Programs & Initiatives

Addressing today’s urgent, global challenges requires rigorous, interdisciplinary inquiry and a commitment to collaborative approaches to research, teaching and community engagement on policy and global issues.

Among our three institutes, six centres, and a community engagement office that serve as catalysts for research and engagement with the policy community around the world, SPPGA supports numerous other programs and initiatives.

Our programs and initiatives seek to generate new knowledge, raise awareness of pressing issues, create space for dialogue among academics, government, industry, and community members, and facilitate experiential, problem-focussed learning for our students.

We will continue to play a convening role in interdisciplinary learning and engagement as we know the importance that community-university engagement is to excellent teaching, learning and research, and to enhancing economic, social and cultural well-being.

Major SPPGA Speaker Series

Phil Lind Logo

Hosted by the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and made possible by a generous gift from Philip Lind (BA ’66; LLD ’02), the Lind Initiative is an annual dialogue series created to address the most urgent issues of our time.

With each year focusing on a new theme, the initiative’s mandate is to invite prominent US scholars, writers, and intellectuals to UBC to share ideas with students, faculty, and the wider community on some of the most urgent issues of our time.

Major SPPGA Initiatives


Full Colour Policy Studio

The Policy Studio is a university-wide endeavor that focuses on finding innovative solutions to complex, systemic, or resilient problems through the use of the strategic design method. It integrates disciplinary and interdisciplinary expertise from across UBC faculties and departments. The Policy Studio is based at the UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs (SPPGA).

"As change becomes more unpredictable and rapid, we need to update our ways of developing and implementing policy. Challenging problems need not just multidisciplinary ‘experts’ but also everyone who has a stake in an issue. And when we bring multi-sectoral actors together, a clear process framework is essential so there are results, not just more talk." ~ Moura Quayle, Professor of Strategic Design and founding Director (2017-2019), School of Public Policy and Global Affairs

The Policy Studio:

  • Focuses on complex and wicked systemic problems;
  • Is solution oriented – emphasizing policy design, development and, most importantly, implementation;
  • Has a strategic focus on interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research, including policy design research, policy learning research, and the exploration and development of innovative methods of academic inquiry;
  • Facilitates knowledge mobilization and knowledge exchange; and,
  • Is public good oriented, incorporating an international and global focus.

Policy Design Handbook

The Policy Design Handbook is designed to assist the policy design and implementation process. The handbook is intended for use by UBC Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs students, as well as other students in other programs where policy is a key aspect of their passions.

Read the Policy Design Handbook

Strategic Design

The Policy Studio is built on the strategic design method  – a participatory process rooted in user research where at its best, multi-disciplinary teams blend creative and critical-thinking techniques to explore, co-create, prototype, and launch resilient solutions to big picture challenges.

The Strategic Design method was evolved at the of UBC – Sauder School of Business and then successfully extended to university wide interdisciplinary projects inside and outside the academic domain.

ASK: Strategic design integrates three key distinctive phases, the ASK phase relates to problem understanding, analyzing cause, symptoms, and consequences of a certain identified problem and incorporates diverse disciplinary approaches for a thorough analysis. It focuses on user-centred understanding of experiences to capture both observations and insights. This phase aims to develop empathy with the current and potential user of a service to generate preliminary options that will be tested or piloted in the TRY phase.

TRY: This second phase focuses on deeper exploration of options, scenarios, and draft proposals; it includes a series of lean or fast prototypes responding to the needs of having researchable models to test and compare.

DO: The third phase known as DO deals with the decision making, implementation and evaluation of the outputs, product, service, or policy. All the phases incorporate a deep dive of problem understanding, innovation intents, and reflection time throughout a whole iterative process.

Strategic design method is a highly participative oriented pedagogy as it engages participants with a variety of stakeholders including academics, thematic experts, users, and representatives from the diverse body of stakeholders. The flexibility of the application of the method makes it suitable for a short period “challenges”, or a full undergraduate or graduate course. Currently, PPGA 511:  Leadership for Policy Professionals (1.5 credits), utilizes strategic design pedagogy in this required course for second year Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs students.

Policy Studio graphic


The following courses incorporate strategic design as a pedagogical approach:

  • COMM 388: Design Strategies for Business Innovation (3.0c)
  • PPGA 590: Global Policy Project (6.0c)
  • PPGA 511: Leadership for Policy Professionals (1.5c)
  • Strategic Design for Transformation – a new non-credit course for Ph.D. students (starting January 2022)
  • UBC’s Sauder MBA & executive courses (Graduate level)


Moura Quayle leading Policy Studio

Caption: Professor Moura Quayle leading the Policy Studio with MPPGA students.

