Grande Prairie Mayor sees agile as valuable tool to solve complex public sector challenges

“People in my position need new tools and new ways of approaching our work.”

Photo courtesy of Bill Given

Bill Given is a member of the AGL Association and the Mayor of Grande Prairie, Alberta, a young and growing community on the Alaska Highway. First elected in 2001, Mayor Given holds the distinction of being the youngest person ever elected to Grande Prairie’s City Council at the age of 24. He was elected to the Mayor’s seat in 2010 where he continues to serve.

Being in public service for most of his adult life has not lessened Mayor Given’s determination to seek better ways of doing things for the benefit of his constituents. In this interview he shares his perspectives on the potential of agile to help solve public sector challenges.

Why are you part of AGL and what inspires you about this community?

I’ve been an elected official for almost eighteen years now, with over half that time in the role of Mayor. I was pointed towards the concept of agile in an almost off-handed way as I completed my Master of Arts in Leadership. At the time, the reference made me think that agile had potential as a useful tool in addressing some of the complex problems I often face in my role as an elected official.

Elected leaders like myself deal with multi-faceted challenges and wicked problems each and every day. In the past year our council has navigated issues such the legalization of cannabis, response to the opioid epidemic, neighbourhood revitalization, and negotiation of multilateral and bilateral service arrangements with other communities.

Each of these issues (and a whole host of others) are happening in a context of societal change where old structures and approaches seem to be faltering. People in my position need new tools and new ways of approaching our work. AGL offers a community where we can learn what’s working for others who have faced similar challenges.

AGL offers a community where we can learn what’s working for others who have faced similar challenges.

What past experience / knowledge do you look forward to sharing with others?

I think my experience will allow me to add perspective on how elected officials think, the challenges they face, and what kinds of solutions we tend to gravitate towards. I may also be able to provide some examples and stories of where agile approaches may be useful outside the IT / tech domain.

Trying out Council Chambers with 6th grade students.

What do you hope to learn from others?

I’d like to gain insights on where to look for accessible learning or training on agile principles, and ideally I would love to find examples of explicit and intentional application of agile in government decision making, outside of the technology context.

I would love to find examples of explicit and intentional application of agile in government decision making, outside of the technology context.

What positive impact do you think AGL can bring to the government innovation community?

I’m hoping that the AGL community can serve as a safe space for people like me to learn from others, expand our knowledge, and test new ideas.

How can people get in touch with you?

Being an elected official means being as accessible as possible — so you can find me on Facebook (/GPMayor), Twitter (@BillGiven), or LinkedIn (BillGiven).

Join Bill Given and others who are committed to helping government work better:https://www.agilegovleaders.org/join/