Unique among policy institutes in Canada, Northern Policy Institute sets its research agenda through ongoing discussions with all community members in Northern Ontario. The Board has set the strategic limits of the work of the Institute and our in house staff and experts help define and operationalize projects, but it is the people of Northern Ontario that set our research priorities.
To ensure every community member has a voice in this process, Northern Policy Institute collects feedback on an ongoing basis through multiple avenues. We encourage direct contact through one-on-one meetings, group meetings, larger events, email, social media, phone and regular mail. We also indirectly monitor the broader policy environment as well as mainstream and social media.
On a quarterly basis, Northern Policy Institute compiles the issues we hear about in the preceding three months into ten “filters”. Each filter list is then prioritized based on the number of times specific issues are raised with us or come to our attention. Those priorities are compared and combined into a single “top ten” list of research priorities for the upcoming research investigation and public education round. This is an iterative process with categories adjusted to reflect the items being raised as opposed to the issues being interpreted to fit pre-existing “baskets”. As a result issues may appear and disappear from this ranking exercise depending on the feedback we receive from our neighbours.
The ten “filters” are:
1. Civil Society – including unions, environmental organizations, local grassroots groups and other umbrella organizations
2. Federal – including elected and unelected officials, departments, arm’s length agencies and political parties
3. Indigenous peoples - including First Nations, Métis and Inuit, elected and unelected officials, arm’s length agencies, economic development entities, associations and other umbrella groups
4. Individuals - including through one on one meetings, polling or other online or in-person feedback mechanisms
5. Issues Monitoring – Northern Policy Institute staff monitor on a weekly basis a sampling of local, regional, provincial, national and international media as well as industry and other issue specific publications and social media outlets
6. Municipal, Universities, Schools and Hospitals (MUSH) - including Colleges, elected and unelected officials, arm’s length agencies, economic development entities, associations and other umbrella groups
7. Private Sector – including individual companies, chambers of commerce, industry associations and other umbrella groups
8. Provincial - including elected and unelected officials, departments, arm’s length agencies and political parties
9. Staff and Experts – including Northern Policy Institute authors, readers, reviewers, fellows, Research Advisory Board members and staff plus external experts including other think tanks, research institutes, academics, industry experts and local, regional, national and international agencies and organizations
10. Volunteers – including Northern Policy Institute Members, Directors, Advisory Councilors, and other volunteers
Northern Policy Institute does not “take positions” on issues. We exist to ask questions and have experts in the field marshal the evidence to answer those questions. See “780,000 bosses” above to understand how we decide what questions to ask.
Once the question is asked, the author has significant protections from any undue influence. Their job is to go where the evidence leads them and to satisfy at least two external peer reviewers that they have done so in an unbiased and publishable manner. No one inside Northern Policy Institute gets to offer “input to the position prior to release” – not our staff, not our funders, not the Board, not other volunteers, not our stakeholders, nor our partners.
Our Research Advisory Board are invited to review every piece pre-publication once it has passed into formal peer-review (as an added level of review over and above the mandatory reviews).
There is also an internal review to test for basic readability and obvious error or bias pre the formal double-blind peer review.
These are our quality control mechanisms and they align with almost every other think-tank and are comparable to peer reviewed journals.