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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.

During the “engagement” phase, I combined my bean-counting background with the new policy tools that CB150 taught me. As a member on the Board of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, I attend #CAEH2017 annually, a conference providing participants with tools and training needed to end homelessness in their communities. The conference listens to innovative grassroots ideas by inviting experts, advocates, and persons with lived-experience to present and attend seminars to foster dialogue and solutions. I thought it would be a good idea to ask some CB150 questions on technology and housing affordability at #CAEH2017. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) team drafted the questions and we ran it by the conference organizers who immediately informed us that they thought the questions may not illicit responses because of how they were worded. CAEH ended up advising us how we should word the questions so they were more appropriate for the demographic to motivate a response. The survey was sent out with no incentive offered and yet received responses that added value from a diversity and inclusion perspective.

This exercise taught me to take risks, be open minded and engage early to gain efficiencies. I will always look to incorporating more feedback from the people working in the field as this empowers innovative ideas from the grassroots. From this experience and CB150, I have learned to consider inclusion and stakeholder engagement as an integral part of my approach to designing policy and process solutions. My personal observation is that we need more up-front involvement from citizens in the policy creation process. Working within a multidepartment group of people on the SDG team demonstrated that collaboration across departments can breed more powerful solutions and that working groups designed like CB150 teams can help break down silos with the government and departments.

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.

Opening Government to Improve Outcomes

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.

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Seeing Beyond My Own Perspective

I am a member of the Sustainable Development Team on the Canada Beyond 150 project.  Throughout the Insight and Scenario portions of the project, my team came to the point where we needed more information than we could provide ourselves. We realized that in order for us to look into what the future may look like, we need to talk to the people who are currently working on Sustainable Development Goals here in Canada.

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Is “Tell-Us-Once” the Future of Government Services?

The speed and convenience of commercial services has dramatically increased in recent years. Today, a whole host of things – music, news, books, and movies – are available instantly from the push of a digital button.  This isn’t a strictly digital phenomenon; physical services have also sped up and improved customer service as a result of digital interfaces and more real-time connectivity– you can order a faster and cheaper taxi through various apps, you can get mail-ordered groceries online, Amazon has a diaper subscription service, etc.

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“Can you hear me now?” – Tips to Improve Virtual Participation

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.

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“The Legacy of canada@150”

We recently sat down with canada@150 alumni Mark Matz Executive Director of Oceans Protection Plan Operations at Transport Canada. In the podcast he speaks to his former experience as Privy Council Office’s Project lead of canada@150.

In the podcast he speaks to how canada@150 in its conception back in 2007 was a leadership development program that sought to explore different ways of collaborating, working together and approaching policy problems. In the interview he highlights how canada@150 inspired a technological component to collaboration in the Public Service. He also highlights policy horizon’s instrumental role in piloting foresight as a key tool for policy development.

Transcript available below:

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