The Institute of Public Administration of Canada (Manitoba Region) is pleased to announce that the 2020 recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration will be Dr. Jim Silver.
Dr. Jim Silver, Professor of Urban and Inner-City Studies at the University of Winnipeg, has made a distinctive and tremendously valuable contribution to Manitoba and Canadian society through his teaching, research and publications, his continuing role as a citizen activist engaged in community development, and his role as an informed and critical commentator on public affairs. Through his strong sense of social responsibility he has shown the imagination, initiative, and commitment needed to translate his progressive ideas into practical solutions offering constructive alternatives to create a fairer, more cohesive society.
In all dimensions of his professional career and extensive community service activities, Professor Silver has brought a progressive, egalitarian perspective that invites us to think differently about social issues, to have more public discussion and to encourage more innovative and meaningful solutions. He endeavours to enhance the quality of life for individuals and groups that are too often marginalized, economically and politically, within our society.
Dr. Silver co-founded the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives- Manitoba in 1997, an independent public policy research institute and was a board member both in Ottawa and Manitoba. He also actively engaged with the Manitoba Research Alliance, a broad coalition of academics and community partners engaged in research exploring transformative change to address poverty and inequality in Indigenous and inner-city communities.
Professor Silver has relied upon a quiet, collaborative style of leadership that respects and engages others where they live, work, and study. In blending theory and practice, he has worked collaboratively with people in local communities, creating strong bonds of trust and helping to develop the leaders of tomorrow. From the outset of his academic career, Professor Silver has been recognized as an outstanding teacher who exposes his students to challenging perspectives that support the development of their critical capacities, personal growth, and acceptance of diversity within society. In 1985 he was awarded the Clifford J. Robson Award for Excellence in Teaching and, as student reviews make clear, his exemplary teaching continues still today. Students recount how Professor Silver will always make time for discussions of course work and, when asked, about their personal situation and plans. He has always encouraged students to tackle “real world” problems. He has recognized the need to abandon the conventional “stand-and-deliver” approach to teaching in the university lecture hall or seminar room. Instead, he has gone out into the community where students from historically marginalized groups and “new Canadians” can study in a familiar setting alongside of their peers. This approach has been particularly helpful to avoid the cultural shock and sense of isolation for Indigenous students who otherwise are required to spend much of their study time in the sometimes intimidating institutional setting of a university.
As a researcher and publishing scholar, Professor Silver is the opposite of the stereotype of the ivory tower academic whose main mission is to impress a small circle of fellow academics. He is quite capable of doing mainstream academic work published in refereed journals, as evidenced by the fact that his research has been funded by several large grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), something not easily accomplished when research dollars are scarce and competition is fierce. Clearly, however, Professor Silver is most committed to scholarship that engages with community issues and citizen concerns. He has been an active contributor to the Manitoba Research Alliance, a broad coalition of academics and community partners exploring the possibilities for transformative change in inner-city communities. Based upon his community involvement, Professor Silver brings a critical perspective and passion to his numerous publications. This is not to say that data and analysis are missing or under-utilized. In his work on inner-city poverty, for instance, he draws upon a wide range of data and brings original insights into the analysis.
He is the author, co-author, or editor of more than 20 books and hundreds of chapters and journal articles that span a range of important social issues, including the role of trade unions in bringing about progressive reforms in society. His work is widely read by those interested in making a better world, and its import has been formally recognized by his university, which awarded him with the Erika and Arnold Rogers Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship in 2007. His eleventh book, “Indians Wear Red”: Colonialism, Resistance and Aboriginal Street Gangs (2013) won the Alexander Kennedy Isbister award for non- fiction. To his great credit, Professor Silver has been active in sharing his experience and knowledge widely through writing newspaper articles and regular blog postings, and being available for media interviews.
Reflecting Professor Silver’s philosophy that the best teaching, learning, and scholarship comes out of addressing real world problems, he has been continuously and productively active within the university and the wider community during his entire career. These extensive efforts in community building have brought richly deserved recognition over the years. In 1997 he was awarded The Clarence Atchison Award for Excellence in Community Service by the University of Winnipeg. In 2013 he received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributionsover the years to Winnipeg’s inner city. His community involvements are too numerous to mention in full here, but two in particular stand out. One involvement was Professor Silver’s contribution to the re-development of Lord Selkirk Park. This effort, which included the establishment of an adult learning centre and a daycare, turned a community that was previously in disrepair and disarray into a thriving, vibrant, and safer place to live for inner-city residents. His most recent and most ambitious project involved a major leadership role in the conception of and building of Merchants Corner, the unique educational complex located on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg’s North End that was completed in the spring of 2018. Millions of dollars were raised from different levels of government and community sources to support the project. The Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies is now located at the Merchants Corner, a variety of courses are taught on site, there are 30 units of student housing, and a café serves as a gathering place for the neighbourhood. The project is helping in a major way to revitalize a community that was previously undergoing social decline and experiencing rising crime. Merchants Corner is a remarkable achievement and Professor Silver played a key leadership role, especially on the fund-raising side of the development. Most certainly, this will not be the last collaborative, community development project that will benefit from his knowledge, skills, commitment, and passion for renewal and social justice.
In summary, Professor Jim Silver presents a highly distinctive and distinguished career profile in which there are no boundaries between teaching, research, university and community service, and active citizenship, all in the service of community development and social well -being.
Dr. Silver was to be presented with the 2020 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration during a noon-hour ceremony on Thursday, April 23 at Government House. However due to COVID 19 and public health measures in place, the ceremony is postponed until further notice.