Creating space for transformative conversations

Robin Prest

ROBIN PREST is the Program Director at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, where he strengthens the democratic process through dialogue-based engagement and builds the capacity of governments, citizens and stakeholders to co-create knowledge and identify collaborative solutions.

Robin currently co-leads the Centre’s Strengthening Canadian Democracy initiative, which pilots and evaluates methods to increase citizens’ democratic commitment and participation. The ultimate goal is to increase democratic resiliency by identifying good practices and scaling them to widespread adoption.

As the Project Director for the 2017 Citizen Dialogues on Canada’s Energy Future, Robin oversaw and co-designed the first ever cross-Canada deliberative dialogue where randomly selected citizens made recommendations on federal energy policy. In 2014, he served as the lead designer for Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada, which brought together three levels of government, major institutions and six communities affected by historical and contemporary injustices to develop principles to support improved approaches towards reconciliation.

Robin regularly supports elected officials and senior decision-makers to improve the clarity and impact of public engagement initiatives, and to embed engagement within organizational cultures. He has delivered inter-departmental training for national, provincial and local governments. In 2018, he was an advisor to Canada's Treasury Board Secretariat on its 4th Open Government Plan, with a focus on inclusion and organizational change management.

A key interest in Robin’s work is the development of new methods for public participation to address declining levels of trust in major institutions. These methods include the Centre’s Strategic Framework, which enables better integration between public engagement and the needs of decision-makers, and Participatory Systems Change: A Primer, which explores ways to address deeply systemic problems in ways that both leverage expert knowledge and maximize democratic contributions.