Working in the Open Feels a Bit Like Showing Everyone My Messy House

The Exchange
The Exchange
Published in
4 min readFeb 27


Annie Goodwin Team Lead, IM/IT Governance and Strategy

Hi, I’m Annie. I’m a dog mom, equestrian, master’s student, wife and the IM/IT Governance and Strategy Lead on the Strategic Policy Team in the Digital Investment Office. I’m really here to talk about the last thing, but the first things are (thankfully) more of my identity.

In the BC Public Service, especially in the digitally focused spaces I’ve been working in, we talk a lot about working in the open. We talk about collaboration, co design, and stress the importance of sharing our work with each other, and members of our broader communities.

I want to talk about how I’m trying to do this in my work, the development of the Digital Code of Practice. I’m going to outline what I’m trying to do and share why my team and I made these choices. I’m also going to give some unsolicited advice, and some comedic relief for those who (like me) find sharing something less than perfect scary and would like some validation that it’s not easy, but we’re all in this together.

When my life was simpler (read: before my master’s program) I would prepare for entertaining in a slightly intense way. Alternating between deep cleaning places guests will never see or care about (vegetable drawer, windowsills in the mudroom, dog bowls) and corralling elusive clutter and unfolded laundry into closets or in a chaotic pile out of sight. My home felt like a reflection of me, and I felt like I needed to reflect my best self. Not the self that didn’t fold laundry immediately out of the dryer or didn’t clean the dog bowls.

When my life became more complicated (read: renovating a house, master’s student, new job, puppy and everything else that composes my reality), I didn’t have the time or capacity to deep clean my house before having friends over. And guess what? Turns out no one cared, and it was fine.

When I came into my current role (professionally, not as a dog mom or homeowner — keep up, please) the thought of co-designing the Digital Code of Practice felt daunting. With the tight timelines that seem to accompany everything we do in government, it felt even more daunting to share anything less than a polished product. I didn’t want to show anyone my messy house. Though this mess was different, and my apprehension about it felt different. Ideas are more abstract than clutter and feel more vulnerable to share. I also wasn’t sharing my vulnerability with friends, but with colleagues and strangers.

After conversations with my team and leadership we decided on a GDX Hosted Engagement Site. After further conversations with my team, we came to the following conclusions:

With the timeline and resources that we had, working in the open felt like our best option

Working in the open meant we could work as we normally would have and focus our communication and engagement efforts in a more targeted way. We liked that our engagement site gave us a single place to collect feedback from our stakeholders and helped us maintain a record of changes to the content over time.

Transparency had to go both ways

The open comment feature of the site was really appealing to us. We liked the idea of all users being able to view and interact with the comments from other users. That being said, we wanted comments to be attributable to individuals. This would help us follow up with people if needed and encourage thoughtful, insightful comments.

The value of anonymous comments wasn’t clear to us in this context, though we have considered including an open feedback form where commenters could choose to provide general feedback anonymously. This would just come to the team, and we likely wouldn’t publish them.

We needed to try to bring everyone along

We have a lot of diversity across the BC Public Service, and a lot of public servants are doing fantastic work that directly and indirectly connects to the practices. Part of our motivation behind the open engagement site was creating a space for these specialists to participate, as well as public servants that have less familiarity.

I think the feedback a policy like this receives can be just as (if not more) interesting than the content itself. By receiving and sharing our feedback openly, our hope was that we could create the space for everyone to engage at whatever level they felt comfortable with.

By the time it’s perfect, it may not be relevant

There is more change in government than we think there is. By working in the open, our hope is that we can accept and integrate feedback in real time. In the context of technology and government, progress over perfection is something we should strive for.

Thanks for making it this far. If you’re interested in following along with the Digital Code of Practice work (my messy house) please see the list below. I also encourage you to reach out to me via email. I’m looking forward to updating this blog in the spring with the results of our efforts, what we learned and what we would do differently.

  • Our draft practices are available to those outside of the BC Public Service at
  • BC Public Servants can view and comment on our draft practices at
  • The team is also using this open mural board to share what we’re working on and show what we’re planning to tackle next.

Author: Annie Goodwin



The Exchange
The Exchange

We're a tech-forward public sector innovation lab; a place for the experimentation, learning & inclusive collaboration needed to solve today's wicked problems.