Professor Moura Quayle

Moura was the founding Director (2017-2019) of UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and teaches in the Sauder School of Business. Moura’s interests lie in rethinking, refining and rebuilding collaborative spaces at the intersections of academia, government, business and civil society. Learn more about her work here.

Dr. Marcelo Bravo

Marcelo is a Policy Studio Research Fellow. He is currently practicing strategic design as the Lead for Patient-Oriented Research and KT Capacity Building and Research, Evaluation and Analytics at BC’s Northern Health Authority. You can reach him at:

Marcelo’s research interests focus on co-designing inter-sectoral partnerships amongst academia and stakeholders through knowledge mobilization processes, to maximize the impact of knowledge and research. In recent years, he has worked with Moura Quayle to develop the Policy Studio, seeking to extend the scope of the strategic design method and its applications in the public realm in Canada and abroad. Marcelo has experience working in social policy, NGOs, civic groups, and academic institutions in three countries. He brings a unique international, pedagogical, interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary experience to policy and complex problems. Marcelo holds a Master in Prospective Studies and Strategy at Tec de Monterrey – Graduate School of Public Policy, Mexico, and has completed his PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies (Policy and Social Innovation), at the UBC Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program.


Examples of work in the last four years:

2020 – 2021

With the able assistance of MPPGA alum Kingsley Eze – Policy Studio Research Assistant, two projects have been the focus of activity: The Policy Design Handbook (see link) and a Research Project titled: Embedding Strategic Design into Graduate Education to Enable Systemic Change Leadership. A paper will result from the surveys and interviews with students from PPGA 511:  Leadership for Policy Professionals and PPGA 591L: Strategic Design for Systemic Change.

2019 – 2020

A) Vancouver Coastal Health’s Healthy Public Policy Collaboration

The Policy Studio is in an ongoing collaboration with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) – Population Health Unit, Office of the Chief Medical Health Officer. The main goal is to strengthen and support the healthy public policy and engagement work performed by VCH’s staff and partners. This collaboration has four specific objectives:

1) to support and launch a series of VCH’s policy studios aiming at working on social determinants of health in partnership with local and regional actors;

2) to support the development of a VCH’s policy studio framework and guidelines that will strengthen the work of Healthy Public Policy and advocacy work;

3) to research and co-generate a healthy public competencies piece that will serve as guiding document for upcoming learning agendas and professional development plans, and;

4) to serve as academic liaison connecting with local, regional, and national researchers supporting the advancement of a network of researchers committed to research and engagement that will support healthy public policy as a core area of practice.


A) Strategic Design for Complex Problems at UAM – Mexico

Strategic Design for Complex Problems at UAM - Mexico

A collaboration with a Mexican academic institution based on a follow-up invitation by a former Mitacs Globalink UAM student and the Facultad de Ciencias para el Diseño UAM- Azcapotzalco. It consisted on a book presentation, studio work and collaborative sessions, both with students and faculty.

B) Co-Creating the UBC Knowledge Exchange. A collaborator in the UBC Innovation Hub

Co-Creating the UBC Knowledge Exchange Report

A collaboration with UBC – VPRI (Research & Innovation), this was a continuation to the Enhancing KMb@UBC research now seeking to integrate inputs from a variety of UBC external partners and publics. Results of this research supported the creation of a forthcoming UBC Knowledge Exchange Kx Office.

Download the Co-Creating the UBC Knowledge Exchange: A Collaborator in the UBC Innovation Hub report

C) Re-Envisioning ISGP: Exploring Opportunities for the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program

ISGP Booklet

A project for the UBC - ISGP Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program focused on working with graduate students, faculty, and alumni. It served to design future scenarios and strategies for ISGP to maintain its current and future leadership in interdisciplinary education; and to update its role as a unique academic innovator unit.


D) Enhancing KMb@UBC

Enhancing KMb@UBC

A collaboration with UBC – VPRI (Research & Innovation). This research project was designed to understand the nature and impact of UBC’s professors working in knowledge mobilization activities, mainly in the policy realm. Researchers organized studio sessions, performed interviews, and built case studies.

Download the Enhancing KMb@UBC report

E) Resilient Cities Policy Challenge

Resilient Cities Policy Challenge

An international project between students from the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs and Science Po (France). A selected group of graduate programs guided by city experts (academics, public servants and NGO’s representatives) participated in an intensive 5 days program to proposed ideas to foster social connectedness and city resiliency strategies.

