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HomePolicy Articles Article Summary

Policy Development and Implementation in Complex Files: Lessons from "Vibrant Communities"

Case Study by Sherri Torjman

Developed by the Canada School of Public Service for its Special Studies series, this case study is intended as training material for federal public servants. It focuses on ‘complex files,’ many-layered-programs involving multiple players who need to create links between issues. Several issues are explored including how a government can deal with issues that cannot be addressed by a single department, how relationships can be forged between government departments, levels of governments and communities, and how policy development and implementation differ when instituted by a community rather than government.

This case study consists of two parts. Part 2, authored by Sherri Torjman, discusses Vibrant Communities, a pan-Canadian initiative that engages community residents and support organizations to find localized solutions to reduce poverty. Vibrant Communities is a complex file: it comprises 14 communities developing their own multi-year plans aimed at poverty reduction. Specific areas of focus include training for young people, helping teenage mothers complete their education, providing funds for local entrepreneurs, and expanding the supply of affordable housing. Many are also concerned with improving the quality of life. Though their initiatives are independent, the individual Vibrant Communities are linked together through an active learning strategy. Torjman discusses the policy lessons learned in the Vibrant Communities experience, specifically, the lessons learned from the community perspective.

Several lessons arising from complex files are also presented: 1) governments are most effective when they collaborate to solve issues; 2) a shift from government to governance is occurring whereby citizens are actively solving their own community problems; 3) management must be horizontal and include clearly defined roles for all participants, representation for all sectors, and small working groups; and 4) all players must be involved in accountability, including sharing successes and failures.

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Policy Publication Details

Author(s): Sherri Torjman;
Publisher: Caledon Institute of Social Policy [ Visit Website ]
Year Published: 2004; Publisher Type: Research Institute
Publicly Available: Yes Research Focus: National;
Registration Required: No Language: English
Payment Required: No Publication Format: Adobe PDF

Subjects / Categories:

Policy Articles / Citizen Engagement
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues / Poverty
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues / Poverty / 2004
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues / Inequality
Policy Articles / Welfare & Social Issues / Inequality / 2004
Policy Articles / Citizen Engagement / Consultation
Policy Articles / Citizen Engagement / Consultation / 2004


Keywords / Tags:

Canada School of Public Service; complex files; Vibrant Communities; poverty reduction; community support organizations; community residents; affordable housing; education; training; governance; horizontal management;