Becoming a public policy advisor or analyst offers a unique chance to make a real difference in the lives of millions of Canadians.
This country faces complex policy challenges in many domains, from healthcare and housing to the environment and social welfare. There is steady demand for skilled policy leaders who can develop effective solutions and drive positive change.
Caroline Marshall is one of those leaders. She has extensive experience as a health policy analyst and program advisor with all levels of government and with international development organizations.
She also teaches the Public Policy and Administration certificate here at Kompass.
In this interview, she shares some of her own fascinating background in public policy and explains what to expect from the new course.
Q. Caroline, can you tell us a bit about your education and professional background?
Caroline: I have an undergraduate degree in biology from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Queensland in Australia. I’m currently working on a Doctor of Public Health degree at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, focusing on policy.
I’ve worked in public health policy development at the municipal level in Ottawa and for the Ontario Ministry of Health. I also spent a few years as a senior policy advisor for World Vision Canada, where my responsibilities were to influence the federal government’s funding decisions on international development.
When Canada started to think about planning their COVID-19 vaccine rollout, I had the opportunity to join the Public Health Agency of Canada and work on that new team providing policy support.
Currently, in addition to my teaching role at Kompass, I work as a consultant for the World Health Organization.
Q. What inspired you to pursue a policy role?
Caroline: My undergraduate degree was in biology, and at first I thought that I would go into scientific research, medicine, something like that.
But while I was in university, I had a summer job that involved working on a small public health project related to cancer epidemiology. It brought in a lot of the policy considerations, and it really highlighted for me that there was this wide range of exciting areas that was so much broader than I’d been thinking initially.
That shifted my mindset from thinking I’d go into some sort of applied health setting to thinking I would really like to work in health policy or policy more broadly.
Q. What are the main learning goals of the Public Policy and Administration certificate?
Caroline: Students learn about the policy cycle, and the processes and dynamics that affect policy making.
I really want students to think about stakeholder engagement. I think that’s the foundation of good policy development—not only understanding the communities or sectors that you’re hoping to implement a particular policy in, but engaging them right from the beginning.
While I come from a health background, the skills and the techniques that you develop through this course are applicable to many different areas. Once you have that foundation in policy, you have opportunities to move into many other sectors.
I have former colleagues who are working in housing, and community safety, and all kinds of things. Once you have that strong understanding of the policy cycle, implementation processes, and stakeholder engagement, you can really take it to whatever sector you’d like.
Q. Who is this training geared toward? Who would benefit from taking the public policy certificate at Kompass?
Caroline: If people are working in a nonprofit and are engaged with organizations that make policy, they might want to take this course so that they can understand how to influence policy development.
For people like me who started out with a bit more of a technical degree but want to enter the policy space, this certificate will be a great complement to that because it will show them how to connect what they know from a technical perspective with government policy-making processes.
I think community advocates will find this really interesting. Also, people who are in more of an academic space but are working on topics related to policy will find it helpful because they’ll have a better understanding of how their research can feed into policy development.
Q. Why are policymaking skills in such high demand? What makes now a good time to enter this field?
Caroline: It is a really fascinating time because the impacts of COVID have been so broad—not just within the health sector. So there is such an opportunity for policy renewal and thinking about what the past two years have shown us about how we do things and how it needs to change.
That’s something that every sector is going to be looking at. They’re going to be thinking about how we can improve housing, and finance, and all of these areas.
Q. How do you see the public policy field changing in the years ahead?
Caroline: I think there will be more recognition of the importance of stakeholder engagement and having the communities or populations that you’re developing the policy for as partners from the start.
When that hasn’t happened, it’s been sort of a brick through the policy window. It doesn’t work unless you have the buy-in from the people that you’re hoping the policies will impact.
I think that previously, there was a lot of policy development that didn’t prioritize this, and you see how it restricts policies from working as they’re intended to.
Q. What would you say are the biggest rewards of working in public policy?
Caroline: For me, it’s seeing a policy I have helped to develop come to fruition and knowing the impact that it will have on people. It presents an opportunity for widescale change.
You won’t necessarily have the sort of face-to-face reward that a doctor might have when they treat a patient. But when a policy you’ve been working on is announced or you hear the stories of people who have received care or services under a particular policy, you can feel so much pride because you know you contributed to that.
It’s wonderful because it’s the kind of change that will impact a number of people in the future.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PUBLIC POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION CERTIFICATE
The Public Policy and Administration certificate runs for seven weeks (extendable up to 14 weeks).
Training focuses on how policy is developed, the realities of working in a policy role, and the specific skills and attributes required to succeed in policymaking.
The certificate is delivered online with dedicated instructor support.
Click below to explore the training in more detail and chat live with an admissions advisor.