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.