Click Here

Recent Projects of Note

The Pan-Canadian Health Data Engagement Strategy(May 2021 – Present) Between May 2021 – 22, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) led F-PT governments and health data partners in the development of a pan-Canadian health data strategy to support the creation, exchange, and use of health data across Canadian health systems.  Middle Ground is part of a joint venture commission by PHAC.  Publivate was hired by PHAC to engage stakeholders and communities in a dialogue to shape the strategy around a patient-centred approach to care through:

  • Digitalization of health records
  • Setting pan-Canadian standards for interoperability
  • Effective sharing of health data including electronic health records
  • Establishing accountability frameworks based on stewardship to support greater sharing of patient data
  • Improving digital literacy

The process included 20 virtual (bilingual) roundtables (each with 25-30 stakeholders).  Don served as the project’s strategic advisor, lead facilitator, and the principal writer for all summaries and reports.
Character team of writers working on laptop and others

Making Connections:  2023 Oceans Protection Plan Dialogue Forum (October 2022 – February 2023)

The Ocean’s Protection Plan (OPP) is a $3.5 billion federal government project led by Transport Canada, which aims at strengthening protections for Canada’s coasts and wildlife, improving marine safety, and advancing partnerships with local and indigenous communities.  The annual Dialogue Forum convenes several hundred OPP project managers, partner organizations, industry members and involved communities on the Pacific Coast.  This year OPP hosted its first hybrid Forum, bringing together online and in-persona participants.  Publivate (the leading engagement consultant) engaged Don to develop the forum agenda, design the sessions and serve as Principal Facilitator for this 2-day event, as well as act as principal writer on the final report.

The Tunney’s Pasture Redevelopment:  From Vision to Reality (September 2021 – 2025)

Tunney’s Pasture is a 121-acre federal government employment campus that contains 17 office buildings on the edge of downtown Ottawa.  The federal government is currently planning a complete redevelopment of the aging work site.  The five surrounding neighbourhoods will be deeply impacted by the design, so the government has launched a multi-year community engagement process to give them a meaningful voice in the redevelopment process. PACE Public Affairs and Community Engagement (the principal engagement consultant) has engaged Don as a key advisor, facilitator, analyst, and writer on the project.  This work includes planning and facilitating a wide range of engagement activities over the life of the project, from deliberate discussions to community charettes, surveys and open houses.

In Phase 1 of the project, Don worked with PACE to establish the Communities Perspective Group, a 27-member panel of community representatives who will meet regularly throughout the redevelopment to deliberate on and provide community recommendations to the government on its redevelopment plans.  AS a first step, Don and PACE designed and executed a process in which the Group developed a set of five community values that will frame and guide its deliberations throughout the remainder of the process.
ASCR Stakeholder Engagement - Final Report Aug 2022

Automated Sequestering of Criminal Records (November 2021 – August 2022)

Public Safety Canada (PSC) plans to establish a fully digitalized, automated system for the suspension of criminal records. The new system will automatically remove criminal records that meet certain criteria, even without an application from the offender. Before proceeding, however, PSC wanted a better understanding of its stakeholders’ views on several key issues, including:

  • Suspension Criteria: Which criteria are appropriate for automated suspensions?

  • Interoperability: The digital infrastructure must be able to find and share information and criminal records from justice systems across the country. What policy issues does this raise?

  • Privacy: Such a system involves the use of highly sensitive information. Are there risks to personal privacy and, if so, how can they be mitigated?

  • Outreach: How can government best inform people with criminal records about the new system?

This engagement process produced a critical examination of the issues through an online engagement platform and 10 virtual stakeholder roundtables. Middle Ground’s Don Lenihan served as the strategic advisor for the roundtables, the lead facilitator, and the principal writer for all session summaries and the project’s final report.

