Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Synthesising research on envisioning governance systems that work

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Apply for funding to work with Canada-based researchers to mobilise, examine and synthesise humanities and social sciences research on the topic of envisioning governance systems that work.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC or AHRC funding.

Funding is available for one-year projects. The UK-Canada teams can apply for up to C$ 30,000 from SSHRC and ESRC or AHRC. Budgets cannot exceed a maximum 60% and 40% split across the two agencies (for example, 18,000 Canadian dollars (CA$) and £10,517 or £7,011 and CA$ 12,000). ESRC or AHRC will fund 80% of the UK budget’s full economic cost.

Who can apply

You must be based at a research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation funding. Check if your organisation is eligible for funding.

Standard ESRC and AHRC eligibility guidelines apply for this funding opportunity.

Applications must include two applicants (principal investigators), one based in Canada and the other in the UK.

What we're looking for

ESRC, AHRC, SSHRC and CIHR have partnered on this funding opportunity to support research that will foster a deeper understanding of the state of knowledge about the global challenge of envisioning governance systems that work. This funding opportunity will include two streams.

Stream one

Stream one is reserved for applications submitted by an applicant associated with an eligible Canadian institution.

Stream two

Stream two is reserved for applications jointly submitted by two applicants, one based in Canada and the other in the UK, who are associated with eligible institutions in their respective countries. Up to 27 projects may be jointly funded by SSHRC, ESRC and AHRC. Projects are not required to cover both AHRC and ESRC remits but must be relevant to at least one council’s remit.

The resulting knowledge syntheses will:

  • identify roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors could play in promoting more inclusive and equitable societies
  • inform the development of effective tools and technologies, robust policies, and sustainable practices required to support the path toward a diverse and inclusive future for all

Knowledge synthesis grants

Knowledge syntheses are comprehensive analyses of literature and other forms of knowledge on a particular question or issue. All types of knowledge synthesis approaches, tools and protocols, such as scoping reviews, systematic reviews and narrative syntheses, are encouraged under this funding opportunity.

Knowledge synthesis grants are not intended to support original research. Rather, they are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and identify knowledge gaps. This funding opportunity is particularly focused on the state of research produced over the past 10 years.

Under stream two, SSHRC, ESRC and AHRC will award knowledge synthesis grants to support researchers in producing knowledge synthesis reports and evidence briefs that:

  • support the use of evidence in decision-making and the application of best practices
  • assist in developing future research agendas

You must address the following three objectives in your applications.

State of knowledge, strengths and gaps

Your application should:

  • critically assess the state of knowledge of the future challenge theme under consideration from a variety of sources, as appropriate
  • identify knowledge strengths and gaps within the theme
  • acknowledge Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies when appropriate
  • identify the most promising policies and practices related to the theme
Research data

Your application should:

  • assess the quality, accuracy and rigour (meaning, methodological approaches) of current work in the field
  • identify strengths and gaps in the quantitative and qualitative data available
Knowledge mobilisation

Your proposal should:

  • engage cross-sectoral stakeholders (academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors) or First Nations, Inuit and Métis rights holders throughout the project to mobilise knowledge related to promising policies and practices
  • use effective knowledge mobilisation methods to help the sharing of research findings with cross-sectoral stakeholders and Indigenous rights holders

You can include international comparisons and case studies in your application but must show how the research has the potential to inform policy issues in Canada and the UK.

This funding opportunity is guided by the following questions:

  • drawing on domestic, international and cross-sectoral evidence, what can researchers tell us about these issues?
  • how might the findings guide public policy, practice and research agendas for Canada and the UK?


The following questions show some of the many interconnected issues that encompass the global challenge of envisioning governance systems that work. The questions and sub-themes provide guidance to applicants and are not a comprehensive or exhaustive list. We welcome applications on other issues relevant to this future challenge area.

Involvement and inclusion in governance structures

Questions include:

  • what opportunities and challenges do digital technologies create for the transformation and greater openness of Canadian and UK governments? How does this affect the collaboration between government and the public, and what are the implications for government accountability and consistency? What are the implications for marginalised communities or for rural and remote communities? How can communities be engaged in co-creation of governance around these issues?
  • to what extent does the polarisation in society correlate with barriers in existing governance models that prevent the inclusion of unheard or underheard voices?
  • how are issues of gender or sexuality relevant to recent governance issues, such as the impact of support of traditional conceptions on political movements, parties and governments?
  • how might we assess the significance of Canada’s feminist foreign policy and international governance?
  • what changes in global governance might help address current stresses in the global order?
  • what measures can be taken to improve Outer Space treaties and international governance, given the rapidly changing activities and expanding technologies in Outer Space?

