Imagine a Better Future

* This blog post appeared on the original Banff Forum Blog on November 19, 2013


This is a guest post by Gisèle Yasmeen, Ph.D. – Senior Advisor to the President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council – Former VP Research and long time Banffer adjusting to life back in Vancouver

The tag line for the Banff Forum is “Young leaders committed to building a better Canada”.  The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council  - or SSHRC – also sees itself as committed to building a better Canada and world by supporting research and graduate research training.  We live in a era of daunting societal challenges and rapid change.  How does the research community take a proactive position with respect to identifying, analysing and responding to “grand challenges” – not only those that are obvious us now, but particularly those that are on the horizon, which may not yet be getting the attention of society in general and the research community in particular? How does one go about identifying the big questions of the future – many of which might require interdisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration? Research is about learning, discovery and changing paradigms and often about finding a way forward to create a better world and future.

Two years ago, SSHRC launched an ambitious foresight project to identify what issues Canada could be facing in a rapidly evolving global context in the next few decades, as well as to enhance theability of the Canadian social sciences and humanities research community to contribute its knowledge, talent and expertise to both understand and shape that future.  While SSHRC had “cast ahead” in the past, with such early investments in aging studies and the digital humanities, a comprehensive, system-wide approach including public engagement, had not been undertaken.  The results have been encouraging.

We undertook a variety of data-gathering techniques in this initiative, including scanning and a scenario-building exercise to gather multiple lines of evidence, in collaboration with the research community across disciplines and partners across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors both in Canada and abroad. Our moniker became “Imagining Canada’s Future” to illustrate that this was to be a creative process; not about predicting, but rather engaging collective knowledge and imagination to think beyond the headlines of the day and to weak signals that were beginning to emerge.

Engagement and support of the research community across disciplines – including those beyond the social sciences and humanities – was a critical success factor to this project from the onset.  After all, ”grand challenges” often cross the boundaries of disciplines and fields of knowledge.  Climate change is a prime example; an issue now firmly on the agenda of the research community across disciplines.  Likewise, working with partners across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors both in Canada and abroad from the beginning was seen as essential to bring in a variety of perspectives.  At the same time, working across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries is challenging due to competing paradigms, world views and priorities.

As a publicly-funded research agency, our focus was not to uncover looming future challenges that are already well-ensconced on the research radar but, rather, to identify areas that are just beginning to emerge and may not yet have a constituency.  While we had a few set-backs, we were patient and persisted with an approach that generated confidence for the process and outcome of the project as we undertook  a range of successful engagement activities.  These included a series of regional panels led by leaders in post-secondary institutions across the country, in addition to a scenarios workshop with Canadian and international participants.  Input was also solicited from aninternational expert panel organized by the prestigious Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  In the end, if we include social media outreach, thousands of individuals were sought out to provide input in this project.  Recognizing its role as a funding agency in building research capacity, SSHRC strove to develop effective selection criteria that focused on identifying and articulating areas that were meaningful and would allow experimentation with new approaches to push research frontiers.  If we did not learn something new substantively new by the end of the exercise, we would have failed.

So, after all that effort, did we learn anything new? We think we did as summarised in a total of six future challenge questions which will, we hope, inspire and stimulate new, exciting research and related activities.

1.What new ways of learning, particularly in higher education, willwe need to thrive in an evolving society and labour market?Given the growing debates about jobs/skills/knowledge mismatch, our exercise urges an exploration of the relationship between the education system – particularly our own “industry” of post-secondary institutions – and the knowledge and skill needs of the emerging 21st century.


What effects will the quest for energy and natural resources have on our society and our position on the world stage? To what extent are emerging geopolitical issues at home and abroad related to the control of these resources given new methods of exploitation, growing demand and the alarming issue of access to the necessities of life? These are not strictly “technical” issues and the social sciences and humanities have an important role to play going forward.


Given our history, which, by necessity informs our future, how does a settler-society like Canada – dominated by English and French speaking and other rapidly growing communities with ancestry from throughout the world – come to terms with indigenous First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples? Specifically, how will the experiences and aspirations of Aboriginal Peoples inCanada be essential to building a successful shared future?


What might be the implications of global peak population?According to UN estimates, global population may peak at current levels and then may decline by 2050, possibly earlier. Why this might be happening and what are the implications, not just demographically, but also in terms of environmental, ethical, economic, legal and broader social impacts and values? What, for example, are the implications for “end of life” issues on rapidly aging planet?


