Summit 2020: Harnessing diversity to create change with Katy Lalonde
We’re excited to introduce you to some of the incredible humans you’ll meet at the Code for Canada 2020 Summit in Toronto, March 10–11. They’ll be on stage, sharing tangible learnings from their work, celebrating wins, and discussing the challenges of digital transformation. Will you be there?
In her role as Director at the Ontario Digital Service, Katy works to create the conditions needed to drive digital transformation across government — she works to clear barriers, build teams, make connections and lead with kindness.
The Code for Canada Summit is all about demonstrating what’s possible. Why do you think it’s important for those in civic tech and digital government to share and show their work?
I’ve worked in government for 12 years and been with the Ontario Digital Service since before it was officially formed over three years ago. Since the beginning we’ve preached the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ mantra. I think it’s important for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s important to show what’s possible on a very practical level so that others feel empowered to incorporate new ways of working into their day-to-day jobs. Not everywhere can run full Agile product teams or design sprints, but hopefully they can find small tools, techniques or new ways of thinking that they can slowly start to bring into their practice.
Second, I think it’s important to be aspirational, but also realistic. We need a space to talk about what’s working and what isn’t. Digital government is hard work and we don’t get everything right. A community of showing helps us learn from our own and others’ mistakes.
When it comes to the civic tech and digital government movement in Canada, what’s working?
We’ve established a really strong foundation. In Ontario we have a great mix of players in the space — the Ontario Digital Service inside of government, along with some really talented digital teams in Ministries and at other levels of government; an active and engaged civic tech community; a dynamic and thriving private sector; and, an academic community asking interesting questions and diving into complex digital issues.
It’s a vibrant community and allows for collaboration, but also includes a healthy tension, challenging governments to move forward in a more thoughtful way.
When it comes to the civic tech and digital government movement in Canada, what’s not working?
Although we have an ecosystem made up of players from different sectors, the digital and civic tech space is still not nearly diverse enough. We need a wider variety of voices at the table that are asking hard questions and challenging our assumptions. More and more digital conversations are tackling not only products but also complex policy issues about how technology is used in our lives. If we are going to have inclusive, empathetic conversations, we need more diverse voices and we need them at all levels of the organization, including in leadership roles.
And what do you think is needed to take Canada’s civic tech and digital government movement to the next level?
I think we’ve made great progress across Canada on getting digital started. Almost every province now has a central digital government team that is working to build digital products and standards and spread digital ways of working.
I think the next evolution is to move beyond building digital products to building digital teams. There are great digital teams operating in ministries and departments, but we need more of them and not just in technology, but in program design, policy and operations. Getting empowered, multi-disciplinary, diverse teams tackling complex government problems in a people-centred way is the ultimate goal.
What are you most looking forward to at Summit?
Summits are as much about the conversations on the stage as those off the stage. I am looking forward to chatting with people from across the digital government and civic tech space and hearing about what everyone is working on and the challenges they are having.