Download the Resilient Cities Policy Challenge Ideabook

F) Tec de Monterrey Strategic Design Sessions

Tec de Monterrey Strategic Design Sessions

A customized “innovation pedagogy” problem-based learning component for the Tec de Monterrey international program at UBC. The program collaboration started with summer sessions and has now expanded to both summer and winter sessions.


G) Policy Studio in Ottawa 

Policy Studio in Ottawa

An intensive three day program for students from the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs and federal public servants from Energy and Sustainability agencies. It focused on energy consumption analysis (citizens level). The program was hosted in 2016 at the Innovation Hub site, part of the Privy Council Office in Ottawa.

The UBC Women in House Program is an innovative and practical program hosted by the UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs that is aimed at promoting a greater level of female representation in the Canadian government. The program pairs female and female-identified students for a full day with a Member of Parliament or a Senator so that students can directly observe political procedures, learn about gender equity, and engage in mentorship and networking with Canadian political leaders.

Participants are also involved in a second day of learning where they attend an academic portion of the program with journalists, professors, and/or other practitioners on a related topic, as well as enjoy a tour of the Parliament Buildings.

The program includes fully subsidized return flights from Vancouver to Ottawa and accommodations. Students need to be fully available for all four days if accepted into the program and will also be expected to submit a blog post reflecting on their experience within two weeks of their return to Vancouver for posting on the UBC School of Public Policy and Global Affairs’ website.

*The 2020 Women in House Program was held on March 11-12, 2020 in Ottawa. Read the student reflections here.


The 2020 program was open to ten female and female-identified students enrolled in the following programs at the University of British Columbia during the 2019-2020 school year:

  • Doctor of Political Science
  • Master of Political Science
  • Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs
  • Bachelor of Political Science (4th year)
  • Bachelor of International Relations (4th year)

To Apply

Applications are now closed. For inquiries, please contact Aaron Posehn, SPPGA Executive Assistant:

Undergraduate Programs

The School of Public Policy and Global Affairs does not currently deliver any undergraduate programs. Upper-level undergraduate students interested in pursuing policy and global affairs at the graduate level may be considered for Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs courses.

For students interested in undergraduate courses focused on global interactions among states, non-state actors, economic and social structures and processes, as well as languages, cultures, societies, political systems, geographies and histories around the world, please find a comprehensive list of programs offered at UBC on The Faculty of Arts Admissions website and learn more about the IR Program below:

Institute of Asian Research

The IAR is the administrative home for five regional research centres, with which the Institute frequently collaborates on Asia Pacific policy events and initiatives:

Asia-Related Initiatives

The Institute of Asian Research (IAR) provides funding and administrative support to initiatives that focus on specific Asian regions and policy issues.

Jointly funded by the IAR and UBC’s Faculty of Arts, The Himalaya Program is an interdisciplinary hub for faculty, students and community partners to share knowledge about the Himalayan region, including Tibetan cultural zones and countries like Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Launched in 2015, the program offers language courses in Nepali and Tibetan, and hosts speakers and events on topics that are relevant to the region.

Leads: Sara Shneiderman, Tsering Shakya, Mark Turin

The 21st century has renewed interest in inner and central Asia as the policy community and researchers begin to explore issues of religious and ethnic identity and natural resource management.

Launched by the IAR in 2005, the Program on Inner Asia seeks to improve global awareness of poorly understood countries like Mongolia through research, study, and relationship building.

Program Coordinator: Dr. Julian Dierkes

The Institute of Asian Research has recognized that expertise on Inner Asia and Central Asia is lacking not only at the IAR, but at UBC and in Canada more broadly. While we are not in a position to address this gap comprehensively, we are attempting to raise the profile of research on this area of great interest to Canadians and hope to establish more sustained activities in the future.

Research on Central and Inner Asia has gained renewed prominence in the 21st century as more attention in the social sciences and in the policy community is focusing on the interplay between religious and ethnic identities and some of the Asian states as well as on issues surrounding the management of natural resource endowments. A policy-context to some extent dominated by the legacies of the Soviet Union only makes these issues more pressing and thus command international attention.

A number of past research projects have heightened our awareness of the research being done on Inner Asia around the world. IAR researchers and other colleagues have thus examined or are conducting projects on:

  • policy-making in the periphery of the People’s Republic of China
  • contemporary Tibetan studies
  • human security and educational policy in Mongolia
  • mining regulation and resource-based development in Mongolia.

We hope to continue to build expertise in these fields and related areas of inquiry and welcome suggestions from colleagues and the interested public as to future topics and activities.

The Program on Inner Asia benefited from a very generous anonymous donation to support its activities in the academic year 2007-08.

