Working in the open: Weeks 9 & 10

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.

The past few weeks at Code for Canada have involved a lot of living — and working — out of suitcases. Collectively, we’ve crisscrossed the country and headed south of the border. Fortunately, everywhere we go, we meet people excited about Code for Canada, and often up to some inspiring work of their own.

A big thank you to everyone in Edmonton who made the Canadian Open Data Summit 2017 such a success. You were a great host, and an even greater city! (Photo courtesy Kurt B/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gabe and Luke travelled to Edmonton for the Canadian Open Data Summit. The event is a chance for open data advocates from across the country to take the pulse of the movement, learn from each other and plan ways to unlock more data — and use it to make life better for Canadians.

Our big takeaway from the conference is that the Venn diagram of open data and civic tech is becoming a much tighter circle. There were entire panels dedicated to civic tech at the summit (Gabe moderated one!), and throughout the week, open data advocates — inside and outside of government — extolled the virtues of working with the civic tech community to demonstrate the impact of data.

Members of groups like Civic Tech Toronto or Betacity YEG have the skills — and the desire — to analyze data to better understand local issues, and then build tools that can help address those challenges. They can also contribute to local open data through innovative crowdsourcing techniques, like this alternative arts and culture map from Betacity YEG.

Civic tech organizers from across Canada — and as far away as Taiwan — got together during the Canadian Open Data Summit to discuss ways to collaborate and grow the civic technology ecosystem.

CODS17 was also an opportunity to be in the same room with many of the most active civic tech organizers in the country. On June 11, we convened a gathering of people involved in civic tech in Toronto, London, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Ottawa. We discussed our local successes, identified shared challenges and found ways to support each other. It felt like the beginnings of a truly national civic tech ecosystem!

It was the first meeting of its kind in Canada, and we left with a tremendous feeling of momentum.

While Gabe and Luke were meeting with Canadian civic tech leaders, Lia was in New York, hanging with Code for All members from all over the world — including folks from Codeando México, Code for Poland, Code for America and Code for Taiwan — for the Personal Democracy Forum.

Code for Canada’s Lia Milito (left) with Code for All members from Poland, Mexico and Taiwan at #PDF2017.

The conference was an affirmation of the work Code for Canada is doing. Keynotes and panellists drove home the point that technology is only ever a means to an end — and that end should be helping people. For an organization that’s trying to bring human-centred design to governments and communities across Canada, we couldn’t agree more!

Another highlight for Lia was how diverse the conference was: 60 per cent of speakers were women and 36 per cent were people of colour! Kudos to #PDF for showcasing so many diverse voices working across civic tech and digital government.

Oh, and speaking of Code for All, a new building mural just went up near our office that bears a striking resemblance to Code for Australia’s Managing Director, Alvaro Maz. What do you think: an uncanny likeness, or just wishful thinking on our part?

We think someone used Code for Australia’s Alvaro Maz (right) as a muse for this mural in Toronto’s Kensington Market.

When we returned from our travels, we came back to a bustling office, complete with four new summer employees! Meet Emily Kuzan, Nana Temeng, Mari Zhou and Isha Nepal, Code for Canada’s Jr. Research and Communications Analysts. They’ll be working to spread the word about Code for Canada and build out our Community Network and Education programs.

From left: Mari Zhou, Nana Temeng and Emily Kuzan are three of Code for Canada’s new summer employees. They’ve quickly adapted to our sticky note-based workflow.
  • Emily is heading into her fourth year at the University of Toronto, studying mathematics, economics and statistics. She’s excited to be working at the intersection of technology and government.
  • Nana is studying Public Policy and International Development at UofT. As a proud Millennial, she wants government services that are as easy to use as other digital platforms.
  • Mari is a graduate student at UofT’s Faculty of Information and an organizer at Civic Tech Toronto. Her research examines how policy and technology can improve access to justice.
  • Isha is a commerce student at the University of Toronto. She’s passionate about using technology to connect governments and residents, and previously worked at Skills for Change.

We may have just finished unpacking, but we’ll be hitting the road again next week. Luke and Lia are headed to Ottawa on June 27 and Montréal on June 28 for a pair of Code for Canada Open Houses! RSVP today, and come say hi! We’d love to meet you.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in two weeks (or so).