The Centre for Global Challenges is a public policy forum associated with the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. The CGC promotes public discussion and collaboration among practitioners and scholars, policy makers and researchers on  the policy implications for Canada of major global challenges.

The Centre’s mission: international, Interdisciplinary and Intergenerational collaboration

Current public policy tools and institutions do not seem to be up to the task of addressing the new and emerging challenges facing us, challenges that are:  complex, cutting across traditional disciplines and often with both local and global dimensions; unfamiliar, so that old assumptions and old approaches do not readily apply; and contentious, or at least with multiple poles of conflict and competing interests.

Canada has not developed institutions that bridge the considerable gulf
between academia and public service. The research and cumulative knowledge that should be informing policy is often unknown and inaccessible to policymakers and to the public. And increasingly  policy makers may not be open to the findings of research.  Interaction between these communities is sporadic; each has its own language, its own relevancies and its own blind spots.

The high stakes and complexity  should force us to question our assumptions and put a premium on ingenuity and creativity. To make real progress we must bring together the best expertise, scholarship and research with leading practitioners and decision makers so that they learn each other’s language and relevancies, begin to shape each other’s thinking, and deepen and sustain their collaboration.

In order to take on these challenges, we also need an informed and engaged public who, at least, are aware of the stakes and trade-offs and, at best, participate more fully in the political and policy process. And we need to make sure that the approach cuts across our diverse  experiences and interests.

Only through international, intergenerational and interdisciplinary collaboration will we find the ingenuity necessary to tackle the tough issues before us. This, then, is the mission of the Centre for Global Challenges.

What is the Centre?

The Centre for Global Challenges is associated with the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, the first bilingual graduate school of its kind in Canada. The CGC draws on Glendon’s faculty, staff and students, as well as its Toronto campus and facilities. The mid-town campus, currently being upgraded through support from the Ontario government and private donations to create additional spaces for convening and collaborating, is located between York University’s Keele campus, Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, and provides a convenient, secure place to meet and debate.

Alex Himelfarb, former Clerk of the Privy Council and Ambassador to Italy, serves as Director of both the School and the Centre. He is supported by Alexandre Brassard as Coordinator of the Centre.

Additional operating funds have been secured through private donations. The Glendon Campaign Leadership for Global Challenges, chaired by Claude Lamoureux, former president and CEO of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, is raising further capital to create four policy chairs to build and nurture the networks and sustain discourse and collaboration.

The Centre was formally launched in March 2010.

The Method

The Centre’s approach is flexible and will evolve. Each year, it will address up to four issues, those issues grouped generally around four key themes:

  1. Harnessing the global economy for human well-being;
  2. Reshaping the social and health architecture in the face of technological and demographic change;
  3. Understanding diversity, solidarity and the role of religion in public policy and public life;
  4. Reforming our institutions of government to promote ingenuity and engagement as a counterweight to the constricting “cult of accountability.”

Public Forums

Each global issue to be addressed by the Centre will be introduced in a public forum by a panel of experts working within a multidisciplinary approach. The experts will be selected in consultation with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), one of the leading national institutions for multidisciplinary international research of public policy relevance, and partner universities and institutions, including The Hennick Centre for Business and Law, Canada 2020 and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which share this focus.

The events, to be organized with partners such as Canada 2020, with its established record for public policy discourse, will expose advanced research to interested public, students, invited practitioners, advocates, decision makers, members of the media and academics.

The panels will seek to define the key issues and questions that must be addressed for public policy solutions and propose new directions supported by research. The proceedings will be moderated, videotaped and summarized textually.

Of particular importance, the Centre will seek to make available to policy-makers the best knowledge and research in an accessible form and in a manner that promotes and sustains public conversation. To these ends, the Centre will work with organizations with a proven record in accessible communication, network development and breadth of reach, particularly among younger audiences, including The Mark News and Global Brief.

Working Sessions

The summaries of the Centre’s public forums are used to guide an invited group of between 20 and 30 decision makers, practitioners, journalists and researchers over the course of a two-day closed session (no attribution) designed to deepen the conversation. The goal of these working sessions is to yield concrete recommendations for action and research. At least five spaces in each session are reserved for students of public affairs.

Participants become members of an ongoing network whose activities include an exchange of views, ideas, drafts and collaboration as members see fit. The network is brought together within 12 months to participate in the Annual Global Challenges Conference. The Centre prepares and disseminates written reports and on-line materials out of these sessions.

Advisory Committee of the School and the Centre


Chaviva Hosek. President and CEO, The Canadian Institute
for Advanced Research (CIFAR).











Rosalie Abella. Justice, Supreme Court of Canada.

Kim Campbell. Former Prime Minister of Canada.

Mel Cappe. President, Institute for Research on Public Policy;
former Clerk of the Privy Council.

David Collenette. Former federal cabinet minister.

Kenneth Courtis. Founding Chair, Asia Capital Partners
& East Gate Capital.

Paule Doré. Corporate Director.

Graham Fraser. Commissioner of Official Languages.

Paul Genest. Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs,
Francophone Affairs and Associate Secretary of the
Cabinet, Ontario

Roger Gibbins. President, Canada West Foundation.

Chantal Hébert. National affairs writer and columnist, Toronto Star.

Roy L. Heenan. Founder and Partner, Heenan Blaikie; Chairman & Founding Director, Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

Claude Lamoureux. Former President & CEO, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Ian H. Macdonald. Graduate Program Director, Public Administration
Program, York University; former President of
York University

Peter J. Meekison. University Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta; former deputy minister, Government of Alberta.

Michael Meighen. Senator; Lawyer, Ogilvy Renault.

L. Jacques Ménard. Chairman, BMO Nesbitt Burns; President,
BMO Financial Group, Québec

André Pratte. Writer, columnist and editor-in-chief, La Presse.

Paul S. Rouleau. Justice, Ontario Court of Appeal.

Jean-Louis Roy. Former President of the International Centre for
Human Rights and Democratic Development

Paul Wells. Senior columnist, Maclean’s.

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