Working in the open: Weeks 13 & 14

One of Code for Canada’s principles is to operate in public. These bi-weekly blog posts put that value into practice, giving readers a window into what we’re doing — and how we do it.

During our weekly retrospectives, we often ask each other to describe our work week using a fun analogy, ie. if your week was a movie (meal, car, etc.), which one would it be? It seems silly at first, but often surfaces learnings about how we could work better, or at least puts us in the right mindset to reflect on our week.

It’s a practice we think we’ll try for these weeknotes. So, if the past two weeks at Code for Canada were an animal, we think they’d be a hummingbird. Between interviewing fellows, demonstrating digital to public servants, researching the civic tech ecosystem, doing graphic design, writing blogs, and meeting with senior government officials, there was certainly a lot of buzzing from task to task.

Left: Gabe introducing staff at the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to digital government and civic tech. Right: some examples of what digital can look like in government!

Gabe and Meghan put their teacher hats on this week, delivering a three-day intensive version of Digital Government and Civic Tech to staff at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. The class introduces public servants to digital methods like agile development and human-centred design, and is a condensed version of the class they’ll be teaching together this Fall at Ryerson University.

The MTO operates one of the largest IT systems in the province, and staff there are excited about what digital and civic tech holds for their corner of the public service.

If Meghan’s tweets were any indication, the class was a huge success and a lot of fun for all involved. As part of the icebreaker exercise, participants even got design superhero-themed trading cards for each other. Check out Gabe and Meghan’s:

Gabe also travelled to Ottawa, visiting Employment and Social Development Canada’s Innovation Lab, meeting with staff at the new Canadian Digital Service, as well as senior officials at the Treasury Board, including federal Chief Information Officer Alex Benay. Overall, there’s a lot of excitement and interest about Code for Canada in Ottawa, particularly around the fellows, who will be working alongside the CDS starting in the fall!

Lia and Luke completed another interview milestone with prospective fellows. In the past two weeks, Lia and Luke conducted screening interviews with 105 potential fellows who made it past the first hurdle. They’ve selected the top 45 and began technical interviews this week. Once again, we’re grateful to the panel of expert developers,designers and product managers who are volunteering their time to interview fellows. Although some of the technical discussion goes over our heads, it’s been fascinating to watch panellists and potential fellows discuss their approach to developing digital products.

To help level the playing field among fellows, we’re conducting interviews via appear.in and Skype. The latter caused some consternation this week, as we realized that we had all forgot how to conduct conference calls on the platform. It took Luke, Lia and Meghan working together to figure it out. Not exactly Code for Canada’s proudest moment.

How many Code for Canada employees does it take to figure out Skype?

Once the technical interviews are complete, the remaining candidates will still need to complete another personal interview followed by a group challenge. We’re on schedule for hiring, and fellows should begin training in October! We can’t wait.

Our summer employees, a.k.a. The #SummerSquad, are close to releasing the beta version of Code for Canada’s Civic Tech Toolkit. It will be a resource for organizers who want to start a civic tech group in their city, and is based on interviews with civic tech founders in Toronto and Ottawa. The first iteration will be shared with stakeholders and their feedback will be used to improve it.

And speaking of the summer crew, they recently filled many of the SEO gaps in our website. Not the most glamorous work, but it’s had a big result: codefor.ca now holds the top spot when you google Code for Canada! We doubt we’ll ever beat the “+1” (the dialing code for Canada) that pops up when you search for us, but hey, a feisty nonprofit can dream, right?

We got Code for Canada thank you cards! Forgive us for being excited about our own swag, but so many people have volunteered their time, knowledge and expertise to help Code for Canada, and being able to give them a tactile expression of our gratitude leaves us all warm and fuzzy.

The first card is definitely going to Mari, who designed the cards themselves. They look great!

Lastly, today is our first quarterly retrospective! We have a lot to look back on: our launch event in April, getting the fellowship program off the ground, growing our staff, and meeting civic tech organizers from across Canada — and the world. We’ve also got a lot to look forward to, from meeting our first fellows to scaling up our community network program, and the quarterly review will help us set our priorities and establish our objectives and key results.

Have a great two weeks!