Stories of Collaboration: Code for Canada x Code for Australia
Collaboration is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the world of tech, design and impact. But what does it look like and how can it happen? This series seeks to show the many ways our members are working in collaboration, across the world.
As part of the Code for Australia Base Team, I’ve spent a lot of time swapping notes, ideas and resources with the Code for Canada team.
And it’s definitely been a two-way street, more than just logo inspiration — when Code for Canada was just beginning, we shared working documents and thoughts on how to set up Fellowship programs, and how to work with governments. As they’ve grown, the conversations we’ve held have matured into things like:
- How can we bring more perspectives from indigenous communities into our work?
- How can we better support our teams to resolve conflict?
- How do we talk about and codify inclusive practices around gender identities and expressions?
Here’s an inside peek at how our relationship has developed over the past years, what’s enabled it to thrive and how it’s useful to both organisations.
Answers are from both myself with my Code for Australia hat on, and also the amazing Meha Shah from Code for Canada.
How do you keep in touch?
Grace (Code for Australia): I can’t remember how it happened, I actually think it was Lia Milito’s idea, but one day there was a new shared channel in Slack called #can_aus_embassy with everyone from both sides in it. Before that we’d been having informal catch ups between various members of both teams, but the shared chat has made it incredibly easy to ask quick questions and share praise.
Meha (Code for Canada): Timezones aside, the modern tools we have, from Slack to Hangouts, make it pretty easy to stay in touch. I certainly feel like the Code for Australia team is a lot closer than geography would suggest :-)
While I’ve yet to attend a Code for All conference, I’ve heard the stories of the epic hangouts between Code for Canada and Code for Australia at the events. Having those opportunities to hang out in real life has really solidified the relationship between our organisations.
How do you support each other’s work?
Grace (Code for Australia): In many ways! Sharing resources and work, sharing frameworks and stories. Supporting each other when the work feels heavy. Swapping notes on best practices (e.g. communications, recruitment, and skill testing). We constantly use Code for Canada’s Storytelling Canvas and Rose Bud and Thorn format for blogging. I don’t know what we’ve sent Code for Canada that’s been useful, other than the logo. That’s always a chuckle!
To point to one specific example, Luke Simcoe (Code for Canada’s Communications Lead) and I have regular monthly calls called “Marketeers Unite”. It’s a chance for us to chat through what we’re thinking about, experimenting with and stuck on, with someone who’s in a very similar situation! Because we’re communication teams of one at our respective organisations, it’s so helpful having someone to chat things over with.
Meha (Code for Canada): Sharing resources, bouncing ideas off one another as Grace mentioned. We also asked Code for Australia to share information about our Fellowship panel (all volunteer panel of experienced designers, developers and product managers that supports with the technical aspects of assessment) amongst their network. As a result, we had a Code for Australia former fellow lead technical interviews for some UX design candidates. So that’s been great!
What has that meant for your work as an individual and an organisation?
Grace (Code for Australia): As an individual and working in civic tech in Australia, it’s quite lonely. The civic tech ecosystem here isn’t as robust as it is elsewhere in the world. So, most importantly for me, it’s meant having support and feeling connected. It’s meant pushing my skills further rather than mashing stuff together, and it’s meant having direction when things on the home front have been up in the air.
Meha (Code for Canada): It’s great to hear the perspective of someone who understands the context of our work but is external to the organization and therefore not so much in the weeds of our work. This really helps push my thinking — it is also great to learn how programs evolve over time as we are a young organization.
What similarities or differences are there in your contexts?
Grace (Code for Australia): Our governments seem at a very similar position in the journey towards digital transformation, which means a lot of our programs make sense in both contexts, lending itself to natural collaboration and peer-learning. In differences, I’d say the thriving ecosystem of civic tech organisations doing awesome things in Canada is definitely lacking here in Australia. Thanks for Code for Canada — that’s something we’re now turning our attention to.
Meha (Code for Canada): I’m still somewhat new to the C4C team, but I know that as an organization, especially early on, it’s been valuable for us to have an example to point to of a similar organization that’s operating in a country with a parliamentary system.
Governments are often reticent to compare themselves to jurisdictions with different political systems, so having a Commonwealth country to cite really helped us show our partners that the fellowship and the whole ‘Code for’ model really works.
What would you say to others wanting to work closely with other organisations?
Grace (Code for Australia): Make it regular and establish a foundation of trust! When time gets stretched, often learning is the first thing to get cut. By having protected time in your diary for regular catch ups, it helps zoom out of the day-to-day happenings and look at things more objectively. Regularity also helps get to a point where you can dive into the details of work, rather than trying to cover a lot at a high level.
On the trust front, both organisations being part of Code for All has been a big part of that initial trust building, but also the face-to-face time we’ve had over the years, through summit, has enabled us to build on that. Again, regular catch ups mean that it’s something that does fade or fall by the wayside.
Meha (Code for Canada): At our recent Code for Canada Showcase, one of our speakers noted how important it is to ‘find the others.’ We’re doing digital transformation and culture change work; it’s big, it’s hard, it’s complex and deeply human work. Having others who have been through similar things is an invaluable asset. They can help you shorten runways, unblock sticky problems and more.
So my advice is simply to do it. Find your others and ask for their advice, support, help, etc. Chances are they’re looking for the same things, and they’ll be glad you asked!
That’s all for this story, but keep your eyes out for more like this soon. A massive thank you to Meha Shah for sharing her time and thoughts, on behalf of Code for Canada.
If you have further questions on any of the projects highlighted, join us on the Code for All Slack to continue the conversation or check out the Code for Canada website or Code for Australia website.