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Category: Participant Voices

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


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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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.

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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My Future of Work

It was the third day of a seemingly ceaseless workshop, and I was exhausted. We were all exhausted. And yet there was also a sense of exhilaration, of elation in the room. The three Socio-economic Inclusion (SEI) teams were gathered to refine our policy challenges and opportunities, sharing ideas shaped by our diverse individual interests and expertise, and respectfully debating contentious issues, when it occurred to me: Work could be like this. This was work: engaging in deep critical thought, challenging ourselves and each other, questioning the questions, and attempting to find answers.

I went to Winnipeg to dive deep into the future of work, and I ended up experiencing a very clear vision of what I hope my future of work will look like: building connections with deeply inspiring colleagues, openly sharing diverse perspectives, freedom to express dissent, and always space to laugh. We entered the program as individuals from across the Federal Government, varied in life and work experience, and cohered as a team, free of hierarchy or pretense. We approached problems in a way that none of us could have on our own, or working within the silos of our home departments and agencies.

I now recognize what I was seeing. One of the first weak signals shared by a Canada Beyond 150 colleague expressed shifting notions of diversity and inclusion. While baby boomers and Gen X view diversity as equal representation and protections regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity (among other identity factors), for millennials, diversity is the integration of myriad backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, and bringing them all to bear upon a single problem. And where earlier generations understand inclusion as a moral imperative to make space for diverse individuals in a workplace, for millennials, inclusion is a much more active concept. For this generation, inclusion refers to an openly collaborative environment that values different ideas and perspectives, and actively draws them in. Further, millennials know that these forms of diversity and inclusion have strongly positive impacts on an organization.

This may be the greatest insight I have gained from my participation in this program so far. Work can be like this. Work should be like this. What we can accomplish when we truly value diversity and inclusion, when we actively work to draw out multiple perspectives, is not only staggering, it is beautiful.

Building Bridges

At the time I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but while I was in Winnipeg there was this certain song on loop in my head. From the time I woke up, throughout our discussions with various Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners in reconciliation, and well into the evening visits to museums and over dinners, it just kept playing. Unlike some of those less than pleasant earworms that can get in there – It’s A Small World anyone?! – this was a pleasant companion to underscore my days. It wasn’t until I stopped to reflect, that I realized this song’s lyrics were providing me with key kernels of wisdom for breaking open the present conversations I was having on Indigenous reconciliation. The song? Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel.

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Live. Tweet. Learn.

It was not unlike many mornings in the office, save for one thing. As I sat sipping my coffee, responding to emails and completing my daily work, a stream of Twitter notifications lit up my screen. I was left thinking: what had I posted that could possibly generate so much interest? New to the whole idea of tweeting while at work, I was a little apprehensive about checking for fear of falling down a rabbit hole. But I did, and quickly realized the traffic was on a Canada Beyond 150 tweet I had made a few weeks back while I was working with my group in Ottawa. A tweet demonstrating a snippet of the ideas that had sprouted from one conversation and that was taken out of context – not an entirely surprising occurrence on Twitter.

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