The Forum is an international organization that develops and shares comparative expertise on the practice of federal and decentralized governance through a global network.
The Government of Canada provided the impetus for the establishment off the ground with the inaugural International Conference on Federalism held in 1999 at Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. This conference led to the founding of The Forum as an ongoing institution, based in Ottawa. Four consecutive International Conferences have subsequently been held in Switzerland, Belgium, India, and Ethiopia. Following the 2005 Conference in Belgium and the partnership of a number of countries with The Forum, it became a truly international organization. Ten governments have now signed agreements with the Forum and are represented on the Forum’s Strategic Council, supporting the activities of the organization and providing expertise. These countries are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Switzerland. The Forum has operated field offices in Ethiopia, Sudan, Nepal and Nigeria. Over the years, The Forum has expanded the focus of its work from established federal countries to include countries in post-conflict situations adopting federal forms of governance and those involved in processes of devolution and decentralization.
The mission of the Forum is to strengthen democratic, inclusive and gender-responsive governance through knowledge creation and mobilization, capacity development, and support to inclusive policy implementation processes.
The Forum has a practical, problem-solving approach to achieving results. Since its founding nearly two decades ago, it has supported governments and citizens around the world through capacity building and the provision of expertise and impartial practical education.
The Forum Advantage: Hands-on Experience and High-level Expertise
The Forum brings the world’s leading experts together with the “practitioners” of government: elected officials, civil servants, and political operatives. The Forum’s direct relationship with governments on each continent makes it uniquely placed to promote intergovernmental learning by working in tandem with its partner governments.
Alongside its work with key governance practitioners, The Forum also supports civil society stakeholders, enhancing understanding and building the capacity of citizens to operate in multilevel systems. Working through its extensive network of local partners, The Forum provides learning and knowledge to facilitate the participation of civil society in the multilevel governance processes which impact their lives.
The comparative approach and methodology utilized within the Forum’s work draws on its global network to promote learning and capacity building with excellence.
The comparative methodology utilized by The Forum in the implementation of its activities is based on the core principle of “Learning from Each Other”. Drawing on its unparalleled global network of multilevel governance experts, research organizations, and local partners, The Forum facilitates the sharing of experiences and insights to promote empirically-grounded learning and capacity building. Acting as a curator of knowledge, The Forum ensures governance stakeholders have the relevant theoretical and practical information necessary to develop and improve multilevel governance systems. Through liaising with local partners, situational analysis, and stakeholder consultation, The Forum closely tailors its support to local demand and contexts.
Our Core Principle: “Learning From Each Other”
Bridging the worlds of academic research and real-world practice, The Forum approach leverages the synergies between its Policy and Development Assistance activities to continuously inform and renew its body of cutting edge intellectual capital on multilevel governance. The Forum’s unique expert network and comparative approach supports those operating at the forefront of multilevel governance development.
The Forum was established by the Government of Canada. The inaugural International Conference on Federalism held in 1999 at Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada led to the founding of The Forum as an institution based in Ottawa. Four consecutive International Conferences were subsequently held in Switzerland, Belgium, India, and Ethiopia.
As of 2017, ten governments had signed agreements as partners of The Forum and are represented on the Forum’s Strategic Council and Board of Directors, supporting the activities of the organization and providing expertise. These countries are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Switzerland. Over the years The Forum has expanded the scope of its work from established federal countries to include nation states in post-conflict situations adopting federal forms of governance and those involved in processes of devolution and decentralization. Growth led to the expansion of the organization to a range of countries around the world. As of December 2017, The Forum had field offices and/or representation in Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Jordan, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tunisia.
The Forum of Federation’s Five-Year Strategic Plan establishes the overall aims for the work of the organization for the period from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2028.
It presents the goals and strategic objectives The Forum wishes to achieve directly related to its mission of strengthening inclusive and responsive governance, including pluralism and gender equality, in federal, decentralized, and transitioning countries.
The Strategic Plan is part of a process by which The Forum is refining the definition of its work, its mission, and its institutional objectives. The process is holistic and participatory, with a renewed emphasis on enhanced monitoring, evaluation and reporting by results. This approach is accompanied by a philosophy of providing unique and specialized expertise to those The Forum engages with, while demonstrating “value for money” to partners and donors.
Since the Forum formulated its last strategic plan in 2018, the global context has changed significantly, with the current conditions making it more difficult than anticipated for the international community to attain the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 set out by the United Nations. The COVID crisis in particular provided an inflection point, bringing to the fore the failure of governance to address critical global challenges which will define the next decade.
The pandemic upended both the global economy as well as progress towards building more inclusive and democratic polities. Taken together with the ongoing climate crisis and war in Europe, policy makers the world over face ever stronger headwinds in their desire to build less polarized, more inclusive, more economically sustainable, and more democratic states. It is in this context in which the Forum’s work is both necessary and contributory.
Focused on maximizing the impact of the Forum’s work among its beneficiaries, the plan provides the framework through which the Forum will pursue its activity. It reflects the organization’s intention to leverage its unique strengths in knowledge generation and transfer, institutional and individual capacity development, and supporting and facilitating inclusive policy implementation processes, to achieve key strategic outcomes. Crucially, it details how, through its programming, the Forum will pursue its aspiration to improve the lives of those living in federal and multilevel countries around the world. The global contribution the Forum seeks to make is encapsulated in its Vision Statement:
Empower people in established and emerging federal and multilevel countries.
This plan reflects a process of refinement of the Forum’s institutional objectives and a sharpening of its strategic vision. Informed by the perspectives of donors, as well as an expert independent evaluation, this process is holistic and aims to maximise the Forum’s ability to support agents of change in developing, reforming and participating in federal and multilevel systems of government. The Forum’s work remains highly relevant to scholars and practitioners of, as well as participants in, democratic, federal and multilevel governance. Its programming supports democratic and inclusive governance based on informed decision-making, multiple power centres, cooperation among agents of change, pluralism, gender equality and citizen involvement.
Drawing on its unique global network of governance experts and comparative international methodology, the Forum aims to equip agents of change – individuals, institutions and organizations involved in dialogue, development, reform and implementation processes of federal and multilevel governance – with the tools they need to develop practical solutions to governance challenges. This aspiration is reflected in the Forum’s Mission Statement:
Strengthen democratic, inclusive and gender-responsive governance in established and emerging federal and multilevel countries through knowledge creation and mobilization, capacity development, and support to inclusive policy implementation processes
The Forum’s unique status as the only multi-functional organization specializing in federal and multilevel governance is one of its key strengths. The strategic orientation outlined in this plan provides a foundation for fostering greater synergy between these functions to support more holistic programming and ultimately increased impact. The Forum’s identity as an international non-governmental organization working at all levels of government is expressed in its self-definition statement:
The Forum is a “think-and-do” organization with an unparalleled network of experts and partners that produces authoritative comparative policy research as the basis for supporting the practice of federal and multilevel governance.
This plan refines and reinforces the Forum’s institutional Theory of Change, as well as the links between its various programming areas. It reframes the work of the Forum with a sharpened focus on how the organization achieves its desired objective through its activity. It further establishes various outcomes which the Forum will work towards through the course of the next five years.
This new Strategic Plan is underpinned by a revised, updated and streamlined Results Framework, which will enable the Forum to measure and assess the extent to which it achieves its aims. Building on the experience of the 2018-2023 strategic period, the new Plan brings into closer alignment the Forum’s Theory of Change, Results Framework and programming orientation to facilitate a more holistic approach to the pursuit of the Forum’s vision.