Re-Thinking Engagement for the Ottawa Police Services Board (June 2021 – January 2022)

The Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) engaged Middle Ground Policy Research (Don Lenihan) and PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement (as a joint venture) to propose ways to engage Ottawa’s racialized communities in an ongoing dialogue on community issues. The two-person team reached out to leaders from racialized communities and relevant service agencies to explore and assess the community’s expectations and aspirations on community participation in the Ottawa Police Services Board’s planning. The final report, Rethinking Engagement: Supporting the Shift from Police Force to Police Service, proposes the creation of the Public Deliberation Roundtable, a permanent body of 5 – 7 members who would lead an ongoing series of community dialogues on key issues. The OPSB members strongly endorsed the proposal and voted unanimously to act on the recommendation.

TOH Narrative

Community Engagement on the New Ottawa Hospital: (March 2017 – September 2020)

In 2018, The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) received approval to build a new campus on 50 acres of highly popular greenspace.  The site boarders on several heritage sites, including the Rideau Canal and the Experimental Farm.  However, Ottawans have deep concerns about the possible impact of development on these sites and the surrounding communities.  TOH therefore engaged Middle Ground (Don Lenihan) and PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement (in a joint venture) to develop a community engagement strategy that would allow TOH to work closely with the community on key features of the new campus.  The 30-month project had two parts:

  • In Part I, Middle Ground (Don Lenihan) and PACE co-designed and co-facilitated a series of engagement sessions with community stakeholders, officials from TOH, and officials from other governments and bodies with an official interest in the project.  These discussions culminated in a proposal to create a  “campus engagement group” comprised of community and TOH representatives, which could engage two sides in an ongoing discussion as the new campus was being planned.  The proposal is detailed in the project’s final report, Setting the Stage, Turning the Page, co-written by Don and PACE.
  • In Part II of the project, Don and PACE established the Campus Engagement Group (CEG), then planned and facilitated a series of discussions.  Over two years, the CEG’s 24 members met 20 times to discuss key issues related to the new campus’ design.  The methodology, goals, and results of these sessions are recorded in several reports (available at:  In particular, Middle Ground/PACE’s last report – A Healthy Ottawa Planning Partnership – (INSERT LINK) defines a vision for the new campus that recognizes the importance of integrating it with the surrounding community and then using the new facility as a “hub” for a new network of community organizations that would work together to help build a healthier Ottawa.  The report was warmly received and endorsed by The Ottawa Hospital’s Board of Governors.  Don was the principle writer of the reports for Part II.


Driving Dialogue and Debate (April 2020 – July 2020)

The Institute on Governance launched a series of workshops to explore options for responding to polarization and fragmentation in Canada’s public dialogues and debates. The project included four two-part, web-based events, each hosting about 40 participants from government and civil society and focused on a different topic, including: Immigration (session #1), Climate change (session #2), Western Alienation (session #3), A Polarized Electorate (session #4). Don served as the strategic advisor and principal subject-matter expert on the project team. He was also the principal writer and public debater and a co-facilitator for the sessions. In advance of each session, Don prepared a four-page discussion paper that analyzed how the session topic was currently being discussed in the public arena. The discussion papers were circulated to the participants in advance of the meeting. Part 1 of the event featured a 90-minute debate between Don and another subject-matter expert, based on the discussion paper. In Part 2 of the session, Don co-facilitated a plenary session based on the paper and the debate. The final report, written by Don and the two other members of the project team, can be found here: Driving Dialogue and Debate – Institute on Governance (

Stronger Voices, Better Care in Nunavut (August – November 2017)

The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) serves a large Inuit community in Ottawa and an even larger one from the Territory of Nunavut. In 2017, the Hospital wanted to learn more about how it could advance patient-centred care by responding more effectively to the community’s distinctive cultural needs to improve treatment and healing. Middle Ground’s Don Lenihan was engaged to reach out to the Inuit community – both in Ottawa and Nunavut: (1) to identify ways to engage the Inuit community in the discussion around patient-centred care; and (2) to propose ways to ensure that TOH’s services are more responsive to the community’s cultural needs. The project had four main phases:

  • Phase I: Don conferred with TOH staff who have strong relationships with Indigenous communities in Nunavut and the Champlain region.