This donation has encouraged the work of Mongolian and non-Mongolian graduate students at UBC and has supported research on Mongolia as well as contributions to Canada-Mongolia relations.

If you are interested in opportunities to support the program, please contact Dr. Julian Dierkes.

Previous Activities

  • In November 2019, we hosted a "Politics of Scope: Regionalization, Structural Adjustment and Elections in Mongolia" event.
  • In September 2018, we hosted a "Language, globalization, and youth in the Asian Periphery" event.
  • In late Spring 2012, we were keeping a particularly close eye on the upcoming parliamentary election in Mongolia via our blog, Mongolia Focus. Posts related to the election can be found in the Ikh Khural 2012 category. Julian Dierkes and MAAPPS student Brandon Miliate served as election monitors.
  • In 2008, 2009, and 2012, Dr. Julian Dierkes served as an election observer in national elections in Mongolia.
  • In Spring 2010, Dr. Julian Dierkes co-supervised a graduate course, the Asia Pacific Policy Project on Mine Closure in Mongolia, with Dirk van Zyl, Mining Engineering, UBC
  • The Program on Inner Asia hosted a major international conference on “Contemporary Mongolia – Transitions, Development and Social Transformations” November 14-17, 2008.
  • During the academic year 2007-08, the Program on Inner Asia, together with the Buddhism and Contemporary Society Program and the Contemporary Tibetan Studies Program benefited from a generous grant by the Silkroad Foundation in organizing a lecture series on “Tibet-Mongolia Links in Religion and Medicine.”
  • On Monday, March 26, 2007, the Mongolian film “The Cave of the Yellow Dog” was screened as a part of the IAR Asian Film Festival
  • In the fall term of the 2006/07 academic year, we offered an experimental course, entitled “Mining Mongolia” within the Master of Arts Asia Pacific Policy Studies.
  • In 2005, we inaugurated our Mongolia Lecture Series as a first concrete attempt to engage with Inner Asia more regularly.

Past Academic Visitors

  • B. Otgonbaatar, PhD Candidate, Waseda University, Japan. September 2013 – January 2014.
  • D. Doljin, PhD Candidate, International Law, Soongsil University, Korea. Arbitration in international investment agreements. December 2011 – November 2012
  • D Byambajav, PhD Candidate, Sociology, Hokkaido University, Japan. Environmental movements in Mongolia. May – December 2011


Contact Professor Julian Dierkes to learn more.

The Xinjiang Documentation Project, prepared by the Institute of Asian Research at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, offers a chronological documentation of reports on the ongoing troubling events in China’s Xinjiang since as early as 2015. The project aims to provide a reading guide about the recent developments, experts’ explanations, as well as an understanding of what ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs are going through on a daily basis.

Project Director: Professor Timothy Cheek

Liu Institute for Global Issues

Using a policy-led approach, the Liu Institute for Global Issues encourages examination of economic, social and environmental interactions and solutions that advance sustainability, security and social justice.

Liu Scholars

Created in 2009, the Liu Scholars program brings together exceptional PhD students from across UBC to facilitate collaborative, interdisciplinary research on global issues, to strengthen global networks, and to develop a community for research dissemination.

Lobby Gallery

The Lobby Gallery’s mandate is to foster alternative and artistic forms of dissemination of research through critical artistic expression, enabling a space for creative dialogue about global issues. It also seeks to build communication among students, faculty, researchers and the Vancouver public through the exhibition of innovative, engaging and responsible art work.

Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI)

CSDI supports publicly engaged research, teaching and knowledge-sharing on democratic practices and institutions, with a focus on citizen engagement and participation, constitutional governance and transitional regimes.

Institute for Future Legislators

Gain intensive hands-on mentoring and training to make a difference—whether at the local, provincial or federal level—through the Institute for Future Legislators (IFL) held each summer in Vancouver and in Victoria.

The Office of Regional and International Community Engagement (ORICE)

ORICE programs explore regional and international community engagement through course-based placements, community-led development programs, and more.

ORICE provides several opportunities for engagement through programming.

  • Regional and International Courses are UBC courses led by faculty members that integrate international or regional community placements. Community placements give students the opportunity to apply disciplinary theories to action.
  • Regional and International Programs immerse students in community-led development programs that provide skills and experiences related to their academic disciplines outside of a formal degree. Active learning and reflection remain important components of these programs.
  • Community Engaged Research and Problem Based Learning engages with regional and international issues but doesn’t necessarily require travel. These types of courses bring community partner work to the classroom, allowing students to connect academic studies with real-world experience.
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