Working in the open: Weeks 5 & 6

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.

Wow, it’s been two weeks already? The last 14 days have been a bit of a whirlwind — we’re not even sure we can tell you where the time went.

Actually, we can, because we’ve been using Harvest to track our time. As an organization trying to bring the best practices from the tech sector into government, we’re always on the lookout for digital tools that can help us understand and improve our workflow. We’re curious how closely the reality of how we spend our time at Code for Canada will align with our perceptions.

Pictures from the first Code for Canada Open House on May 17, 2017. Roughly 40 people came to the Code for Canada offices in Toronto to learn more about the organization and discover ways to get involved in the country’s growing civic tech movement. (Photo: Luke Simcoe)

It’s worth it to find time to hang out with cool people. Code for Canada held its first Open House last Wednesday. Roughly 40 people — civic tech advocates, coders, designers, present and past public servants, policy experts and more — came to our offices to learn about our programs and discover ways to get involved. Gabe gave an update on the organization, and Lia presented a deep dive into the upcoming fellowship program.

It didn’t feel like working, but it was it extremely beneficial to us as an organization. It’s energizing to meet people who are excited about Code for Canada, and the Q&A we had afterwards will help us refine the way we talk about the work we do. It was a great reminder that simply getting diverse people into a room together can be the best way to move forward.

Thank you to everyone who came out, and we look forward to meeting more of you at the next Open House! Our first online meetup is scheduled for June 7.

We’re closer to identifying the project our inaugural fellows will work on! Lia has been fine-tuning the fellowship application, and working with the Government of Ontario to decide what problem/project they’ll be tackling. Lia has also been overhauling the fellowship section of the Code for Canada website, so expect some big changes at codefor.ca!

Because the first Code for Canada fellowship is in its pilot phase, part of the process has involved creating the criteria by which we evaluate and choose potential fellowship projects. Governments are grappling with countless, incredibly complex issues, and it’s important that Code for Canada knows how to identify the issues where fellows can have the greatest impact.

From left: Patrick Maloney, Luke Simcoe and Gabe Sawhney film a scene for an upcoming Code for Canada video. (Photo: Lia Milito)

We’ve been spending time behind — and in front of — the camera. Luke has spent much of the past two weeks being an amateur film director. Code for Canada staff filmed a video for a grant application on May 11 and 12, and we spent all of last Thursday filming friends and supporters for an upcoming promotional spot for the fellowship.

The latter will be landing on our YouTube channel soon, so stay tuned! And if we find the time, we’ll post some outtakes from the film shoots in future blog posts.

A big thanks to Patrick Maloney, who’s serving as the director for the fellowship video!

Code for Canada will be returning to Ryerson University. Gabe met with officials from the Chang School for Continuing Education at Ryerson and confirmed that our course, Digital Government and Civic Tech, will be offered again in September. The seven-week class is taught by Gabe and introduces students to the tools and processes needed to deliver more responsive and resident-focused digital public services. Registration for the fall course will open in June!

We’re trying to make time for informal team-building. It’s been an extended sprint as we get closer to opening applications for our inaugural fellowship, but we’re trying to set aside time to reflect on our progress in a more casual way. We’ve been calling it “Beers for Canada,” and while it might sound frivolous, it’s become an important and productive piece of our workflow puzzle.

In the early days of any organization, you risk setting precedents about how you work simply by working, so we’re trying to be intentional about the process and ensure Code for Canada is a place where staff can bond as people, not just as co-workers.

That’s all for now, folks! See you in two weeks.