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Bringing Canada Beyond 150 Back to Home Departments

One of the first techniques we learned during Canada Beyond 150 was scanning for ’weak signals’: taking in diverse sources on a contemporary issue, and identifying information that suggests potential disruptive changes to a system in the next ten to fifteen years. It goes beyond the expected future to consider the range of plausible outcomes.

Each Canada Beyond 150 team did several weeks of scanning for weak signals in their respective focus area. I was a member of the team looking at the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. In looking for weak signals, the team covered a diverse range of topics including impact bonds, microgrids, additive manufacturing, alternative modes of transportation, food sharing, and the psychology of being in nature. Our report traces our journey from this diverse range of topics to our policy intervention focused on creating an automated sustainability grading systems using new technologies such as blockchains.

I really appreciated learning about scanning for weak signals, because it is both easy to learn and a powerful technique for building a broader awareness of the current realities surrounding an issue, and how it may be changing.

I decided to start a scanning club in my policy team at the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. I asked everyone to think about the weak signal prompts as they read about Northern issues and events, and to bring their ideas to a short ‘scanning club’ meeting. We kept the tone fun and informal, and it became a team-building session. I was especially happy that it provided the students on the team with an opportunity to share their thinking and participate in policy discussions.

As other colleagues heard about it, they were also interested in participating. We opened up the scanning club to the other employees in the agency, including people in very different roles. Our shared discussions helped us create closer working relationships between the policy team and other parts of the agency. They also helped us develop a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with our mandate of strengthening Northern economies.


More information on scanning for weak signals and how it supports foresight analysis


Canada Beyond 150: The Armchair Discussion Series!

Over the course on the last ten months, the Canada Beyond 150 initiative convened a Canada-wide group of new public servants working in various capacities to participate in a professional development program designed to support leadership, and skills development, as well as drive culture shift across the public service.

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5 Things We Heard at Our Final Canada Beyond 150 Meeting

Canada Beyond 150 was a training program designed to help early-career public servants learn new ways of developing policy through increased engagement and collaboration with stakeholders.

Last week was our last official meeting with our Canada Beyond 150 participants, where they presented their policy interventions to managers and stakeholders. On the final day, they had the opportunity to talk about their journey and their ideas with the Clerk of the Privy Council and fifteen Deputy Ministers.

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Three Things We’ve Learned From Stakeholder Engagement

Over the past 10 months, Canada Beyond 150 participants have worked on 2 goals:

  1. Experimenting with new ways to develop policy;
  2. Learning to co-create and engage with a diverse spectrum of partners during early stages of policy development.

This will bring a positive cultural shift in the public service, and forward-looking insights into some of the most pressing issues facing the Canadian public policy environment.

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Foresight vs Forecast

If you’ve heard of Policy Horizons, you’ve probably heard that we’re a government think tank focused on strategic foresight. We call our experts futurists because they explore a wide range of possible futures – nothing to do with tea leaves ;). They study facts and events called “weak signals”, indicators of possible change that could potentially disrupt our current systems.

So what is foresight? How does it differ from forecasting?!

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Accounting for Intangibles: Experience with Engagement

As an accountant and an auditor, my world is made of rules, roadmaps, and quantifiable, measurable inputs. Canada Beyond 150, however, did not give me clarity of direction; it gave me a sandbox to play in. It would be an understatement to say I was uncomfortable at the beginning of the project; I did not know what tools in this new sandbox were best to pick up and experiment with. At first this seemed like every accountant’s nightmare made real. However, it became quickly apparent that CB150 gave me a platform to engage people in a way that was entirely new to me.

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Closing the Feedback Loop

The commitment to open policy development and innovative methods is a cornerstone of Canada Beyond 150. Teams have been collaborating with a broad range of people throughout the program.

A number of participants have asked for advice on practical ways to share what they have heard so far, and whether they need to act on the feedback. The answer is yes. As a minimum starting point, we all need to acknowledge the insights people share with us, honestly and respectfully. We know that Canadians care about their government engaging with them, and seeing evidence that their insights are helping shape policy.

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A Precarious Balance: Technology and Wellbeing in a Changing World

If digital technologies bring us closer, do they conversely run the risk of forcing us further apart?

Employing a Social Determinants of Health and Wellbeing lens, our group has explored this question in interviews with academics, NGO’s and government officials. Though new technology and profound socioeconomic changes occurring in parallel may be cause for concern, the news isn’t all bad.

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My Favourite F-Word and What I’ve Learned (So Far) About the Future of #FemGov in Canada

As we delve into the policy-making phase of Canada Beyond 150, I find myself reflecting on what a feminist government actually looks like. Beyond the superficial rhetoric and associated jargon, what does a feminist government mean to me? The stakes of not delivering on this complex, but important agenda are incredibly high—the possible consequences could bring more exclusion and inequality, especially for marginalized and vulnerable populations. And while I regret that this post doesn’t shed light on how we can achieve a feminist government, I want to share three key understandings that have emerged from many hours of consultations during this incredible journey with the Canada Beyond 150 feminist government team.

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Stakeholder Engagement: My Journey

Have you ever felt like you were trapped inside a bubble? Have you ever wondered what’s going on outside your office walls? I was grappling with this feeling, which finally went away recently.

A few short months ago, I would have never believed how easy it was to collaborate with stakeholders from outside the Government, probably because I had never experienced this type of activity. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a simple email was generally enough to almost immediately get a show of interest from dynamic people and leaders who are ready to give of their time to further a cause that is important to them. Everyone I contacted agreed to take part, even if they weren’t sure what it was all about or if they had never heard of the Canada Beyond 150 program. I was also pleasantly surprised by the generosity and candour of the stakeholders I contacted. We had honest and profound discussions, sometimes on touchy subjects such as private companies’ responsibility to the environment—subjects that do not have widely accepted solutions. These discussion sessions were one of the most important things I learned from the program, and I quickly realized that collaboration is the key to the development of relevant, integrative policies.

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