Planning the 2019 IPAC National Conference: Reflections from Québec City

As IPAC Manitoba plans the 2019 IPAC National Conference, we explore what it’s like for a regional group to plan a 400-500 person conference that is international in scope.  This month, IPAC Manitoba Board Chair Jessica Drakul reflects on her experience attending the 2018 IPAC National Conference in Québec City.


In the third week of August, 2018, I was afforded the incredible opportunity by the IPAC Manitoba Board to participate as a delegate at the 70th Annual IPAC National Conference in Quebec City. This gathering of public administrators 500 strong from across Canada included representatives from all levels of government, academics, Indigenous leaders, service delivery professionals and private sector consultants. As well, delegations attended from Kenya and Ghana, along with the scholars studying in Canada via the African Leaders of Tomorrow program. This was only the second conference I’ve attended, and it certainly met the grand expectations set by IPAC PEI last year. This year, the theme “Public Service Under Pressure” must have resonated deeply within the public administration sphere, as attendance was high and discussions (on Twitter #IPAC2018IAPC and in-person!) were lively. Thanks to the work of the Institut d’administration publique de Québec (IAPQ) and École nationale d’administration publique (ENAP), this conference not only delved deeply into national issues in public administration but also provided unique insight into the Quebec public sector and its larger ecosystem.

On the 70th anniversary of such an event as the IPAC National Conference, one might well reflect on what brings all these busy people together every year, dragging luggage and laptops across the country for the privilege of spending 3-5 days in boardrooms – in August, no less! The obvious beauty of Quebec City and other host cities aside, I think the constant draw is the camaraderie of diverse public administrators who find a “safe space” – non-partisan, judgment-suspended – to discuss challenges, find solutions and ultimately come away rejuvenated to carry on in the face of mounting obstacles to performance. In the chaos occasioned by strangers, colleagues and IPAC friends colliding together for three short days once a year, a special kind of creativity is sparked, one that continues to inspire and drive performance when attendees return to their “day jobs.” If you don’t believe the public service is a calling, you likely will after attending an IPAC National Conference.

This National Conference was a special one for IPAC Manitoba. As hosts of the 71st IPAC National Conference in August 2019, Manitoba’s role in Quebec was to be “on deck” and absorb lessons learned and best practices from IPAC National and IAPQ staff and bring them forward into the last 12 months of a 36-month planning cycle that began in 2016. Meetings with the Regional Group Council, the National Board and various Committees of IPAC also provided manifold ideas to enhance the evolving Conference program. With planning for the Manitoba Conference already well underway, the theme for the 2019 event was revealed on the final day of the Conference in a presentation by IPAC Manitoba: “Public Sector Transformation: Action and Meaningful Change.” The excitement of the audience confirmed what IPAC Manitoba already foresaw: the time is ripe for a focus on transforming the work we do, in a context where little is the same from one day to the next except our dedication.

Reflecting on the days in Quebec, I am reminded that this next year is going to be an exciting and frenetic one. IPAC Manitoba will now move to channel the inspiration provided by the Quebec Conference into an event to remember – for Manitobans, those visiting from across Canada and international delegates. An IPAC National Conference is an unmatched professional development conference that grows almost everyone who attends, and IPAC Manitoba is thrilled to bring that opportunity to your doorstep in Winnipeg in 2019.

Come and join us at next year’s Conference – or better yet, join in the preparations. You can email us at manitoba[@] to volunteer, offer suggestions, or learn more information about the Conference Planning process. We look forward to bringing you a world-class experience next summer, one that will transform how you look at your work as a public administrator or academic, and one which our excellent colleagues in Quebec will be proud to see they spurred on to its exciting finish.

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