A fellowship for Northerners interested in tackling policy challenges has been put on pause for two years.
The Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship, one of several initiatives from the Gordon Foundation, is an 18-month program that mentors students in public policy skills and develops them as leaders. Students from communities across the N.W.T., Yukon, Nunavut, Nunavik and other northern regions research and produce policy reports on everything from accessibility of land claim agreements to moving forward with addictions programming, and many of them have gone on to work to create change in their communities.
"Twelve years ago, when we started, this program was a niche program. There weren't other policy programs like it across Canada," said Sherry Campbell, the president and CEO of the Gordon Foundation.
That's changed in the years since. She said there has been a rise in organizations and programs focused on northern policy, and it's time for the fellowship to figure out where it fits in that new landscape.
"It's really positive, right, that this landscape is getting more crowded," she said — there are more Indigenous-led policy initiatives out there now, and more people influencing policy.
The Gordon Foundation does regular evaluations of the fellowship through a third party, but expanded that evaluation in 2022. Campbell said they spoke to fellows, mentors and people interested in policy.
"All of that just made us pause and decide to kind of look around at those organizations, talk to them, map them out a little bit more — who's doing what, where and how — and that might illuminate next steps," she said.
In a program impact report posted online, fellows described how the program gave them confidence to pursue careers in government and policy. Navarana Beveridge, who is now Denmark's honorary consul in Iqaluit, was part of the first cohort of fellows to go through the program between 2010 and 2012.
Beveridge wrote that the program helped give her the means to deal with the challenges that have come up at work, and to meet more experienced executives on an even footing.
"Definitely the tools have helped me, especially with respect to selling an idea and just having that added confidence to speak on a number of things that are requested of me," she wrote.
Many of the fellows have gone on to become government advisers, elected leaders, managers and more, according to the report.
Campbell said it's too early to say what will happen with the fellowship two years from now, but she hopes to see some possible projects or collaborations emerge at the end.
"I think it's important to keep open to anything that appears," she said. "Everything is still on the table."
In the meantime, the other policy work the foundation does won't stop. They recently held an Arctic policy hackathon — basically an event to bring Northerners together to talk about policy issues and come up with solutions — and they are still actively promoting the policy papers and thinkers they're affiliated with.
"I think over those two years, we'll probably still be convening around policy issues," Campbell said.
"We're certainly not going to stop thinking about how to generate policy thinking from Northerners."