Health governance

Questions include:

  • what would be the implications of the creation of a governance body to coordinate the use of health data by both the public and private sectors, as proposed in the Pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy? How will the Health Data Strategy impact health inequities among underserved groups? How can the health data strategy include the question of Indigenous self-governance and data control? Equivalent issues might arise in the UK’s ‘Data Saves Lives’ strategy and comparative work across the two is welcome
  • what governance changes might improve Canada’s and the UK’s performance in the next pandemic? Is the creation of a specialised body a good strategy? What characteristics should relevant governing bodies have to be better prepared for the next pandemic?
  • how can governance models be designed that support practical, ethical responses to emergencies, such as pandemics, while protecting human rights?

Digital governance and democracy

Questions include:

  • how is the development of novel technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) impacting on issues of governance and vice versa?
  • how can the electoral and democratic process adapt to recent changes in digital technologies, including the rise of cyber threat activity targeting national elections, the growing influence of AI transforming access to information about candidates and means of communication with elected representatives, or new forms of digitalised democratic expression such as e-voting?
  • how to strike the right balance between free expression and the regulation of online harms in the governance of digital platforms? Globally, how can this balance be achieved in internet governance, taking into account the growing strength of digital authoritarianism?

Finance governance

Questions include:

  • what are the benefits and risks of creating central bank digital currencies to adapt to changes introduced by blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies, in relation to central banks’ control over the monetary system?
  • to what extent could governance mechanisms for sustainable finance activities and financial inclusion activities be further improved?

Systems of governance

Questions include:

  • what implications may arise from any significant future constitutional changes or changes to systems of governance in the UK and Canada?
  • what is the role and what are the functions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis governments or representatives within the governance landscape of Canada, provinces and territories, and municipalities? What key pathways or processes may be used to support the full implementation of Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and to self-government, in keeping with Canada’s commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and other key rights-based considerations?
  • considering the central role played by municipalities in recent crises (for example, in pandemic, opioid crisis, wildfires and housing crisis), how could the relationship between the federal, provincial, municipal and Indigenous levels of government be improved, and their roles and responsibilities better defined? To what extent would this enable local communities to have a stronger voice in the context of these broader issues, such as in the formation and adaptation of alternative governance models?
  • in the UK, how are levels of governance and responsibilities between national, regional and local governments working, and how could they be improved (including, for example, consideration of the role of citizen assemblies)?

Housing and infrastructure governance

Questions include:

  • to what extent does a place-based approach within housing governance models, incorporating cultural, ecological and economic knowledge into community development and stewardship, support the health, wellbeing and self-determination of Indigenous communities? What role can co-creation of housing policy play in enhancing the agency of affected communities?
  • what governance models for coordinated housing and infrastructure planning exist in Canada or elsewhere, and what is known about what works effectively and under what conditions to ensure technical viability, management of financial risk, adaptiveness and timeliness of services, social acceptance and more?
  • given rapidly changing population dynamics in specific localities in a country like Canada along with growing health inequities related to housing, what governance models are better equipped to respond to changing infrastructure or housing needs?
  • what are the implications of the emergence of night-time governance bodies in cities, dealing with issues ranging from increased night-time security surveillance to neighbourhood gentrification that threatens after-dark cultural and community activities?

Past and future models of governance

Questions include:

  • how will regulatory arrangements best respond to complexity and uncertainty? What roles should legislators, regulators, courts, non-state forms of governance, and the general public play? What are the advantages or disadvantages of a shift towards ‘agile’ regulation?
  • from an historical perspective, how has governance innovation progressed in the past and what are the pitfalls to avoid as we move forward?
  • how can an historic analysis of policy development in specific areas inform best practice for how we develop governance models and policy today

The majority of the UK component must fall within AHRC’s remit, ESRC’s remit or both. We welcome applications from researchers in any discipline that can inform and contribute to the objectives of this funding opportunity. We encourage you to submit applications that feature multidisciplinary research teams.

Expected outcomes

Successful applicants will be expected to do the following:

  • complete a synthesis report (maximum 40 pages) and two-page evidence brief within eight months of receiving the grant
  • participate in a virtual kick-off webinar (tentatively scheduled for May 2025)
  • participate in a virtual knowledge mobilisation forum eight months after the grant has been awarded (tentatively scheduled for January 2026) to share research findings with community practitioners and knowledge users in various sectors

Successful applicants will receive guidelines for completing their synthesis report and two-page evidence brief. Researchers are expected to make their synthesis reports publicly available and to include the link in their evidence brief. SSHRC, ESRC and AHRC will also make all evidence briefs publicly available on their websites as appropriate.

See examples of final reports and evidence briefs produced through a recent knowledge mobilisation forum.

Funding available

Funding is available for one-year projects. The UK-Canada teams can apply for up to C$ 30,000 from SSHRC and ESRC or AHRC.

You should consult the exchange rate before submitting your team’s application. For projects selected for funding, each country’s applicant or team will receive a grant from their respective country’s funder for their portion of the project.

