Innovator Profile: Sharon Manson Singer

Jackie Pichette
Research and Communiations Officer, SFU Public Square

Innovator Profiles highlight extraordinary community members that are making a difference.

Sharon Manson Singer is a proud Canadian, experienced policy maker and passionate teacher. She is optimistic about the future of B.C. and doing all she can to support provincial prosperity and progress.

Sharon Manson Singer has more than two decades of experience working on Canadian public policy. Among other roles, she’s held a number of deputy minister positions in the British Columbia government and was the president of the Canadian Policy Research Network from 2006–2011. But after years of public service, Manson Singer heard the classroom calling.

Keen to share her knowledge and experience with the next generation of policy minds, Manson Singer joined the faculty at SFU’s School of Public Policy this September. She speaks fondly of her new role and her students, saying, “I am so impressed with this cohort of individuals and think there’s so much to be accomplished under their leadership.”

What excites and inspires Manson Singer most about her class of graduate students is their desire to collaborate. “They have rejected our current institutional structure, which is not based on participation, and for good reason,” she notes.

Manson Singer describes how incoming generations are demanding more inclusive and collaborative approaches to decision-making. Citing the failure of the harmonized sales tax in B.C. as an example, Manson Singer describes how traditional ways of developing policies (working behind closed doors to manage stakeholder interests) have become insufficient. It’s imperative when shaping today’s policy agenda “that we speak with citizens who don’t necessarily have a special interest.”

It’s a new approach that calls for a new way of thinking about the roles and responsibilities of both government and citizens—an approach at the heart of the BC Population Prosperity Initiative (BCPPI).

The BCPPI is an endeavour of SFU’s School of Public Policy, spearheaded by Manson Singer. Like most Canadian think tanks, the BCPPI supports evidence-based policy development, but with one subtle difference: “We recognize that evidence is insufficient if the people don’t support it,” Manson Singer explains.

The project intends to make evidence available to citizens and provide opportunities for the public to deliberate and decide how the evidence should inform public policy. It’s a unique and forward-thinking approach to policy making that Manson Singer thinks will be very powerful.

The initiative will launch this month with the 2013 Spring Dialogue Series. In advance of the upcoming provincial election, the series will invite citizens to discuss policies related to economic growth, education and community development, and allow for an intersection of business, government and non-profit sector perspectives—all of which have a role and responsibility in promoting prosperous communities.

The results of the Spring Dialogue Series will be available to the public and provided to each of the parties running for election in 2013. It’s an exciting first step for an initiative which Manson Singer says she hopes will eventually become the go-to place the media and politicians look to gauge the public’s reaction to policies and ideas for prosperity.

The BCPPI method provides a way for all of us to start making B.C. better together, by influencing the policies that will determine our collective prosperity. It’s no small endeavour to take on, but Manson Singer says she’s “proud and pleased to support the next development in our great country.”