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Public policy, Munk School, Master of Public Policy, Master of Global Affairs

MPP and MGA students compete at 2021 Policy-at-Munk Fall Case Competition

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many Canadians to leave the labour market, resulting in labour shortages which have undoubtedly affected the country’s economic recovery. The question facing policymakers all over Canada is: “where have all the workers gone?” On November 5, students from the Munk School’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) and Master of Global Affairs (MGA) programs examined this question as part of the annual Policy-at-Munk Fall Case Competition.

Computer screen shows a Zoom call with nine case competition participantsHeld virtually this year, the Policy-at-Munk Case Competition is an opportunity for students to address policy-oriented topics while developing their analytical, problem-solving, and collaborative skills. Professor Janet Mason, one of the organizers of the event, stated that “case competitions have a good reputation with most employers and the challenges are very work-related and concrete.”

The teams were given one week prior to the event to work on the case, following the format of the National Public Administration Case Competition held annually in February. Each team is partnered with a coach from the Munk School that helps them prepare their case and presentations leading up to the competition. This year’s coaches included Munk School faculty, alumni, and affiliates such as Arsalan Esmaeili, an MPP alum; Drew Fagan, Munk School professor and senior fellow at the Public Policy Forum; and Pamela Bryant, a Munk School senior fellow.

Four distinguished policy leaders from different government departments were this year’s competition judges. Bruce Macgregor is the chief administrative officer of York Region; Erin O’Gorman is the associate secretary of Treasury Board of Canada; Laurie LeBlanc is the deputy minister of transportation for the Government of Ontario; and Martha Greenberg is the deputy minister, Policy and Delivery, Cabinet Office, also for Ontario’s provincial government.

The quality of the presentations surpassed the judges’ expectations. Coached by Esmaeili, who won a silver medal at the national case competition in 2020, first-year students Mishka Naidoo (MGA1), Luca Dannetta (MPP1), Vedant Sharat Lutheran (MPP1), and Homeira Afshar (MGA1) comprised the winning team. They focused on the high vacancy rates in professional, manufacturing, and construction sectors, proposing a skills development training database and a worker retraining and skills development fund, two components that strongly stood out to the judging panel. “The judges commented on the depth of knowledge, the creativity of the options, and also on the quality of the presentations,” said Mason.

Students embraced the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’re learning in class to real-world policy issues. The competition was also a chance to see what working in policy analysis is like.

“It gave me an illuminating glimpse of the kind of research and problem-solving that public sector policy analysts do. It was a really fun experience,” said Dannetta. “The main challenge we faced was the time crunch. Solving one of the most complex issues in our current policy atmosphere in a week is a tall order.”

The Policy-at-Munk Fall Case Competition is one of a number of events where Munk School students can develop professional policy skills and gain policy-analysis experience. Other competitions include the Ford+Munk conference, the Municipal Case Competition and the SHIFT case competition.