In 2016, when the government of Canada decided to re-frame its role in affordable housing, it sought advice from the public. The National Housing Collaborative (the Collaborative) was formed solely for the purpose of contributing evidence based housing policies that reflected advice from a broad coalition of interests. A report evaluating the Collaborative and its work has just been issued.
This might seem like an exercise in naval gazing, but there are reasons why this report deserves attention. First, the Collaborative provided an opportunity to develop a consensus across an unusual group of actors. These included charities, non-profit housing providers, private sector housing representatives and academics. Members of the Collaborative established relationships that have continued past the end of its work.
The Collaborative successfully followed a process that enabled this disparate group to develop a consensus and deliver evidence based advice in a short time frame. The report describes how that process evolved over the course of the Collaborative’s work.
The report’s authors interviewed people who participated in the Collaborative as well as people from groups that chose not to be involved. This helps to illuminate the strengths and limitations of the Collaborative’s work. It is interesting that people who participated in the collaborative reported that they were surprised to discover large areas of consensus among the disparate groups. It is also noteworthy that some ideas were not developed because it was not possible to reach agreement about them. The frank discussion about the Collaborative’s limitations makes this report particularly refreshing.
The authors also interviewed government representatives who led the public consultation. These representatives reflect on the effectiveness of the Collaborative throughout the process of consultation and policy development. The representatives are clear that the Collaborative also proved to be a reliable source of input during the crucial stages of policy development that preceded the launch of the National Housing Strategy in 2017.
You can see at the full evaluation at United Way of Greater Toronto: National Housing Collaborative – United Way Greater Toronto
If you are looking for other ideas about collaborative policy development, try Is Government, Not Free Enterprise, The Engine Of Innovation?