Political Acuity

About this Online Workshop

Political acuity is among the hardest concepts to teach or employ. Traditional thinking suggests you either have it, or you don’t. New research and the real-life experiences of the course instructor combine to provide a candid and insightful conversation about what it means to be politically astute. The workshop will use case-based discussions to explore new approaches to thinking and analysis that will remove the mysteries of what it means to think politically and enhance the quality of our analysis and capacity for strategic thinking.

This module will introduce participants to the skills and abilities needed to understand and cultivate your political acuity and strategic thinking. Participants will focus on building skills to better work with formal and informal systems, practices, relationships and cultures so that you can identify impacts, influence decisions and achieve organizational objectives. Participants will develop skills to better predict the way new events and emerging issues will affect their municipality, the public and stakeholders. We will delve into techniques for providing that will ultimately meet the needs and expectations of elected officials and their political staff and build skills for problem solving when there is a ‘disconnect’ between short-term and longer-term objectives.

Political Acuity involves the ability to identify real decision-makers and understand how an organization really works. It is the ability to appreciate, understand and use formal and informal power relationships within organizations and within the political structure, and predict how new events will affect individuals and groups

The workshop explores what political acuity means in a practical sense in your role as a public servant working in a political environment.  Political acuity will be defined, its importance set out and application explored in your daily work in the current environment. 

NOTE: This is an interactive, virtual workshop, which is different from a webinar. Participants will be expected to participate through voice and video, and to engage with each other and the facilitator in large and small group discussions, to learn from each other and practice skill development.

Learning Objectives

  • You will understand what political acuity is and why its valuable. 
  • You will learn how to appreciate and understand the informal and formal power relationships, especially where the public service and political systems intersect (hierarchies and reporting structures) 
  • You will learn to predict the way new events and emerging issues will affect individuals and groups
  • You will identify and explore how to build and strengthen key relationships with stakeholders. 
  • You will understand the current environment and its implications for your work. 
  • You will strengthen your ability to provide strategic advice and direction to ensure it gets used. 
  • You will develop an action plan to strengthen your own political smarts

The Approach

Session 1:  

Introduction to Political Acuity

  • Shift from surprise and survive to effective analysis, advice and leadership
  • What is political acuity?
  • Self-assessment tool and analysis
  • Leveling up tools and techniques
  • Understanding formal and informal context and players
  • Building our political antennae
  • Being political but not partisan

Proactive and Strategic Stakeholder Engagement

  • Identifying goals and objectives in stakeholder engagement
  • Categorizing and analyzing stakeholders differently
  • Tools and techniques for in-depth stakeholder analysis
  • Building networks and strategic alliances for stakeholder engagement

Session 2:

The Proactive-Strategic Thinker – Influence, Reading the Room and Crafting the Ask

  • Achieve your goals and objectives by better understanding influence and influence techniques and tools
  • Get more out of every meeting and encounter - active listening and body language exercises
  • Crafting the ask - how can I be more concise and precise in briefings?

Managing Optics

  • Apply your political acuity to understanding optics
  • How to avoid bad optics and reputational damage
  • Effective tools and best practices for dealing with optics in a crisis
  • Case studies and real-live examples from every level of government
  • Building values and ethics into decision making

Who Should Attend?

This workshop will be of interest to human services staff who make key decisions and especially to those that write reports for council and other levels of government.


Two, three-and-a-half-hour online workshops held over two consecutive days.

Workshop Dates and Registration

All sessions in Eastern Standard Time.

October 9 & 16, 2024

  • Part 1: Wednesday, October 9 | 8:30 – 12:00  

  • Part 2: Wednesday, October 16 | 8:30 – 12:00

  •  Registration Cut-Off: Monday, October 7

Register Today


  • Members: $425 + HST

  • Non-Members: $555 + HST

  • Non-Member Education Level 1/2: $445 + HST

Bring This Workshop to Your Staff

OMSSA can work with you to deliver this workshop to you and your team in an in-person format at a time that works for you. We can also customize the content of each workshop to meet your specific needs. Contact OMSSA's Director, Education Christie Herrington to learn more about bringing this workshop to your staff. 


Here are what some attendees had to say about this workshop:

Peter made a difficult concept understandable in bite size pieces.

Good instructor; knowledgeable; professional experience, able to draw on for examples.

[The instructor was] very easy to listen to, very funny, and responsive to the group and to individuals.

Technical Requirements

OMSSA hosts this virtual workshop using Zoom, an online, interactive platform that you can join straight from your web browser, or by downloading 'Zoom Client for Meetings' on your computer or tablet

Participants will be expected to join the workshop via both video and audio. Participants should therefore have access to a desktop computer, laptop computer or tablet with:

  • a webcam or built-in camera

  • a built-in microphone or a headphone jack where you can plug in a headset or earphones

We strongly recommend that participants use a headset or earphones with a built-in microphone in order to limit background noise. 

System requirements: Click here for more detailed information on system requirements from Zoom.

About the Facilitator

Dr. Peter P. Constantinou,
President and CEO, Political Acuity Institute
Professor, School of Public Policy and Administration, York University
Academic Director, Ontario Legislature Internship Programme

Peter Constantinou is one of Canada’s leading public policy practitioner academics and award winning university lecturer.  He holds a BA (Specialized Honours) in Public Policy and Administration from York University, and an MA in Public Policy and Administration from McMaster, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Toronto. His doctoral dissertation was a landmark study of government relations with stakeholders in the post-secondary education sector in Ontario.

Dr. Constantinou is a long-time public servant who has worked at the federal and provincial levels of government and in the college and university sector.  He was a Research Analyst with the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing; a Policy Analyst, Senior Policy Advisor and Senior International Trade Advisor with the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy; and Chief of Staff to an Ontario Minister of Education and Training. Before joining York, Peter was Director of Government Relations at Seneca College and Special Advisor to the President, responsible for the government and community engagement that led to the creation of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), now Ontario Tech University. He currently holds the post of Academic Director of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme.

For over 25 years, Peter has been active in teaching and research in the area of public policy and administration.  Dr. Constantinou is currently working with the International Financial Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group to provide advice to government officials, academic leaders and faculty in universities and colleges.  

Dr. Constantinou’s study Political Acuity and Council-Staff Relations in the Canadian Journal of Local Government has been the basis for development of training programs for staff and executive teams in hundreds of municipalities throughout Canada and abroad, including working with clients in Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Israel, Peru, United Kingdom, Vietnam, among others. To date he has worked with 480 Chinese partners at the municipal and provincial levels and delivered over 500 lectures and workshops.  He has been a visiting professor and delivered workshops in China for Zhejiang Shuren University and Suqian College.