Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency reporting directly to the Parliament of Canada. Its foremost responsibilities include ensuring that Canadians can exercise their choices in federal elections and referendums through an open and impartial process, administering the political financing requirements of the Canada Elections Act, and monitoring compliance with electoral legislation. Elections Canada engaged KerrSmith Design to undertake a Foresight exercise to inform both its innovation agenda and the Chief Electoral Officer’s long-term vision. This work was designed to support the development of a new five-year Strategic Plan that will ensure the most effective use of resources, and also guide strategic and operational objectives that will apply to multiple electoral cycles.
To assist Elections Canada in building resilience in a moment of tremendous global pressure on democratic processes and increasing threats to the integrity of electoral administration, we designed a Foresight research methodology that unfolded in three parts:
Understanding the Context of Electoral Event Administration
In order to identify emerging issues that might influence the changing landscape for elections and the lives of Canadians, we conducted an extensive literature review as well as 15 in-depth interviews with international authorities with a range of expertise. This work culminated in an 80-page Horizon Scan report articulating several hundred “Signals of Change”, six major contextual Shifts and six Drivers of Change in our world today.
Exploring the Potential Futures of Electoral Event Administration
Participatory workshops provided us with insights into the potential impacts of the emerging issues raised in the Horizon Scan. This informed the development of a set of four distinct Future Scenarios (Narratives) set in the year 2040. Scenarios were developed using “Four Alternative Futures” a well-recognized Foresight method developed by Foresight veteran, Jim Dator, and included a detailed backcast of unfolding events between the present and the described future.
Understanding the Implications for Change on Electoral Event Administration
A second participatory workshop enabled us to understand the potential nature of change for multiple stakeholders in the elections domain. Insights gleaned from workshop data informed the development of Strategic Implications for Elections Canada as an organization, Canadian Electors, Political Candidates, and the overall electoral process in Canada.
We led and convened groups to work together to enable a successful project. For our work to be effective it must be consultative, relevant and easy to use. As always, illustrations, charts and detailed info graphics were part of our deliverables.
The depth and breadth of our work was significant. The process unveiled new ideas, organized issues into useful patterns and facilitated important debate around large topics of risk management and innovation. Our research is supporting senior level directional explorations for policy and has provided an essential platform for participation in a renewal process.
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