Growing a Community for Canadian Digital Government Connections
What started as a brief (and conspiratorial) conversation with my colleague Susie Floresco in Ontario, has become an ongoing project/lesson for me in community building. Federal civil servants, provincial and territorial teams, municipal folks, civic tech organizations… so many of people working inside governments are passionate about being a part of transforming our civil service.
We’re working on solving problems and making things work better for citizens. We’re working hard, in challenging conditions, striving for forward progress.
But time-and-time-again, mid-conversation, I would realize that people working on similar things are not aware of each other, and have no way to find each other. All of us could benefit from knowing and hearing from each other.
I started to noodle on what might be the easiest way, regardless of where you are working, to find and connect with others doing this work? How do you allow for asynchronous collaboration, and several time zones? The grassroots MVS for this was not a new idea. I had been lucky to be a part of an international channel on slack. I knew first hand, there are huge benefits to a community like this. It helps people:
Find their peers and feel less isolated.
Gain the confidence to keep going.
Share successes and lessons learned for the benefit of everyone.
So I just did it. In the spirit of proceeding until apprehended, I created a slack channel.
The purpose of canadiandiggov.slack.com was quite simply to help us find each other. I hoped at the time that we could share work, and provide a safe place for people inside government to speak openly about the challenges we face as we try to make change and solve complex problems.
In a moment of serendipity, just following the creation of this channel, I was invited to attend a meeting with some federal folks who were in Halifax as part of a cross Canada listening tour. Little did I know at the time, these were the seeds of the Canadian Digital Services team and mandate. I mentioned my hatchling plan and asked if they would share the invitation to join as they made there way around the country… The rest as they say…
Okay not quite… The team from Treasury Board, CDS, and the Ontario Digital team certainly helped get the word out (HT Sean Boots & James McKinney), and our grassroots efforts are starting to build an interesting base. But increasingly I’ve been thinking about how to better organize and leverage the channel. People are there… now what?
When I started to think about this, I realized that first I needed to reflect on the growing community. Who is in there? What are they working on? What do they care about? What value can this channel bring?
I’ve spent some time in the past month looking at our members, their posts, their introductions. Here’s what I’ve learned.
There is representation from across all levels of government.
Based on email addresses, there are people from 13 different municipalities. Provincial/Territorial membership includes people from all but 4 (MB, NL, NU, NT) jurisdictions. At least 11 different federal departments are represented as well as many registered with a canada.ca email. We even have a few people from organizations like Code for Canada and the Public Policy Forum.
We are diverse. Introductions alone cover a multitude of specializations and roles. 83 people introduced themselves in the channel and included information about the type of work they do. Here’s how they break down.
As you can see, there’s a wide span of roles (my labels) who are working on or are interested in digital government. All of these people are tackling the various aspects of policy, service delivery, IT, research that are part of digital government work.
So now what? Over the coming months, I plan to spend more time engaging with our slack channel members. I’d like to learn more from people about what they are hoping to learn, do, or gain from being part of the community. I’d like to connect better with other similar initiatives including GC Collab, Open Dialogue, and many other groups working to build collaboration and networks of shared effort in digital government. I’d like to start a conversation about how we could build momentum for a Canadian edition of the One Team Gov movement?
If you’re interested in being part of the slack community and are working inside a government organization in Canada you can sign up here: https://canadiandiggov.slack.com/join/signup