Similarly, we learned more about rapidly emerging “God-like” technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and the “omics” – many of which are converging and also have huge societal implications, which urgently need to be studied.  Many of these technologies are having a profound impact on the scholarly endeavour itself, especially in terms of new methodologies for teaching and research.


In a rapidly changing “multipolar world”, how do we keep up with myriad emerging regions, beyond the BRICs to include the CIVETS, sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia whose populations are also finding their ways to our shores and shaping our own culture, economy and society? As the HSBC ad goes, “In the future, there will be no markets left waiting to emerge”. In this context, what knowledge is needed to thrive in such aninterconnected, global landscape?

These areas of focus have emerged from the Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. Together, with those who have been involved and others,  we are confident of having helped inspire new ways of thinking about research, collaboration and the link between the past, present and the futures we may want to create – and certainly the ones we may wish to avoid –  for our families, communities and societies.  Imagining Canada’s future has led to a productive national discussion about the questions we should be asking today  in order to enhance our understanding to create a better future.



Banff Forum 2013: Debrief

* This blog post appeared on the original Banff Forum Blog on November 2, 2013


It’s been just over a month since this year’s Banff Forum retreat in Banff Alberta.  It was an amazing few days!  The retreat brought together an incredible group of young leaders with top Canadian and international leaders to debate and discuss the theme of leadership.  As captured by the pictures and graphics below, we used a variety of unique and interactive formats to explore what we mean by leadership, why there is a perceived crisis in leadership, how the public’s perspective of leadership is changing and how Banff Forum participants (aka “Banffers”) can maximize their own leadership potential.



Leadership in the Public Service

* This blog post appeared on the original Banff Forum Blog on September 6, 2013. 

I hope the theme of this year’s Banff Forum on leadership resonates within the Canadian public service because if there is any institution that really needs it today, it’s the bureaucracy that supports our federal government.

Let me clarify that I’m not talking about political leadership, for the decisions taken or not taken by elected politicians are for citizens, not bureaucrats, to judge.  Our job as civil servants, indeed our democratic duty, is to recommend and implement to the best of our ability, regardless of our own political views.

Nor am I referring to the individuals in senior positions within the public service.  Indeed one of the reasons the public service underperforms is that so many public servants equate leadership with occupancy of senior positions, and spend much of their career waiting for a promotion before they begin to exercise leadership.

Rather, I’m referring to the exercise of the qualities of leadership by individual public servants in their current roles:  Launching new approaches to serving the public or initiatives to better implement the government’s policies.  Identifying and recruiting talent and managing teams that get the most out of each employee.  Modeling performance and ethical behaviour to set an example for others.

The public service is not a natural environment for leadership because we are, in a sense, an institution of followers.  Bureaucracy works not only by hierarchy but also by a spirit of consensus that can too easily descend into groupthink.

But Canada is not well served by bureaucrats who follow until they occupy senior positions.  Leadership by “time-servers” produces an institution without the ability to listen to new ideas or to embrace new ways of doing business. And God knows without new ideas or new ways of doing business, any large institution faces a grim future in the digital age.

As new forms of communication diffuse power and make individuals more autonomous, any institution composed of close to 250,000 employees paid entirely through tax revenue is going to come under intense scrutiny.  Canadians will increasingly ask themselves how much of their taxes they want to spend on collective action now that collective action is becoming easier and cheaper than ever before through communities that self-organize around mutual interests.  We’ll always need a public service, but will we always need one that employs a quarter of a million people?

If the public service is to continue demonstrating its value to the Canadian people, it will need to innovate.  And to innovate it will need individual public servants to exercise leadership – at all levels throughout the organization and not just the few that have made it to the top.

In my two decades in public service I’ve been lucky enough to work with some genuine leaders and to learn from them.  I’ve also tried to lead experiments in public policy – some of which have failed and some of which have succeeded.  I’m happy to report that the public service is more open to innovation than most people would expect.  The deputy ministers I know tend to be very open to new ideas and value the skill of those able to put them into practice.

I offer the following tips for fellow public servants that want to exercise leadership – not by grasping for the next promotion but by exercising influence in their current role and with the resources they can muster from where they are.

1)    Choose the right issue.

An issue is ripe for leadership when the organization recognizes that it matters but for which it is not yet equipped to address.  Most hierarchies are structured to solve the problems of yesterday.  The opportunity for leadership lies in the problems that weigh heavily on a minister or deputy minister’s mind but for which they don’t have good people working on yet.

