collaboration across disciplines and interests. To make real progress we must bring together the best expertise, scholarship and research with leading practitioners and decision makers so that they learn each other’s language and relevancies, begin to shape each other’s thinking, and deepen and sustain their collaboration.

In order to take on these challenges, we also need an informed and engaged public who, at a minimum, are aware of the stakes and trade-offs and, at best, participate more fully in the political and policy process. In particular, as more and more young Canadians disengage from traditional politics and public life, we have an obligation to involve young people in this undertaking.

Only through international, intergenerational and interdisciplinary collaboration across diverse interests and experiences will we find the ingenuity necessary to address the tough issues before us. This, then, is the mission of the Centre for Global Challenges.

What is the Centre?

The Centre for Global Challenges is associated with the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, the first bilingual graduate school of its kind in Canada. The CGC draws on Glendon’s faculty, staff and students, as well as its Toronto campus and facilities. The mid-town campus, currently being upgraded through support from the Ontario government and private donations to create additional spaces for convening and collaborating, is located between York University’s Keele campus, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, and provides a convenient, secure place to meet and debate.

Alex Himelfarb, former Clerk of the Privy Council and Ambassador to Italy, serves as Director of both the School and the Centre. He is supported by Alexandre Brassard as Coordinator of the Centre.

Additional operating funds have been secured through private donations. The Glendon Campaign Leadership for Global Challenges, chaired by Claude Lamoureux, former president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, is raising further capital to create four policy chairs to build and nurture the networks and sustain discourse and collaboration.

The Centre was formally launched in March 2010.

Public Forums

Each global issue to be addressed by the Centre will be introduced in a public forum by a panel of experts working within a multidisciplinary approach. The experts will be selected in consultation with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), one of the leading national institutions for multidisciplinary international research of public policy relevance, and partner universities and institutions, including The Hennick Centre for Business and Law, Canada 2020 and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which share this focus.

The events, to be organized with partners such as Canada 2020, with its established record for public policy discourse, will expose advanced research to interested public, students, invited practitioners, advocates, decision makers, members of the media and academics.

The panels will seek to define the key issues and questions that must be addressed for public policy solutions and propose new directions supported by research. The proceedings will be moderated, videotaped and summarized textually.

Of particular importance, the Centre will seek to make available to policy-makers the best knowledge and research in an accessible form and in a manner that promotes and sustains public conversation. To these ends, the Centre will work with organizations with a proven record in accessible communication, network development and breadth of reach, particularly among younger audiences, including The Mark News and Global Brief.

Working Sessions

The summaries of the Centre’s public forums are used to guide an invited group of between 20 and 30 decision makers, practitioners, journalists and researchers over the course of a two-day closed session (no attribution) designed to deepen the conversation. The goal of these working sessions is to yield concrete recommendations for action and research. At least five spaces in each session are reserved for students of public affairs.

Participants become members of an ongoing network whose activities include an exchange of views, ideas, drafts and collaboration as members see fit. The network is brought together within 12 months to participate in the Annual Global Challenges Conference. The Centre prepares and disseminates written reports and on-line materials out of these sessions.

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