Public servant on campus to share expertise

Susan Phillips, director of Carleton’s School of Public Policy and Administration, and Rod Raphael, the visiting public servant in residence, discuss plans for upcoming year. (Susan Hickman Photo)

For the first time in a couple of years, Carleton University has a visiting public servant in residence at its School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA) – an opportunity to tap into government expertise first-hand.

Roderick Raphael, director general at Shared Services Canada, arrived on campus in early January and will be accessible to faculty and students for a minimum of a year.

Over the last two years, senior federal government managers have been reluctant to let a mid-career public servant go given the uncertainty and cutbacks they were facing, says SPPA director Susan Phillips.

“In the early years of the program, six or seven years ago, we tended to get people who were on the road to retirement. But what universities and government want is somebody who will go back to government having built something. It’s a way of saying the program matters and we see it as part of a broader career and professional development experience for the government.”

Raphael, who has worked for the government for 30 years and who has been reviewing federal programs for the past 12, proposed the in-residence position as a way for government to access academic criticism, while offering the university the opportunity to tap into his expertise.

“My role is to be a source of advice to the SPPA and other areas of the university and to enrich the learning experience and environment. It’s also an opportunity to give back,” says Raphael, who graduated from Carleton with a master’s in public administration in 1995 as a mature student.

“I understand the value of guest lecturers who present different viewpoints.”

Phillips agrees students from various backgrounds need to be better equipped to face emerging challenges, learn how to use technology more broadly and discover first-hand how public servants deal with the public and non-profit sectors.

“These are the kinds of issues we want to bring to our students. We want them to be audacious and forward-looking, so they understand the challenges and opportunities of radically different ways of doing things.”

Raphael, who is responsible for departmental analytics and initiatives at Shared Services Canada, is familiar with how to build solid business cases for senior officials and cabinet ministers, when billions of taxpayers’ dollars are at stake. He helped establish Shared Services Canada and worked as the director general of the new department’s strategic planning of the corporate services branch.

“Government is looking for more efficient ways to deliver programs to Canadians,” Raphael explains. “Shared Services Canada is consolidating internal services, making more efficient use of computers, for example, and saving Canadian taxpayers money.”

During his role as public servant in residence, he will explore with academics the challenges of horizontal leadership, and on information technology specifically.

“It’s an interesting challenge when you create a department like Shared Services Canada that has to plan its work with 43 other departments. How do you make it happen seamlessly?

“We didn’t have the research or the discipline the academic community can bring from its vantage point of distance from bureaucracy. As an interlocutor between the university and government, I can tap into data and advice on how to make horizontal programs more efficient and effective,” he explains.

Before Raphael’s term is complete, he also plans to offer advice to SPPA on sustainable development and dealing with extractive industries on health and social issues, as the school reviews and refreshes its curriculum, and to be of assistance to the faculty as a whole.

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Susan Hickman

By Susan Hickman

For nearly four decades, journalist Susan Hickman has written about every imaginable subject for sundry newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad, as well as for CBC TV and CBC Radio. She has also managed various publications, including academic newspapers and technology magazines, and was recently commissioned to write a guide for foreign missions serving in Canada. Currently, she is working on a couple of personal memoirs.

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