One of the U.S. State Department’s most impressive innovators, Richard Boly, shared with me the idea of finding an organization’s “pain points.”  These are problems that no one in the organization believes are being addressed properly, and which are undermining the organization’s core objectives.  Find a pain point in your organization and you’ll have an audience of senior managers willing to listen to your solution.

2)    Find a solution that appeals to both masters.

Thanks to the Westminster system of government, Canada’s public service is bicephaleous.  In each department, an elected minister sets the political direction and an appointed deputy minister controls the resources.  No transformative initiative is going to get far without both buying in.  Get the politics right but ignore the accountability structures that ensure value for money and your idea will fail.  Conversely, you won’t get very far delivering the perfect policy solution while remaining politically tone-deaf.

When I was responsible for Iran policy for DFATD, I knew the Minister wanted an initiative that highlighted the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people.  The Deputy Minister believed that the department should be investing more in the use of social media as a tool for foreign policy.  The Direct Diplomacy initiative addressed both interests by launching a social media campaign that allowed us to speak directly to hundreds of thousands of Iranians online.

3)    Tell the story of your solution.

There may be no customers involved but you still have to sell your solution.  Whenever you try something new there will always be bureaucrats that specialize in identifying all the things that could go wrong and that want to avoid any risk of failure.  You won’t convince them but you can convince neutral open-minded colleagues of the merits of your solution and the need to take the risk.

A great way to do this is by enlisting outside voices to bounce your story back inside your organization.  Seek out allies in other government departments, in academia and, if you can manage it safely, with the media.   When a few of us sought to create DFATD’s first democracy promotion unit several years ago, possibly the most useful thing we did was to encourage the creation of a council of democracy NGOs that provided regular advice to government, and host an annual summit of Canadians interested in democracy promotion.  The creation of an outside constituency helped sustain the agenda within.

 4)    Solve a problem by doing, not by writing.

Anyone who has worked in bureaucracy will know how much time is wasted on policy papers that get discussed ad nauseum and then left on a shelf.  Indeed, we have entire bureaux of “strategic policy” analysts who crank out papers that provoke thought but not action.

The problem with policy papers is that they are usually written to convince someone else – usually a minister – to take action.  Better to identify what action you can take yourself and then get on with actually doing it.  This will mean starting small, to match ambitions to the level of resources available.  But you’ll be much more convincing arguing for change if you’ve actually started delivering that change, met what obstacles there might be and proven the concept.

When a few enterprising new employees across the public service wanted to introduce a radically different way to generate policy ideas two years ago by adapting the Dragon’s Den format, we didn’t wait for approval.  We lined up junior employees to pitch new ideas, recruited a few assistant deputy ministers to serve as dragons, and started hosting competitions.  We had to go through a few iterations over the years until we had a model that worked, but now these kinds of competitions are being considered for roll-out throughout the public service.

5)    Spread the credit as widely as possible.

To appear self-aggrandizing is the kiss of death in public service.  And indeed anything of significance you’ll create in the public service will be the product of a large number of people.  Those that seek personal recognition for an initiative risk undermining the initiative by having it equated with their personal ambition.

When talking about a project, emphasize the role your team members play more than your own role.  But don’t stop there – spread credit as widely as you can credibly do.  If a new initiative succeeds people will know what part the leader played.  But in order to succeed it needs to belong to the whole organization and not to the individual that first pushed the idea.

6)    Set up your successor for success.

The great strength and the great weakness of the public service is professional mobility.  Chances are if you are a successful leader it won’t be long until you find another opportunity to shine elsewhere.  If you’re not going to be around to follow through on your innovation and ensure it succeeds year after year, start doing some succession planning.  Once you’ve found a suitable candidate, transition as much authority as you can as early as you can.  Not only will you protect your initiative from the dislocation of losing you to some sudden opportunity elsewhere, but you’ll make the initiative a genuinely shared accomplishment – and more sustainable for that.

 7)    Help other leaders.

If you make a genuine effort to improve how the public service delivers, you’ll quickly learn who else is making a genuine effort.  Take the time to reach out and help – we’re in this together.  Be willing to share resources, information, ideas.  Be open to mentoring as you’ve been mentored.  And stand up for them when they run into resistance, as all innovators inevitably do.

The public service has a long road ahead as it transitions from hierarchical behemoth with a monopoly on collective action to an institution relevant to Canadians in a digital age.  Time for more leaders to step forward, for the sake of the public service, and for Canada’s sake.



