Leadership Summit Recap

May 20, 2015

Thank you to everyone who attended the GeoAlliance Canada Leadership Summit on April 20! It was a very productive discussion among industry leaders representing groups and organizations from education, non-profit associations, and the public and private sectors.* The Leadership Summit marked the launch of GeoAlliance Canada as an organization, and we were very pleased to end the day with unanimous support from the room to tackle the next steps, including the appointment of an interim board, the registration of the non-profit organization, and negotiation with external funders.

The goals of the Leadership Summit were to review the work that had been done by the CGCRT Steering Committee and Leadership and Governance Working Group since the previous meeting in June 2014 and to ensure the sector remained united going forward. This event also marked the close of the Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table (CGCRT), the collaborative, volunteer-run group that authored the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy and Action and Implementation Plan as well as the GeoAlliance Canada leadership proposal.

The Summit started with a brief introduction of all participants and the International Cartographic Association’s exhibit of the Barbara Petchenik Children’s Map Competition. All attendees and NRCan employees were invited to vote throughout the day for the best six entries, which were awarded a cash prize and will be sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the international competition. This event was the first in Canada’s International Map Year (IMY) campaign.


Prashant Shukle, Director General of the Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (CCMEO) at Natural Resources Canada, kicked things off in earnest by presenting the findings of the soon-to-be-released Canadian Geomatics Environmental Scan and Value Study. He expressed strong support for the community and encouraged the audience to “stay on course” and continue to move forward. He reflected on the importance of working together and acting as a strong and unified community to address the gaps between the current reality and our envisioned “Team Canada” future. He reviewed the work undertaken within NRCan since the National Mapping Strategy was launched in 2007, and underscored the opportunity now facing the community and the potential impact of GeoAlliance Canada.

CGCRT Co-Chairs James Boxall and Brad Ashley spoke next, thanking the CGCRT volunteers for their contributions and strategic vision. They re-iterated the need for a national umbrella organization, noting that it was the top priority identified at the June 2014 CGCRT meeting. GeoAlliance Canada must raise the profile of the “geo” sector, because, as James said:


“GEO may not save the world, but without it, there are no answers.”


The morning break-out session focused on how to approach raising the profile of GEO in Canada. Everyone worked in small groups to answer four questions:

  1. Which group (K-12, post-secondary, decision-makers, general population, other) should be targeted first?
  2. How can we best reach this group?
  3. What is the best way to capitalize on the outreach opportunities presented by International Map Year (IMY) and the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada?
  4. How would you allocate $100,000 in Year 1 on outreach/branding/profile-building activities?

Groups worked together to answer the questions and recorded their responses on flipcharts at the front of the room. The results will be given to the GeoAlliance Canada interim board to influence their direction over the next 12 months. While the answers varied considerably, there was a general consensus that a signature annual event or focused campaign would be the most effective way to raise the profile of the sector.

Following the break-out session, attendees heard from Don Lenihan from Canada 2020 (formerly from Public Policy Forum, where he authored a soon-to-be-released case study of the CGCRT in the context of open government). Dr. Lenihan’s study was recently presented to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in a meeting convened to “examine ways in which government can address increasingly complex issues through more effective collaboration with non-State actors.” He presented the key findings of the study, which frames the CGCRT as a world-leading example of collaborative policy development. He noted that the UN, OECD, and Government of Ontario are all very interested and impressed with the work of the CGCRT.

After a networking lunch, attendees were asked to participate in a Strategic Discussion Series to respond to the following questions:

  1. What are the existing resources GeoAlliance Canada can draw from? What can your organization bring to the table?
  2. What are GeoAlliance Canada’s three major challenges? How can they be addressed?
  3. Are the Pan-Canadian Geomatics Strategy and associated Action and Implementation Plan still the most important documents to guide the activities of GeoAlliance Canada? If so, what are the highest priority initiatives?

Extensive notes were taken during the discussion and compiled for submission to the GeoAlliance Canada Interim Board. The discussion ranged across a number of topics, including the importance of reaching in (to our colleagues in the sector) and reaching out (to other fields i.e. computer science) to promote “geo”. The priorities for the new organization were defined as recruitment for the sector, raising the profile of “geo”, and creating partnerships with the broader geospatial community and with other non-traditional partners.

The day concluded with a group-wide conversation about the next steps. The room unanimously agreed to move forward to launch GeoAlliance Canada as proposed by the CGCRT, and several logistical notes were clarified, such as the composition of the interim board and membership fee structure. An interim board will be formed by GeoAlliance Canada members, and elections and the first AGM will be held in approximately 12 months. The meeting was adjourned with a promise to notify participants as soon as GeoAlliance Canada is able to accept members. 

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*The Chatham House rule was in effect to encourage openness and the sharing of information. Under the Chatham House rule “neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” The speakers mentioned have given their explicit consent to be named in this article. 

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