School of Policy Studies

School of Policy Studies
School of Policy Studies

Annual National Forum of the Public Policy and Third Sector Initiative


2011: 10th Annual National Forum of the Public Policy and Third Sector Initiative

The Recession and Beyond | Third Sector and Public Policy

WaterPark Place, 20 Bay Street, 11th Floor in the Rainy Lake Room
Toronto, ON 


Governments around the world stand at a crossroads. Faced with an enormous financial burden and new social challenges on the horizon, governments are looking for new institutional solutions that will enable them to do more with less. In many countries, the voluntary sector has become a key pillar in new administrative reforms. Indeed, most governments recognize that the voluntary sector is a critical part of their ability to develop and maintain economic strength and social wellbeing within communities. Yet the kind of supports the sector ultimately receives varies across settings.

This year's conference proposes an opportunity to reflect on the present and possible future roles of the voluntary sector in the face of shifting governmental roles. It is important to pay attention to these dynamics because they have the potential to redefine the relationship between administration and citizens. Comprising international speakers with valuable insight from an academic, practitioner and policy perspective, the conference will allow participants to hear and comment upon the patterns of policy change and continuity in any country.

The broad objectives of the conference are to:

  • learn from international experience to date;
  • take stock of current trends, policy continuity and change;
  • inform the Canadian agenda on social policy reform.

Special thanks to our sponsors

Government of Ontario and SSHRC | Sponsors of the Third Sector conference

2009: 9th Annual National Forum of the Public Policy and Third Sector Initiative

Assessing the Impact of Community and Voluntary Sector Activity How are we measuring up?

November 20-21, 2009


As government budgets are getting tighter, the value of voluntary sector activities in generating a satisfactory return on investment is increasingly being scrutinized. This has made it imperative for voluntary sector organizations to demonstrate what they can achieve with public monies. However, focusing on outputs has traditionally failed to capture the extent of the contribution of their work, and therefore, the validity and usefulness of the data generated is being questioned. This year's theme deals with some of the challenges of going beyond measuring inputs, activities and outputs in order to assess impacts and outcomes.

A number of collaborative initiatives are underway and innovative experiments in impact assessment methods have emerged that can highlight the benefits of the work of the voluntary sector. This conference will explore what factors are conducive or limiting when implementing successful impact assessment processes.

This conference provides a unique learning experience. By bringing together public servants, academics and community practitioners who reflect different perspectives on issues and challenges, the conference creates a space to learn, explore and share by looking at different facets of a problem. It is designed to help people learn more about effective and meaningful ways to capture the outputs, outcomes and impacts of community and voluntary sector activity.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of the conference participants will:

Gain an improved understanding of the challenges and benefits of outcome measurement from various perspectives;
Provoke new thinking and learn ways to improve outcome measurement.

2008: 8th Annual National Forum on Public Policy and the Third Sector

Empowering the voice and engagement of citizens: Is the voluntary sector still a relevant player?

May 23-24, 2008


Over the past decade, the civic landscape has shifted in important though subtle ways. The record low levels of voter turnout, falling membership in political parties, weakening participation in volunteering, and the low levels of trust in institutions, are all evidence of the changing nature of civic engagement. Equally significant has been the shift in citizen demands and expectations away from traditional structures of representation towards more direct forms of voice and engagement. While citizens seemingly remain interested in politics, they seek fresh vehicles for personal expression and connectedness to others. These trends represent new challenges for policy makers and for voluntary organizations, making it more difficult to rely on a single notion of community. Yet with an ever-more heterogeneous population, with greater social and economic diversity, and rising inequalities, there is a more pressing need to expand mechanisms so that a plurality of voices can be heard in policy debates. Not surprisingly, civic participation is on everyone's agenda at the moment.

By bringing together public servants, academics and community practitioners, this conference provides a valuable forum for dialogue that looks at current practices today, formative emerging trends, and choices on how best to move forward.  The conference will explore the following questions: What are the central trends in civic participation and engagement? Is there a generational divide? Does the increasing diversity of our citizenry necessitate varied approaches to engagement? How will these trends affect the place of the voluntary  sector in our society? What are some the new and creative mechanisms for engaging hard to reach groups in society? What can we learn from current practices?

2006 and past

2006: The New Federal Policy Agenda: Where does the voluntary sector fit in?

2005: People, Places, Policies: Engaging Communities in Policy Making

2004: People Power and Voluntary Organizations: The Challenge of Human Resource Policy

2003: The New Financial Environment of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations: Policy and Practice in Transition

2002: Advocacy, Engagement and Consultations: The Voluntary and Government Sectors

2001: Crossing the Divides: The Voluntary, Business, Labour and Government Sectors