Working in the Open: Weeks 29 & 30

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.

If the past two weeks at Code for Canada were a sports metaphor, they’d be the last kilometre of a marathon. Since June, the team has been sprinting ahead recruiting, hiring and training fellows, while also doing the necessary work to help Code for Canada scale and grow. It’s been a long run, but last week, the inaugural cohort of fellows completed onboarding and are now working alongside their hosts at the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada! So, while the fellows’ race is just beginning, those of us at Code for Canada HQ are going to take a minute, stretch our muscles and and enjoy the win!

The Code for Canada team, including all six fellows, had a blast at FWD50! One of the country’s first summits on digital government was three days of inspiring talks and great conversation about the role technology (and the people who build it!) can play in building a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable Canada.

From the fellows sporting their new jackets, to Gabe, Lia, Dorothy and Meghan all delivering presentations, the team proudly repped Code for Canada at the conference! Following Dorothy’s keynote about the fellowship program, we heard from audience members who were excited about Code for Canada (over at BetaKit, Holly Knowlman called the fellows “a swat team that can teach your whole team about better ways to build”) and from government departments interested in hosting fellows in the future!

There are too many highlights to mention, but hearing from some of the international speakers was inspiring. Siim Sikkut, CIO of Estonia, discussed the implementation of the country’s groundbreaking digital identity strategy, and Pia Waugh with New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs gave a rousing talk about digital transformation and the relationship between technology and civic engagement. Closer to home, it’s always a treat to hear from Laura Wesley, the Director of Consultations & Public Engagement at Canada’s Privy Council Office. Among other things, Laura is bringing a version of B.C.’s DevExchange to the federal level, making it easier for software developers and other tech professionals to participate in government projects!

Code for Canada’s Partnerships Director, Dorothy Eng, delivering a keynote address at FWD50!

We’d like to congratulate the entire FWD50 team for a successful event, and thank them for inviting us to participate. If you weren’t able to attend the conference, you can still check out all the slide decks here, and a photo gallery of the event here!

Speaking of conferences, Meghan has been on a public speaking tear recently. After FWD50 wrapped, Code for Canada’s Education and Community Manager headed straight to CanUX, and she’ll be speaking at DemocracyXChange in Toronto on Saturday (Nov. 18) and at GovMaker in New Brunswick on Nov. 20!

For the final week of onboarding, the fellows were joined by their government hosts for a series of collaborative workshops and team-building exercises. Sessions included a guide to understanding bureaucracies by Andrew Lovett-Barron, a Public Interest Technology Fellow at New America, and a very hands-on workshop on communication and negotiation from Misha Glouberman. The latter involved a number of roleplaying scenarios, and the fellows and their hosts learned a lot about each other by imagining themselves on the other side of a conversation.

By working alongside public servants familiar with the challenges they’ll be tackling, the fellows were also able to accelerate their scoping and framing of the problem space. The fellows asked their government partners a lot of questions and later reflected that having time to discuss the situation on the ground with the relevant subject matter experts was among the most valuable components of onboarding! In keeping with this week’s racing metaphor, Lia compared the experience to “that shell in Mario Kart that lets you zip ahead really fast.” (Editor’s note: it’s actually the mushroom in Mario Kart that gives you a speed boost, but we’ll give Lia a pass here).

The fellows also presented the results of their first design sprints to their government partners, demonstrating how they would approach a real public service problem!

This was our first experience onboarding fellows, so as it came to a close, we held one-on-one meetings with the fellows to get their feedback. Unsurprisingly, their suggestions were very thoughtful; among other things, they asked for more opportunities to informally build trust and rapport in their teams, and for a bit more time to set up their tools — from Trello to Invision — so they can hit the ground running in government! We look forward to incorporating their feedback into the next iteration of onboarding!

To celebrate the end of onboarding, we held two events on Nov. 9! First up was a press conference introducing the fellows in the morning. Both Ontario’s Chief Digital Officer Hillary Hartley and Anatole Papadopoulos, Director of the Canadian Digital Service, joined us to welcome the fellows to government and take part in a panel discussion. Thanks a lot to Canada Learning Code for hosting the event in their brand new Toronto office!

Afterwards, we headed to TWG, who helped host and organize a fun fellowship social! The folks at TWG really know how to throw a party, and it was a great opportunity for the 2017 fellows to meet and mingle with Code for Canada’s friends, supporters and partners!

November 9 was a busy day at Code for Canada, starting with a press conference at Canada Learning Code’s new office in the morning (above), followed by an awesome afterparty at TWG in the evening (below).

Another semester of Digital Government and Civic Tech at Ryerson University’s Chang School is in the books! Meghan and Gabe wrapped up the final class last week, and said goodbye to another group of aspiring government innovators! We’re excited to watch the cohort take the skills they acquired in the course and apply them to their own roles! Code for Canada is also proceeding with an online version of the course, so we’ll keep you posted about when it — or another IRL class — will be offered!

After successfully co-producing Code for Canada’s last quarterly retrospective, Jenny and Matt are teaming up again to lead a wellness workshop for staff next week. We’ve just finished a metaphorical marathon and are all a bit tired, sore and hungry, so it’s a good time to check in, find ways to support each other and prioritize our work so we can put our energy into the right projects!

Last, but certainly not least, the Code for Canada family got a bit bigger last week, as Gabe and his wife welcomed their first child! 👨‍👩‍👧 The whole team is thrilled for Gabe and his family, and we collectively can’t wait to meet the new arrival!

That’s all for this fortnight! We’ll see all of you back at the starting line in a few weeks!