Budgets cannot exceed a maximum 60% and 40% or 40% and 60% split across the two agencies (for example, C$18,000 and £10,517 or £7,011 and C$12,000).

All UK costs will be funded at 80% of the full economic cost. Please refer to the AHRC research funding guide and ESRC research funding guide for further details on eligible costs.

How to apply

Submitting your application

You must complete the SSHRC application form in accordance with the accompanying instructions (stream two).

Applications must be submitted electronically to SSHRC by an authorised research grants officer, or equivalent, from the Canadian applicant’s institution, or by a representative of the not-for-profit organisation who has financial signing authority and is not participating in the project.

If you need help while preparing your application, you should communicate with SSHRC well in advance of the application deadline.


SSHRC must receive your application by 12 December at 8:00pm (Eastern Daylight Time, Ottawa Time). You will not be able to apply after this time.

At this stage, you should not submit your application to ESRC and AHRC through the UKRI Funding Service.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.


You must ensure that both the SSHRC and ESRC or AHRC budget forms are completed and submitted as part of the application.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

Applications are reviewed, and available funds awarded, through a competitive assessment panel process led by SSHRC.

The goal of ESRC, AHRC and SSHRC is to support syntheses covering a range of themes relating to envisioning governance systems that work. In addition to using the assessment criteria, SSHRC, ESRC and AHRC will consider the overall coverage of themes among recommended applications in its funding decisions, to ensure that the synthesis reports address a broad distribution of topics.

Assessment criteria

The following criteria and scoring scheme are used to assess the applications.

Challenge: the aim and importance of the endeavour (40%)

This includes:

  • expected contribution to the funding opportunity’s stated objectives
  • significance of your chosen topic or areas for synthesis, based on the issues identified in this funding opportunity for applications
  • potential influence and impact in informing policy and practice in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors
  • identification of research gaps that might be addressed by a forward-looking research agenda in the chosen areas

Feasibility: the plan to achieve excellence (30%)

This includes:

  • ability to meet the objectives of the funding opportunity
  • appropriateness of the methodology or approach and of the work plan, including timelines for the design and conduct of the activity
  • quality and appropriateness of knowledge mobilisation plans, including effective dissemination, exchange and engagement with stakeholders within or beyond the research community, where applicable
  • appropriateness of the requested budget

Capability: the expertise to succeed (30%)

This includes:

  • qualifications of you and your team to carry out the proposed project (such as expertise in the research area, synthesis methods, information retrieval and indigenous research)
  • evidence of other knowledge mobilisation activities (such as films, performances, commissioned reports, knowledge syntheses, experience collaborating or interacting with stakeholders, and contributions to public debate and the media) and of impacts on policy and practice


You should expect to receive the assessment panel’s outcomes end of March 2025.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

For queries relating to the UK components of applications.


We aim to respond within five working days.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

For queries relating to the application process.


Additional info


A growing number of global challenges, such as climate change, pandemics, and the housing crisis, alongside rapid technological and social change, are challenging the suitability of current governance models. These challenges create opportunities to rethink our perception and understanding of governance structures, helping pave the way for models that integrate diverse perspectives, while also providing greater agency to marginalised individuals and communities that are excluded from or face barriers in existing governance models.

It is time to learn from the past and look at ways to make these governance systems work better. The complexity of current global challenges calls for an innovative approach to governance that is proactive and collaborative, informed by a variety of evidence, perspectives and voices. This likely will require cross-sectoral engagement, involving non-state actors, such as communities, as well as the involvement of different levels of government, at the local, national and international levels.

SSHRC, CIHR, AHRC and ESRC have partnered on this funding opportunity to support research that will foster a deeper understanding of the state of knowledge about the global challenge of envisioning governance systems that work.

Envisioning governance systems that work is one of 16 future global challenges identified through SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future. The aims and focus of the envisioning governance structures that work knowledge synthesis grant aligns well with ESRC and AHRC’s strategic priorities around contemporary challenges.

The outcomes of this knowledge synthesis grant will enhance understanding of the complex relationship between society and effective governance systems, particularly in relation to decision-making for collective actions and the role of individual and collective agency in decision-making processes.

It will also provide insights into the challenges of governance and how issues such as trust and accountability influence responses to threats to international security, political instability, population health and economic recession and the dissatisfaction, divisions, and tensions that these can cause.

Information webinar for researchers

A webinar will be hosted on 25 June 2024 at 3pm UK time.

The webinar will review the application process for both application streams and provide researchers with an opportunity to ask questions.

Reserve a spot for the webinar.

Supporting documents

Budget form (DOCX, 80KB)


  • 12 June 2024
    Information webinar details added under Additional info.
  • 3 June 2024
    Knowledge synthesis grant networking forms added in Related content section.

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