Top Ten Skills Future Leaders Will Need to Master that should be Taught in Business Schools

* This blog post appeared on the original Banff Forum blog on June 19, 2013

As enrolment in MBA programs surges and colleges and schools around the world are struggling to adapt their business models and content to new realities, it has become more urgent than ever to take a good hard look at how we prepare our next generation of leaders – and get the existing ones up to speed. This article summarizes observations I’ve gathered over the course of 15 years of teaching senior executives.

What are the future skillsets leaders will need to cope with the new realities?

1- Dealing with ambiguity

Business models are shifting in virtually every industry. The automobile industry is waking up to the sharing economy and is realizing that new generations put owning a car very low on their list of priorities, instead flocking to peer-to-peer rentals and shared ownership. Amazon has disrupted the publishing industry and is quietly taking on food retailers as well as the B2B markets. Skype is now handling one third of calls previously served by traditional telecom companies.

Companies everywhere are also redefining who their customers are: consumer goods companies such as Harley Davidson, which traditionally had to convince dealerships to carry their products, are now in direct contact with their communities or users. The pharmaceutical industry now considers governments to be its prime customers rather than  the doctors who prescribe its drugs or the patients who consume them.

In this world where the most basic definition of the customer is changing, where industry boundaries are blurring and where business models are shifting, future leaders need to be comfortable constantly challenging existing models and reinventing their supply chain and pricing models. And, since no recipe for success exists yet, they will not be able to support their decisions with extensive best practices case studies as they have in the past. Relying on consultants is not an option either as few consultants know more than the players themselves.

Leaders will have to learn to test new concepts, prototype fast and fail even faster.

2- Design

Decision making has been taught extensively in business schools. Managers and leaders have been taught to analyze a situation, disaggregate the problem, identify alternative solutions and choose a path. This process assumes that alternatives are easy to identify and that the difficulty is in the decision of choosing which alternative to pursue.

One of the prominent catalysts of this process is the consulting company McKinsey: “Organizational judgment at its core depends on a disciplined (if not always highly structured) process. In its various steps, the process will include, at the outset, framing the problem to be solved; pursuing the problem through iterative steps that progressively refine the questions that must be answered; engaging diversity of opinion; using fact-based analysis to weigh benefits and risks, and generate and test hypotheses; and pursuing all appropriate options.”

There is another process to decision making that better addresses today’s complexities and it’s called “design attitude.” Instead of focusing on the problem, the design attitude process focuses on designing alternatives that so clearly show the path forward, the decision making becomes simple.

“A design attitude views each project as an opportunity for invention that includes a questioning of basic assumptions and a resolve to leave the world a better place than we found it,” say Richard J. Boland and Fred Collopy in “Managing as Designing.”

I have yet to see a course in business schools that teaches managers and leaders how design.

3- Peripheral vision

Nestle and Danone are moving from defining themselves as food companies to  wellness companies; Google has announced it is moving out of the data business and into the transaction business. The new reality is industries are converging and it is highly likely that a company’s future competitor is not going to come from its traditional industry.

Leaders need to be able to pick weak signals and recognize incoming industry disruption. To do so, they need to tap into new sources of information, to step out of their traditional circles of knowledge and develop peripheral vision. For example, leaders in the retail industry can be inspired by new technology advances, such as augmented reality and drones. Leaders in financial institutions can look at peer-to-peer models and bartering programs to reinvent their services.

This means that leaders need to develop new networks outside of their field or industry. They have to be exposed to concepts they typically don’t encounter in their daily routine.  A growing number of leaders are realizing this, which explains the success of conferences such as those organized by TED ( ) that have a wealth of new ideas and concepts.

4- Social media literacy

Social media has the potential to disrupt and enhance any industry, B2C to B2B alike. One can hardly expect leaders who have not experienced and understood social media to be able to assess the impact it can have on their industry or company.

Social media courses are starting to emerge in executive education programs–but only barely. There is an urgent need for the education for future leaders to catch up. This goes beyond simply teaching the use of social media networks. We need to urgently dispel the myth of the digital native. It’s not just about knowing how to use the technology. Tomorrow’s–and today’s–leaders also need to thoroughly understand the long-term effect social media will have on businesses’ supply chains, communication strategy, on the way customer service is handled, just to name a few examples.

