Working in the Open: Weeks 27 & 28

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.

Happy Halloween! If the past two weeks at Code for Canada were a classic Halloween costume, they’d be the Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Our inaugural cohort of fellows have arrived, and with them comes the feeling that we’re assembling a team and embarking on an incredible quest! And hey, at times like that, we could all use a little courage.

Fellowship onboarding is underway! The 2017 fellows touched down Oct. 16, and our focus has been on preparing them — and their government hosts — to work and learn together effectively. The fellows are nearly halfway through their four-week onboarding, and have been part of some pretty awesome presentations, activities and discussions. It’s a lot to take in, but the fellows have jumped in with both feet.

Some of the highlights so far include:

  • A series of “Government 101” discussions, featuring Ontario’s Chief Digital Officer, Hillary Hartley, and Anatole Papadopoulos, Director of the Canadian Digital Service. The session was a great intro to how government works, and helped prepare fellows not only to build great digital public services, but also to advocate for new ways of working. Fellows were impressed by how excited folks from both governments are to work with them, and grateful to know there are people inside the public service looking for opportunities to innovate and serve residents better!
  • A presentation from Dan Hon, who helped lead Code for America’s work with the California child welfare system. The project is an inspiring example of how to introduce agile development and procurement practices to government. Fellows appreciated hearing the story behind the story, and learning about all the different nuts, bolts and puzzle pieces that came together to enable change. Fellows also got to chat with their counterparts at Code for America, who are just wrapping up their most recent fellowship!
  • An engaging session about effective teamwork and negotiation by David Eaves, one of Canada’s leading digital government thinkers and a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
  • Public presentation training courtesy of our partners at National Public Relations. The fellows will be working in the open throughout the fellowship and communication will be an important tool for driving change, making an impact and demonstrating what’s possible. The fellows are all excited to start writing and speaking about their work, so stay tuned!

There’s lots more coming in onboarding, and you can follow along here on or blog, on Twitter, or by subscribing to our newsletter.

The fellows got their Code for Canada track jackets last week! From left: Daniel Tse, Santiago Mendoza, Sophie Sengmany, Raluca Ene, Christine Lee and Leon Lukashevsky.

The fellows are now in the middle of their first sprint, a design exercise based on real challenges presented by their government hosts. In just four days, they’ll do user research, build a prototype and demo it with their government partners! It’s a chance for fellows to test out their skills on a public sector project, learn to work together as a team, and gain insight into the kinds of challenges commonly faced by the government departments where they’ll be working!

Next up for the fellows is a trip to Ottawa for FWD50, a three-day conference in Ottawa on Nov. 1–3 dedicated to digital government transformation! It’s a great opportunity for fellows to meet other government innovators and see just how much excitement and momentum there is around digital government in Canada. Code for Canada is also organizing three sessions at FWD50, including a keynote by our Director of Partnerships, Dorothy Eng, on Nov. 2! Look for us on the schedule, and we’ll see you there!

If you’re thinking about attending FWD50, Code for Canada supporters can get 15% off tickets!

Earlier this month, we organized a second call with civic tech organizers from across the country! Code for Canada is committed to supporting the national civic tech ecosystem; figuring out how best to do that starts with speaking to the people on the ground, those organizing meetups and working on cool projects.

The call was a chance to touch base with existing civic tech groups, and celebrate the arrival of new ones, including groups in Kitchener-Waterloo, Fredericton and Vancouver! Topics discussed included how to facilitate sharing information and learning between groups, how civic tech groups in different cities can collaborate on shared projects, and how the national civic tech community could contribute to Infrastructure Canada’s upcoming Smart Cities Challenge.

From left: Civic Tech London, Civic Tech Waterloo Region and Civic Tech Fredericton are some of the latest arrivals to Canada’s civic tech community!

If you’d like to learn more, or are thinking about starting a civic tech group in your city, check out our Civic Tech Toolkit!

We hosted our second online Open House. It was great to connect with those who weren’t able to attend some of the Open Houses we held in cities across the country over the summer. Gabe offered an update on the fellowship program and introduced the 2017 fellows, and Meghan provided the latest news on our Education and Community Network programs.

Our next online Open House will take place in the first half of December. Subscribe to our Meetup page for more details!

Luke returned from vacation on Oct. 19, jetlagged but excited to meet the fellows. While in Taipei he connected with members of the local civic tech community and had a fantastic discussion about the role technology has played in transforming government in Taiwan, and about what our two countries and communities can learn from one another. Thanks a lot to T.H. Schee for making the connection!

It’s been an amazing two weeks, but we think that just about covers it. Have a great Halloween, and we’ll see you in November for the next edition of Working in the Open!