SPPGA 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.

SPPGA’s 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-focused learning for our students.

We 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 Initiatives

In the spirit of facilitating knowledge exchange, strengthening community ties, and building an ethos of practice into our professional graduate programs, SPPGA’s Practitioner Fellowship program hosts several practitioners in full-time residence for periods of four to eight months, with start dates each year in September and January.

Appointed as an Adjunct Professor, Practitioner Fellows are distinguished practitioners with 10+ years of leadership experience in public policy, international development, global affairs and/or government, across a variety of issue areas and sectors. Fellows pursue student and community engagement, research and collaboration, as well as teaching and learning, and return to the workplace with new expertise to inform their professional practice.

Past Practitioner Fellows include:

Natasha ThambirajahNatasha Thambirajah, Director, Digital Health Policy, Province of BC



Jessica WoodJessica Wood Si Sityaawks, Associate Deputy Minister, Declaration Act Secretariat, Province of BC


Andrea Reimer, Adjunct Professor of Practice, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia; former three-term Vancouver Councillor & Metro Vancouver Director

Some examples of past work led by Practitioner Fellows has includes Andrea Reimer's Ask Me Anything on Twitter, inviting UBC students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the public to engage in questions about power and practice, and the practical challenges of policy-making; Jessica Wood Si Sityaawks' five-part Matriarch Illuminations dialogue series with fellow Matriarchs from across Turtle Island, and Natasha Thambirajah's exclusive workshops for MPPGA students on public policy careers with the Province of BC.

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 Phil 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.

Designing for Transformation is a free, non-credit course available to UBC graduate students to build capacities to empower transformative change.

Engage approaches from systems design, social innovation and regenerative development, rooted in decolonization, anti-racism, equity and justice. An opportunity to un/learn and apply emergent and resurgent practices with peers working on an enriching diversity of complex challenges; supported by practitioners working across disciplines, sectors, and knowledge systems and all in an inter/transdisciplinary learning environment centring abundance, joy, courage, and compassion.


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 d.studio 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.bravo@northernhealth.ca

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: aaron.posehn@ubc.ca

Initiatives and Programs within SPPGA Institutes and Centres

SPPGA supports numerous programs and initiatives among our three institutes, six centres, and a community engagement office that each serve as catalysts for research and engagement with policymakers and diverse communities in Canada and around the world.

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