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National Case Competition 2022: finding better approaches to a complex Canadian problem

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Since 2011, the annual CAPPA National Policy Case Competition puts student teams across Canada to the test.  This year’s challenge focused on the wicked problem of rough sleeping and homeless encampments in Canadian cities.

“So many issues have surfaced or been exacerbated under pandemic conditions that have shown the vulnerability of many of our institutions, systems and programs,” said Robert Shepherd, case co-author and member of Carleton University’s organizing committee in his opening remarks. “Our collective failure to address enduring issues in and around housing, dual-diagnosis care-giving and individual safety has raised many basic questions in our field, such as responsibility and accountability, jurisdiction, federal-provincial-territorial relations, Indigenous relations, policy and program implementation, and the virtues we hold so dear in a democratic society,” he added.

First year MPP students Adam Bowbrick, Priscilla Fisher, Rachel Ling, Yash Tasouji and Belda Winata delved deep into this complex issue, representing the University alongside student teams from coast to coast.

Instead of a restful Reading Week in February, Team SFU spent an intensive 10 days analyzing and preparing BC-based policy solutions balancing the needs and demands of rough sleepers, while protecting the safety, security, dignity and health of all people who reside and interact with encampments in communities.  After many discussions, editing sessions and practice run-throughs on Zoom with faculty coach Mohsen Javdani and honorary coach Nancy Olewiler, the team was ready with a 20-slide deck and a polished 20 minute presentation, as per the National case competition rules.

Saturday, February 26, aka The Big Day saw 14 teams present their policy analysis and recommendations to a panel of seven judges from Employment and Social Development Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat, Carleton University, Max Bell Foundation, Old Brewery Mission, East Preston Day Care Centre and Family Resource Centre. Taking on the roles of Premier and senior provincial government officials, the judges had the daunting task of selecting three top teams from a diverse and impressive field.

Congratulations to the 2022 winners—with Carleton University taking first place, Johnson Shoyama in second and UBC in third.

“Our team did a brilliant job this year. I learned a lot working alongside them as a coach and am proud to have had them represent SFU’s School of Public Policy. Despite their busy schedules, they worked tirelessly on the case and put forward a creative and concrete solution to the serious problem of homelessness and rough sleeping in B.C.,” commented Javdani.

“I really hope effective and immediate solutions similar to what our team proposed start to emerge in the policy landscape in our province to hopefully put an end to the difficult problem of homelessness and rough sleeping,” he added.

Above all else, this is a learning experience and a bonding experience that students never forget. Many MPP alumni from previous national case teams view it as a highlight of the program. 

Here’s a reflection from this year’s team:

"The National Case Competition was such a fantastic way for our team to put our skills to the test and experience policy making in a real-world, high pressure setting. While we didn't win, we are incredibly proud of the policy options we put forward and all of the work that went into our presentation. We are very grateful to the SPP faculty for their support and guidance, especially our amazing coach Professor Javdani who spent countless hours helping us to prepare."