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.
Category: From the Design Team
Open Government is a concept. It’s a view into government. It’s an invitation to stakeholders, citizens and civil society to help shape government decisions and actions. It is not a program or policy, yet both can be part of achieving the vision of a government that encourages civic participation, invites accountability and demonstrates transparency. Examples of open government include proactively disclosing financial and human resources-related information online and publishing expenditures that can be displayed visually or as machine-readable charts. These measures are intended to strengthen public sector management.
Almost a quarter of the participants in the Canada Beyond 150 project live and work outside of the National Capital Region. They’re expected to contribute to the project in the same way their Ottawa- and Gatineau-based colleagues do, but the task hasn’t been easy. And for many of them, this isn’t a new challenge either.
Here are some do’s and don’ts we learned from working with our participants in the region.
I have been wearing glasses all day, every day, for 19 years. I don’t do anything without them, and feel vulnerable when I see the world through my weak, bare eyes. But last week, in Winnipeg, I didn’t need my glasses to see where my work was going on the Canada Beyond 150 project.
My team and I were recently in Winnipeg, for the mid-project meeting and stakeholder interviews. Our group works on the theme of reconciliation. As part of our learning experience, we participated in a sweat lodge ceremony that was hosted by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR). Kevin, from the NCTR (located on the University of Manitoba campus), made us feel at ease, and taught us about the centre; its mission, members, and the facility. There, I had my very first smudging, to cleanse the mind and prepare me for the conversations we were about to have with each other and our hosts. The dried sage was lit and extinguished, and my hands guided the smoke over my head, face, heart, and body.
Once the intention was set, the conversation turned to focus on policy. Policy, according to Stuart Forestell, one of Canada Beyond 150’s project team designers, is the answer to the question: “what should we do?”.
The room was presented with a scenario concerning an individual with some challenges. The story was designed to help guide the discussion in a focused manner on the traditional and emerging policy tools that can be used or considered. We talked about what can be done, how a shift can be communicated to individuals, businesses, and lawmakers, and what the possible consequences may be.
This was one of the first things the Canada Beyond 150 group heard this morning; a fitting description of the program and the journey so far.
This morning, the discussion was around the pivot point: the shift from foresight and the ideas of many possibilities, into the complex world of concrete considerations, recommendations, and applications.
Given everything heard, learned, taught, and examined over the last few months, what can now be applied to the work participants are doing in their service to Canadians at their respective departments?
What lies ahead is a positive vision of a fully engaged workplace, helped by the knowledge and experience gained by each participant. It’s the time to engage, have conversations, ask, learn, listen and have fun.
Our participants have set a course for Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they will hold an important work meeting where the teams will start to explore policy challenges and their possible solutions. The participants will also take advantage of this meeting to share their analysis of the theme they studied.
As Doug Collins said, to change a team you need to change its comfort zone! A comfort zone is like a bubble, a universe that is familiar to us. It’s safe, but it stops at the unknown. It’s important to push the limits in order to grow. The decision to hold the mid-project meeting in Winnipeg was deliberate—first of all, we wanted our participants to meet outside of the National Capital Region, get out of their comfort zone or “bubble” and get comfortable with the unknown to help their professional development.
… to the question, “What should we do?”
We have answers to what we must do. Those are laws and regulations.
And we have answers for how we should do things. We observe, listen, and consult; we engage and design.
Research gives us facts about what we could do, and various approaches to doing it. Analysis tells us whether those approaches are any good or not. They can be qualitative, quantitative, experimental – you name it. But that’s what they do.
As the project work for Canada Beyond 150 kicks off, it’s natural to want to align your efforts to a final product. As participants in a policy development initiative, you might reasonably speculate: Is this about creating a new policy or program? Is this about developing a new tool that could help the Government of Canada better deliver services? Or is this about something different altogether, something that I haven’t yet imagined?
As one of the project planners for Canada Beyond 150, I know that the project is designed to have very real and tangible outcomes. Each of you will help develop policy prototypes to test and refine in collaboration with stakeholders and partners in the civil service and beyond. Along the way, you will also build up your policy knowledge base, assemble a new and innovative toolkit of methods and approaches, and forge enduring relationships with stakeholders and partners.
I will add that there are very likely to be a number of intangible outcomes too. Outcomes that we can’t strictly speaking “plan” for, but outcomes that will contribute to culture change, enhanced capacity in the policy community, and better results for Canadians all the same.