Public Policy, Students

SFU Policy Case Team in Toronto: How Seven Days Turns into 20 Minutes

March 21, 2014

For the past year, SFU’s School of Public Policy has held the title of Canadian champions in the national policy case competition, held in February each year.   On February 1st, 2014 teams from 12 policy schools across Canada, including Dalhousie, Queen’s, University of Saskatchewan, Carleton, Laval, University of Calgary, Ryerson and York University, gathered for the third annual case competition, hosted by University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy and Governance.

SFU team members Jonathan Arnold, Jenn Moe, Angie Natingor and Quinn Yu spent an intense seven days preparing their case and developing the presentation that would be delivered to a panel of judges taking on roles of senior federal government bureaucrats. This year, the judges included the Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council Office, Janice Charette, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierre Pettigrew.

The four-member team, all students in the Masters of Public Policy (MPP) program, brought a range of background experience to this competition; from sports competitions to high-level presentations at work, these students were well-versed in situations involving pressure and deadlines. The team was selected to represent the School on the national stage after winning the School’s internal case competition in mid-January.  Five teams of first and second year students took on the challenge and presented their cases to a judging panel comprised of two faculty members, alumnus Marta Taylor from Legal Services Society of BC, and Hal Howie from IPAC  Institute for Public Administration – Vancouver Region. 

Team member Quinn Yu noted, “Our team quickly highlighted the surface level problems in the case study, but we spent a lot of time researching and critically thinking about the systemic issue. When we finally formulated a coherent statement on what the root causes of those surface problems were, things got significantly less murky.” 

The case itself was titled “Don’t Advocate on my Loonie” – a fictitious Globe and Mail headline focused on a situation involving two charitable organizations and the murky areas of charities policy law when addressing charity, advocacy and political action.

Quinn summed up the team’s experience, saying “it was an amazing experience to compete at the national case competition in my final year of graduate school. Working with Jon, Angie, and Jenn on the case was a major contributing factor to that experience. Even though no one had a background in charity policies, our diverse work experiences allowed for four very different perspectives on one case. We spent hours researching and thinking, but our final product was something we were all proud of. Presenting to a panel of esteemed judges was also very rewarding. The judges grilled us in the Q&A just like every other team, but because we were so certain in our analysis backed by our training in the MPP program, we had no problems providing answers to really tough questions. Overall, it was a fantastic learning experience with lots of fun memories.” 

After 20-minute timed presentations and in-depth Q&A sessions, the judges gave their final rankings, putting University of Toronto’s team on top, with Dalhousie taking second place.

"Our team delivered a well reasoned argument that proposed reform of an archaic piece of legislation governing charities,” commented Nancy Olewiler, Director of the School, who attended the competition in the role of faculty coach.  “Their presentation was terrific and it demonstrated all the skills that our program provides in analysis of policy problems.  They can be very proud of their work,” she added.

The team and the School greatly appreciate the support of FASS Dean John Craig in covering airfare costs to attend the competition.