5- Humility

We discussed earlier how leaders will need to pick weak signals rapidly, even if those contradict common wisdom. They will need to learn from their customers, from juniors in their teams or within their companies–and even from children. They will need to be comfortable questioning their beliefs and reinventing their models. With the current trend of crowdsourcing ideas, they will have to accept that the best ideas might not even come from their organization or team.

Humility is also essential when hiring, motivating and retaining the GenY teams because it is a quality highly valued by that generation. A company that includes humility increases its chances of being successful in attracting GenY talent.

 6- Hiring

Co-optation has long been the most comfortable way to hire – from the boardroom to the executive suiteBut executives now have to learn to bypass their own cognitive biases and learn to hire talent outside of traditional fields of expertise. This will bring diversity to the executive sphere and the boardroom and that diversity will help decrease the likelihood of blind spots in a team or organization.

For example, retailers should now seek talent from the technology sector since the use of augmented reality, geotagging and digital pricing is increasing. Banks should hire leaders from the telecommunication industry as mobile banking models are on the rise.

7- Ethics

One only has to scan the headlines of major business newspapers to notice the increased scrutiny from the public and investors alike when it comes to ethical behavior.

More than ever, leaders need to develop policies that strengthen the importance of ethical behavior at every level in their organizations. Dupont de Nemours has such a policy: one senior executive recently mentioned to me how each meeting at their organization starts with a “point of contact,” an anecdote or comment about an event that day that embodies why the company values stand true. Future leaders will need to adhere to unequivocal and uncompromising ethics. They need to develop the ability, the skillset and the toolkits to review cases of unethical behavior, analyze how crises can unfold and understand how to respond.

8- Courage

It takes a great deal of courage to whistleblow when ethics are compromised or to fight unchallenged assumptions in the executive suite. It also takes courage to drastically change a company business model or challenge its existing model.

In the 90s, business leaders looked up to Jack Welch. In the future, CEOs such as Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, will pave the way. It took courage for Paul to announce to his shareholders that his company will stop providing quarterly results because he believes that a company should be run for the long term, even if it meant losing some shareholders. It took courage for him to realign his organization to corporate sustainability objectives and values.

The best leaders of the future will excel in “influence skills” and understand the importance of ethical conviction.

9- Analytics

One of the most compelling cases for building analytical skills in our leaders is the profound gap that exists today among many executives between the need for them to understand and leverage the so called “big data” and their skillset to do so. Executives are being flooded with data that is being collected from their customers because many are unable to identify what is actually important for them to collect. Companies are letting others decide for them.

As far as strategy formulation is concerned, I am shocked to see that 90% of companies I deal with still only use a SWOT analysis when looking at their markets. Little has been taught beyond Porters’s five forces and it is urgent executives get some analytical training to help them deal with the complexity of the world they now live in.

Finally, the importance of problem solving skills is well documented yet these skills are rarely taught in business schools, despite the fact that all leaders spend most of their time making decisions and solving problems.

10- Reflection

In his book Managing, Henry Mintzberg surveyed managers and found they typically only have one half hour of uninterrupted reflection time each month. Reflection has two purposes: First, it provides time to think when making decisions, decreasing the role of intuition and the bias of the “loudest voice.” Secondly, it allows executives to think about what is important to them and their company and avoid spinning the wheel.

This takes time. Despite how full their agendas may be, leaders need to learn to make the necessary choices to carve out time to reflect. Some leaders create a “third space,” a place between home and the office where they can carve out time to think. Others cultivate the art of personal retreats, such as Steve Jobs who spent time in the desert once a year. Future leaders will not only have to find the way to carve out that time for themselves but also to create the conditions so that their teams can do so as well.

Many executives can also benefit from the use of a personal journal in which they can log their professional and personal reflections.

Estelle can be found at



Banff Forum 2013 - Leadership Matters

* This post appeared on the original Banff Forum blog on May 29, 2013.

Le Banff Forum à toujours voulu participer aux grands débats de notre société dans l’espoir de contribuer de nouvelles idées. Cette année nous allons explorer non seulement une question mais un élément essentiel à la base de toutes les solutions: le leadership. As John Quincy Adams once said “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”.   What does leadership mean in the current context and what are Canadians looking for from our leaders?

1. The Malaise

The 2013 Banff Forum began with a simple idea: For Canada to tackle tough challenges, it needs exceptional leadership. But leadership is a scarce commodity, and – according to recent studies of Canadians – growing scarcer. 35% of Canadians trust CEOs; 5% trust politicians. Relative to six other potential sources, CEOs and politicians ranked last in credibility. It does not need to be this way.

