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Federal public service should leverage the outreach power of social media, posits grad student

Concordian Alex Shadeed is one of five finalists in a national paper competition designed to get a younger take on government
January 22, 2018

To support Alex Shadeed's paper — vote now for the Public Choice Award

What if public policy could be gamified? What if we could engage young people through competitions to pass on key government findings to a larger audience?

“The general perception is that there are only traditional avenues to get involved in public policy,” says Alex Shadeed, a student in Concordia’s Masters in Public Policy and Public Administration Program.

But that’s not true; there are several creative ways to go at it.

Alex Shadeed

His essay, “Crowdsourced Communications: My idea to help ensure that the public service will be ready to meet the needs of the future,” is a finalist in the National Student Paper Competition run by the Institute of Public Administration (IPAC) and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS).

Shadeed’s paper proposes innovative ways to create opportunities for post-secondary students to contribute to democratic governance.

Crowdsourcing communications

Shadeed’s idea of crowdsourced communications taps into a model of incentive-based competitions. He suggests government agencies organize a series of contests challenging Canadian post-secondary students to repurpose the core messages contained in public-sector documents.

They would do so by creating different communications products, such as podcasts, video interviews, and infographics. Winners would bring home prize money and public recognition.

“The contest exemplifies how students and government agencies can work together towards improving the federal public service and positively influencing Canada’s future,” Shadeed explains.

“By moving away from broadcasting information to a single social network, to being a conversation starter in multiple social networks, the federal public service would be truly leveraging the outreach potential of social media,” he elaborates in his video presentation of the paper.

“This contest has the potential to change the way that Canadians relate to public policy by allowing their friends, not government departments, to explain to them why an issue matters.”

The grad student points out that the Department of Canadian Heritage has run programs using a similar crowdsourcing format in the past.

The format of Shadeed’s competition could also emulate student contests such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers Contest or the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Science Exposed photo competition.

Government work has always appealed to me

Alex Shadeed

Initially, IPAC’s National Student Paper Competition was created to engage students on issues facing the public service. In recent years, it has addressed broader questions of public service renewal and public policy. The contest is open to Masters and PhD students enrolled in Canadian institutions.

“Government work has always been appealing to me,” says Shadeed. “It’s fascinating to take complex and challenging problems and work towards the improvement of a country you care about.”

Shadeed and the four other finalists will now compete for the grand prize: a four-month paid placement, an invitation to present their paper on a national platform and an invitation to attend the 2018 Manion Lecture in the National Capital region. 

Past keynote speakers have included Canada’s Governor General, the chairman of Olympic Broadcasting Services, a United Nations Development Programme administrator, and other high-level influencers.

Short videos of the finalists presenting their papers are posted on IPAC’s website, and the nominees will also be invited to present their essays to a panel of deputy ministers, who will choose the winner.

As well, members of the public can vote for the Public Choice Award.

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