Creating space for transformative conversations

Can Public Engagement Change Systems?

October 06, 2016

Addressing our toughest challenges—such as climate change, housing affordability, inequality or xenophobia—requires broad public will and action. Yet, these challenges are also rooted in far-reaching and complex systems that include many different institutions and networks. To bring about the changes we need, we have to understand and work with both systems and democratic publics.

How can citizen engagement initiatives change the systems that affect our most difficult problems? What tools and mechanisms help to ensure that citizen involvement is a driving element in government decision-making and community problem-solving?

Join SFU Centre for Dialogue, in partnership with SFU Continuing Studies' Community Building Programs, as we address these questions in an interactive conversation. Facilitated by Centre for Dialogue Director Shauna Sylvester, we bring together a world-class group of field experts. Our panelists include Joe Hsueh (Harvard University), Carolyn Lukensmeyer (National Institute for Civil Discourse) and Alex Ryan (Govt. of Alberta CoLab).  

Date: Thursday, October 6, 2016, 7–9 pm 
Location: Rooms 1400-1430, Harbour Centre, SFU Vancouver , 515 W Hastings St. 
Admission: $15+GST General Admission (Students/Seniors: $8+GST) Book your seat at Eventbrite.

Note: we have reserved a number of free tickets for those who would otherwise not be able to attend. Please contact to request a ticket. 

This event is co-sponsored by the SFU Continuing Studies, working closely with partners at the Alberta Climate Dialogue and Public Agenda. 

Confirmed Panelists

Dr. Joe Hsueh is a professor, advisor and consultant in systems thinking and systems change. He co-founded the Academy for Systemic Change (with MIT professor Peter Senge and others), and teaches at Harvard's Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership and National Taiwan University’s Global MBA program. He is a consultant to the World Bank, an advisor to the premier of Taiwan, and a partner at a systems innovation consultancy, SecondMuse. Dr. Hsueh is passionate about the holistic process of identifying, designing, mapping, convening, prototyping, learning and scaling large-scale systems change for social, economic and ecological well-being. He helps multi-stakeholder groups see the larger system and identify high-leverage points for collective action using qualitative systems mapping and quantitative system dynamics modeling with clients such as Nike, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Walton Family Foundation and the World Bank.

Dr. Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer is the executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, an organization that works to reduce political dysfunction and incivility in the U.S. political system. As a leader in the field of deliberative democracy, she works to restore democracy to reflect the intended vision of America's founding fathers. Dr. Lukensmeyer previously served as founder and president of AmericaSpeaks, an award-winning non-profit organization that promoted non-partisan initiatives to engage citizens and leaders through the development of innovative public policy tools and strategies. During her tenure, AmericaSpeaks engaged more than 165,000 people and hosted events across all 50 states and throughout the world.

Dr. Alex Ryan is co-founder of Synthetikos Strategy Consulting and senior systemic design advisor with the Government of Alberta. He co-founded the Alberta CoLab and advises a cross-ministry systemic design and strategic foresight team working to institutionalize systems thinking, design and foresight within government policy and planning processes. The CoLab team addresses diverse issues such as energy strategy, integrated resource management, stakeholder engagement, social innovation, health system transformation and reforming family justice. Dr. Ryan previously taught operational and strategic design at the U.S. School of Advanced Military Studies, and helped to institutionalize design within Western militaries, working with clients such as U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, Australian Special Operations Command and the Canadian Forces College.


Shauna Sylvester is the director of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue. Shauna is a skilled facilitator, social entrepreneur and commentator on international issues. She has led numerous dialogues on density, business development, transportation and energy and she served as the lead facilitator for the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing in Vancouver. Shauna has written and edited several publications related to foreign policy, social and environmental issues and has provided policy advice to governments and foundations on subjects as varied as climate change, human security, media and democratic development. Prior to leading the Centre for Dialogue, Shauna served as the founding executive director of Canada’s World—a national citizen engagement initiative on foreign policy. From 1997 to 2006, Shauna co-founded and served as the first executive director of IMPACS—the Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society, a media and democracy organization that operated in Canada and in conflict and post-conflict zones around the world.