Global PR firm Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer makes it clear: Canadians are less cynical than others – but still distrustful of their political and business leaders. The 2013 Banff Forum’s opening panel discussion with Lyse Doucet (Presenter and Chief International Correspondent at BBC World Service), Marcel Côté (Founding Partner of SECOR Inc.), and Nik Nanos (Chair of the Nanos Research Group) breaks down the problem and attempts to pin down the source of leadership malaise.

We will also challenge basic assumptions about what good leadership and good leaders are about.  Harvard’s Dr. Karim Lakhani and bestselling author Dan Gardner will deliver case studies –  blueprints for great leadership.

2. Changing Terrain

Canada’s future leaders will work with a rapidly changing landscape whether they like it or not. The first is a generational challenge. Millennials seek out institutions with a sense of mission and a flattened hierarchy; teams willing to promote good ideas from the top, middle, or bottom. Also looming is a democratic challenge.  With democracy reports published by Samara Canada registering Canadian satisfaction levels with Parliament at only 55% and citing MPs who connect their own political disillusionment to party discipline and partisan rancor, how long can we continue to ignore this problem?  We are looking forward to a vigorous debate at the Banff Forum about whether the decline of Parliamentary leadership in Canada can be attributed to the nature of our political party system.

And there is a growing global challenge: how to solve multifaceted problems despite the preoccupation of the US with domestic concerns; Europe’s status quo-rocking financial crisis; and China’s perceived reluctance to match its economic might with global leadership.  A keynote address from Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of the Asia Society and former Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum and head of the World Food Program, will look at how global leadership might evolve.

3. Forum Innovations

Traditionally, the Banff Forum is one part discussion forum and one part incubator. Panel debates have spun off into academic studies and hallway chatter into new NGOs. Fireside chats and BF talks, modeled after TedTalks’ intimate-lecture format, enable new types of inter-forum interaction. These recent innovations are designed to seize on the Banff Forum’s greatest asset: its participants.

The 2013 Forum will kick off with an optional experiential learning day with topics including how to foster inclusive leadership (with Stephen Frost, former Head of Diversity for the 2012 London Olympics), how to lead in difficult negotiations (with Patrick McWhinney, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Insight Partners), how to foster the next generation of women leaders (with Change the Ratio Co-founder Rachel Sklar) and surprising leadership lessons from music (with celebrated musician and conductor Kevin Mallon). The day will end with a team-based strategic challenge, giving attendees the chance to take stock of their own leadership abilities.

Leadership may be Canada’s key elusive resource; the 2013 Banff Forum is devoted to taking stock of and learning how best to build our reservoir. Hearing from cutting-edge researchers and practitioners is one key to progress. Active discourse among future leaders is just as crucial if Canada is to bounce back from its leadership deficit and tackle the next generation of national challenges. We need to inspire each other to do more through our discussions and actions.



What is the Banff Forum?

* This post appeared on the original Banff Forum blog on April 19, 2013.


Although many people have heard about the Banff Forum, often they wonder what exactly it is.  It’s a great question.  It clearly includes an amazing annual Forum each fall which brings together some of the brightest, most successful and most politically and socially engaged emerging Canadian leaders with leading thinkers from Canada and across the world.  Our members gather for a weekend in an informal setting to discuss topics of national and international importance through case studies, BanffTalks, panels, amazing keynote speakers, fireside chats and the odd run or hike.  The goal is to reinvigorate public debate in Canada and to find ways to strengthen our great country.

Le Banff Forum est beaucoup plus que cela. Le Banff Forum regroupe des gens de tous les horizons politiques et de partout au pays, qui ont de l’intérêt ou sont engagés dans la formulation de politiques publiques. Cela comprend des élus, académiques, chefs d’entreprise, leaders autochtones, représentants d’ONG, avocats, journalistes et médecins.  Ce qu’ils ont en commun c’est leur désir de bâtir un meilleur Canada et leur volonté d’échanger et d’apprendre les uns des autres.

I can speak from personal experience about the impact of joining the Banff Forum ten years ago. When I came to my first Banff Forum, I met a group of unbelievable people who challenged my ideas and assumptions and broadened my understanding of the public policy challenges and opportunities faced by Canada. But more importantly I became part of a community of amazing Canadians whose members support each other even though we don’t always agree because we know that, whatever our perspective, we’re all committed to the same thing.  A better Canada.