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Good Ideas for Making Policy Succeed

Last Thursday, I joined roughly 200 policy wonks during a "lunch and learn" event with the Maytree Foundation's Five Good Ideas series. For each session, Maytree invites a different expert to share five practical ideas, and to discuss how these thoughts can be put into action. Sherri Torjman, vice-president of the Caledon Institute, presented the final session in the current series.

Sherri, drawing on her background in poverty eradication and disability issues, shared that the purpose of policy work is to improve the quality of life for all citizens. Policy work aims to effect change, in the public interest. Policy work promotes the inclusion of those who are under-represented in a community.

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Policy development is a critical area for HC Link's clients. Last year, approximately 10% of our consultations concentrated on policy development. Even consultations that do not focus on policy work often have a small policy component.

I was reminded of some of HC Link's recent work as Sherri shared her thoughts. Earlier this year, HC Link worked closely with an elderly-friendly village initiative, which was having difficulty implementing an action plan that was developed several years prior. The village's aim is to improve the quality of life for elderly citizens by providing an inclusive and secure environment that encourages a vibrant and enriching life. HC Link was able to provide training sessions, which addressed motivation of volunteers in the development of community projects, how to recruit volunteers, how to access resources, and how to influence health promotion policies.

Sherri's good ideas hold true not only for policy work, but community work in general, and the principles can (and have been) applied to HC Link initiatives.

1. Trust your knowledge. In this case, our consultant Estelle Duchon's expertise in engaging Francophone communities was extremely valuable in revealing the community leaders' needs.

2. Dream big. Big ideas mean big results. As a partner mused "Crazy ideas are ideas that are destabilizing at first, but end up making a difference. They serve as a trigger in the community."

3. Go the extra mile. Implementing an action plan seemed particularly challenging to the involved committees. In order to ensure progress, they contacted HC Link for assistance.

4. Hold that thought. Timing is essential. Sometimes it's worth waiting for a ripe opportunity. In this case, the community was able to implement an action plan after several training sessions which equipped them with the right knowledge and tools for action.

5. Find your Karasima. Find inspiration in your work. In Sherri's case, it was a comment from Karasima, a women on crutches, which validated Sherri's work. In Noëlville and Verner, it meant understanding that addressing seniors concerns also meant addressing the needs of other vulnerable populations, such as children and people with disabilities.

HC Link has delivered webinars and created educational resources involving policy development. We also have a resource bank with a wide variety of relevant readings.

Selected resources include:

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