  • Phase II: Don conducted interviews and facilitated group meetings with community representatives and other parties in the Ottawa region.

  • Phase III: Don travelled to Iqaluit to conduct three days of interviews and group meetings with patients and their families, community spokespersons, appropriate health-care stakeholders, and TOH officials.

  • Phase IV: Don prepared a final report from these investigations, Stronger Voices, Better Care, which provides TOH with strategic guidance on how to engage these Inuit communities on patient-centred care; and which offers a series of practical recommendations to immediately improve patient services.


The open government movement aims at making government and governance more effective, responsive, transparent, and accountable by encouraging governments to make data and information more accessible, and to involve citizens and stakeholders more meaningfully in planning and decision-making that impacts directly on them. Don has been an active and engaged member of the Open Government movement for almost two decades.

The OGP Practice Group On Dialogue and Deliberation (September 2017 – March 2021)

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international organization of 77 national governments (including Canada) and 106 local and subnational governments (including Ontario), who are working together to promote open government. Don co-founded and co-chaired the OGP’s Practice Group on Dialogue and Deliberation, along with a representative of the Australian government (see This international team of eight practitioners has produced four major research papers on public deliberation:




  • Volume IV, The Role of Narrative Building in Public Deliberation, uses three case studies to illustrate key techniques and challenges in building “shared narratives,” that is, stories that opponents in a debate can create together to help them reframe divisive issues and find common ground.


Don was the principal writer and conceptual architect for these papers. Over three years, the Group held virtual monthly meetings to discuss and develop their views on deliberation. Together with his co-chair, Don led, planned, and facilitated the ongoing dialogue.

 Open Government – A Pan-Canadian Perspective (September 2016 – June 2017)

Following the Open Government project for Ontario, Don secured the support of 10 F-P/T governments to participate in a pan-Canadian dialogue on Open Government. Each government agreed to host a one-day roundtable meeting in its capital city. Each session involved about 25 participants, including senior and elected officials, as well as representatives from academia, civil society, and the private sector. Don planned and facilitated these sessions. His report from this process, What Is “Open Dialogue” and Is It the Answer to “Post-Fact” Populism? was published by Canada 2020 (June 2017). This report provided a cross-country snapshot of each government’s plans and achievements on Open Data, Open Information, and Open Dialogue.

The Ontario Open Dialogue Project (July 2015 – April 2016)

A key recommendation of the Ontario Open Government Engagement Team (see above)) was for the government to develop a made-in-Ontario “public engagement framework” that would make public engagement in the Ontario Public service far more rigorous, principled, and systematic.  The Open Government Office in the Treasury Board Secretariat of the Government of Ontario engaged Middle Ground (Don) to act as its principal advisor, researcher, and writer on the project.  First, Don worked with the Open Government Office to identify five “demonstration projects” from five partner ministries.  These projects were to serve as “laboratories” in which to test and apply new methods of public engagement — placing Don at the centre for a lively interdepartmental dialogue with a wide cross-section of government officials and stakeholders.  Don used the learning from these projects to develop the Ontario Public Engagement Framework, which was subsequently adopted by the government and made available to the Ontario Public Service through the TBS website at

Ontario’s Open Government Engagement Team (October 2013 – May 2014)

At the invitation of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Don served as Chair of the Open Government Engagement Team for the Government of Ontario. The nine-member panel was composed of distinguished Ontarians, including several experts in the field. Under Don’s direction, the Team developed and executed a two-stage plan. In the first phase of the project, the Team worked to develop an Open Government framework, based on three key goals: Open Data, Open Information, and Open Dialogue. The Team then held province-wide consultations, exploring these three aspects of the framework with experts and citizens. The Team then used the findings to prepared a final report, Open by Default, which provided a set of recommendations to the Minister of Government Services that were aimed at making Ontario Canada’s leader in the field of Open Government. The government subsequently moved to act on all the report’s recommendations.

2014 open-by-default-2

Contact Us