Leadership and Governance – Finding a New Way to Work Together

Feb 17, 2014

Ann Martin, Director, GeoConnections Program, Natural Resources Canada

As Director of the GeoConnections Program, I have a special interest in making “geo-connections” amongst various organizations and stakeholders in the geomatics community – across Canada and internationally. My world is a web of relationships and information obtained via industry blogs and websites, Twitter, LinkedIn, what’s just been published in on-line journals and many, many emails.

It used to be that the role of the federal civil servant was fairly straight forward – often prescribing the work to be done or providing funding for work to be done in other jurisdictions. Relationships were hierarchical and information flowed according to well-understood protocols. Not anymore! The incredible advancements in technology virtually unthinkable only a decade ago, have fundamentally changed the way we operate and the expectations of citizens. In my world, the federal government is only one of many players that can provide leadership.

In our sector, many provinces and territories have taken the lead in service delivery, development of open data licensing and implementing geospatial standards within their jurisdictions. Private companies are taking enormous strides to provide new geo-services. As always, academic organizations are working on innovative research that changes the way we build and improve the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure.

In reality, there are many leaders within our sector in this country. That’s why we defined governance as “a decision-making process that formalizes a structure that supports the leadership of a community”. We defined leadership as those representing all groups within the geomatics sector, government, academia, industry, associations and others. Needless to say, these groups are not homogeneous and one size does not fit all, but where there are shared goals, leadership can be drawn from within any part of the sector.

As we noted in the Leadership and Governance Dimension paper, finding a means to have these groups come together is the central issue for governance. The missions and mandates of many of these groups overlap far too much to avoid intersections.

The number of groups also poses some interesting challenges. Do we need to re-invent the wheel and develop a new governance structure for the Round Table, or can we make use of existing organizations? Are there organizations whose mandates are inclusive enough to bring everyone inside the tent? If not, what new organizational structure needs to be created? How can we ask people to contribute leadership to the wider community on top of what they are already doing?

As I re-read the work that the Steering Committee did in the fall of 2013, I recalled what we thought the ‘new governance’ might look like, and I like the vision that we created:

The Canadian Geomatics community collaborates effectively and through shared decision making and aligned leadership. It is delivering, with a common voice and message, a common vision, and is providing significant and well acknowledged, measurable benefits to Canada’s society and economy.

The relationship between the private and public sectors is clarified with government adopting an enabling role to ensure the private sector can thrive in local, national and international markets and is prospering, growing and driving innovation and providing jobs.

All key players in the Sector are represented within our community governance structures. The role of each is recognized for the value it brings to the whole sector. The focus is clear and direct on making Canada both the leader in the industry and also the leader in translating the benefits of the sector into making Canada and our World better.

In November 2013, at a Steering Committee workshop, we developed strategic objectives and recommendations to reach that vision. You can read those in the first draft of the Strategydocument or in James’ blog. But before you do, what would you say about effective leadership for our community? Do we need a new governance model? What would your vision look like and what would it achieve? I’d love to hear how you’d like our sector to work together.


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