Working in the Open: Weeks 33 & 34

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 classic Canadian television show, they’d be The Littlest Hobo. Although the team was co-located in Toronto for the first time in a while, a lot of our work involved engaging with — or preparing to engage with — the broader civic tech community. We made a few stops, met some new friends, and are excited to keep moving on.

We held our second civic tech community organizers’ conference call last week. On the line were civic tech practitioners from Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and London! Among the topics discussed were Infrastructure Canada’s new Smart Cities Challenge — and how civic tech groups can contribute — as well as how to structure the community network so it can support both established civic tech groups looking to scale, as well as newer, more nascent groups getting off the ground. The calls are a great chance to see all the amazing things civic tech groups are doing across the country, and we’re looking forward to seeing the group grow now that Civic Tech Waterloo Region, Civic Tech Fredericton and Civic Tech Vancouver are in the fold!

Meghan has been preparing to lead this week’s CodeAcross Toronto 2018 challenge owner workshop. The free event will explore how government staff and others working in the public interest can scope projects to engage the civic tech community. If you’re unable to attend, the event will be livestreamed, and the recording will be made available afterwards!

A number of us attended Civic Tech Toronto’s community brainstorm about the proposed Sidewalk Labs project along the city’s waterfront. The headline-grabbing initiative aims to “combine the best in urban design with the latest in digital technology,” and has the potential to be one of the largest Smart Cities project in North America. There’s been excitement, and some concern, about the proposal, so organizers at Civic Tech Toronto asked the community what they’d like to see embedded in the Quayside project. It was a fascinating and constructive evening all about the potential — and potential pitfalls — of smart cities, and a jumping off point for a vital discussion that will continue well into 2018!

We’re thrilled to see groups like Civic Tech Toronto making their voice heard in regards to projects like Sidewalk’s Quayside. Opening a dialogue with civic tech groups can help smart cities initiatives reflect the values of the civic tech movement: values like inclusion and diversity, ‘building with, not for,’ and a strong focus on user research and engagement with residents.

Luke hit “go” on the next iteration of Code for Canada’s website over the weekend! The new, which we’re modestly referring to as version 1.1, contains a number of small structural, content and design changes based on user research conducted earlier in 2017. Users told us they wanted to quickly and easily discover ways to get involved and contribute to Code for Canada’s mission. The site now includes a Get Involved section, a page for public servants interested in hosting a team of fellows, and an expanded list of civic tech and open data groups across Canada!

The new and improved Code for Canada homepage!

Jenny attended a two-day workshop on impact measurement at the Centre for Social Innovation last week. She’s done impact measurement for other organizations in the past, but found it was more focused on outputs, not outcomes. At Code for Canada, we’re definitely more interested in the latter; it’s vital to know how many people applied for our fellowship program, for example, or attended an Open House, but what’s more valuable — and much harder to measure — is how such experiences or events lead to positive change. The workshop covered a range of helpful topics, from how to identify stakeholders to how to set and structure goals so they can be yoked to trackable outcomes. We’ll be doing some impact measurement in 2018, and having Jenny thinking about best practices for the process will be incredibly valuable!

The Canadian Digital Service’s Anatole Papadopolous (left) and Pascale Elvas discuss CDS’ work with Code for Canada during their show and tell event Dec. 9 (YouTube)

We tuned in to the Canadian Digital Service’s first show and tell on Dec. 9! CDS is committed to working in the open, and the event was a window into the department! CDS staff touched on projects ranging from an app that lets public servants and politicians access briefing documents on tablets to the rollout of the Impact Canada Challenge Platform. The CDS design team, including Chris Govias and Mithula Naik, also walked the audience through the user research process CDS employs. And of course, CDS is hosting Code for Canada’s inaugural federal fellowship team, so it was great to see them share their excitement and introduce Raluca, Daniel and Leon to the audience. You can view the entire stream on CDS’ YouTube channel (the discussion of Code for Canada fellowship projects starts at the 18:24 mark).

Thanks for reading! We’ll be back in two weeks!