Meet Don Lenihan

Dr. Don Lenihan is President and CEO of Middle Ground Policy Research. He is also Senior Associate at the Institute on Governance and the co-chair of the OGP Practice Group on Dialogue and Deliberation. Don is an internationally recognized expert on public engagement, governance, policy development, and organizational change. He has over 25 years’ experience as a project leader, researcher, writer, speaker, senior government advisor, trainer, and facilitator. Throughout his career, Don has developed and led many research and consultation projects involving senior public servants, academics, elected officials, journalists, and members of the private and third sectors from across the country. He is the author of numerous articles, studies, and books (see the Access Publications pages) and co-writes a weekly column for National Newswatch, Canada’s preeminent political news aggregator. He earned his PhD in political theory from the University of Ottawa and is proficient in French.

The Evolution of Informed Participation

Don Lenihan’s many projects and publications over the years form a single body of work that tracks the evolution of Informed Participation. The following is a brief chronology of this work. Many of the publications can be downloaded from our Access Publications page.

Some Current Projects and Papers

September 2017 – Present: Don and Damian Carmichael (a representative from the Australian government) co-chair The Open Government Partnership’s Practice Group on Open Dialogue and Deliberation. Don is also the project’s principal writer. The Group’s members come from various countries and have been tasked by the OGP with providing thought-leadership on public deliberation. So far, the Group has produced two papers, which have been released in a new publication series (both can be downloaded from our Home Page). Volume I, Public Deliberation: Getting Policy-Making Out from Behind Closed Doors, explains what deliberation is, how it differs from consultation, and why it is so important today. Volume II, Informed Participation: A Guide to Designing Public Deliberation Processes, is a step-by-step guide to designing deliberation processes. Together, these two papers provide a comprehensive account of public deliberation, from its conceptual underpinnings to practical considerations around designing and delivering a process. Further papers are in progress.

April 2017 – September 2020: Don was a principal advisor to The Ottawa Hospital on community engagement for The New Campus Project, a three-year undertaking to help The Hospital and the community work together to design a world-class site for the new hospital that will replace the aging Civic Hospital. The new facility will be built on 50 acres of scenic green space in Ottawa, bordering on sensitive national heritage sites, such as the Rideau Canal and the Experimental Farm. The project involves a groundbreaking approach to community involvement in the planning and design of the new campus. Four reports from the project are available on our Access Publications page (under Project Reports) or at:

March 2019 to September 2019: The Institute on Governance’s Civil Society Dialogues was launched to explore ways to strengthen the relationship between government and civil society. The process involved four half-day sessions with 30 – 40 representatives from the two sectors. The IOG Working Group on Civil Society formed a second dialogue stream within the Dialogue project. The Group was led by Don and involved eight government and civil society representatives in a sustained discussion of some key issues raised in the Dialogue sessions. The project culminated in the release of Rebuilding Cohesion and Trust: Why Government Needs Civil Society, a think piece that considers some of the deeper consequences of issues and options explored by the Working Group. Don served as the lead writer. The paper is posted on our Home Page.

May 2019 – August 2020: The City of Ottawa is developing a 15-year Official Plan – a policy framework that will guide the city’s physical development to the year 2031. Don was a principal advisor on community engagement to support development of the OP. The process aimed at promoting equity and inclusion through a Community Ambassadors Group.