Peer-2-Peer Knowledge Network for Public Innovators: Learning and Development Crowd-Resourcing Program Proposal

In this month’s blog, I would like to test out an idea. I have been toying with this idea for some time now. As I share it around, some people seem to think it is interesting albeit disruptive, and others get excited about its potential. Today, I would like to make a pitch to you in the CGE community to ask for help in thinking this idea through with me.

The idea centres around introducing a new self-directed learning and development model for the public service based on knowledge sharing, and learning and development core principles. It is a model that is creatively driven by the individual yet sponsored by a network of peer supporters who wish to help each other access unique learning and development opportunities that may not otherwise be possible. If implemented well, this new model could reinvent how professional development happens in the public service.

What really excites me about this idea is it allows for purposeful collective action, where professional development is put in our own hands to access learning opportunities that our communities believe are important for today’s public service.

According to Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, Culture and Engagement was rated the most important issue facing organizations today. Furthermore, Learning and Development was identified as the third most important challenge.

The idea I’m about to propose is a response to these on-going work force issues. (It’s only a starting point and I invite you to participate in helping to think it through further.)
Here goes…

I am a big supporter of crowd-funding campaigns because they give people the opportunity to make a pitch and seek direct support from a targeted network of people who also believe in the cause being promoted. Crowdfunding, or collaborative funding via the web, is one of the standouts for growth in today’s evolving collaborative economy.

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdfunder, and Crowdera (a personal favourite that is a free platform geared towards non-profits or social innovators) are just a few of the ever-growing crowdfunding sites.

If you are a social innovator, these platforms make your dreams come true. They empower people to activate a global community to move ideas forward by putting them into action. These platforms are built around raising money for what matters to everyday people. They are fascinating social innovation tools because they put power and leadership back into the individual’s hands to make opportunities happen. An agent of change no longer needs to wait (and beg) for support from traditional sources of revenue.

As an example, let’s take the model of Crowdera and see how it works.

Step 1: You engage your community to make a difference. You start and share your campaign using social sharing tools to reach your supporters.

Step 2: You are encouraged to “be the change” by becoming a catalyst in your community by bringing people together to raise awareness and funds for individuals, non-profits and social innovators.

Step 3: You are expected to find creative ways to say thank you to your supporters. This is a great way to show your gratitude and celebrate the impact your crowd has made on the world.

Crowdera, like other crowdfunding sites, helps you discover projects that people are passionate about while offering you the opportunity to step-up and take direct action to help create more of what you believe in.

What if we were to apply a similar type of model to learning and professional development opportunities in the public service?

What if we were able to set-up a type of crowd-resourcing site internal (i.e. PSA) or external to government (i.e. Institute of Public Administration of Canada) to offer people the opportunity to make a pitch about a leadership learning development opportunity they see as important and supports their cause of improving the public service.

Succession planning, or lack of, continues to be identified as a critical issue facing all levels of government. There is a looming capability gap and this innovative response could address many HR issues head-on.

Here’s how I think it could work…


Step 1: Make a pitch on what professional development opportunity you would like to access and why. For example: Pitches could be to attend leading edge local, national or global conferences, forums, debates, workshops and events that focus on public sector leadership, engagement, citizen services, big data, climate action, food systems, policy and innovation. You could also seek out a community to help test ideas through innovation jams or change labs. Maybe you want to host a forum or a speaker series and need some assistance to do it – any learning and development opportunity would be fair game. Whatever the need, this crowd-resourcing platform could be the solution; attracting a range of investments from across the public sector to help meet needs (i.e. policy expertise, network connections, case studies, etc.).

Step 2: Become a catalyst in your community by sharing the many benefits this particular learning and development opportunity would offer you, your peers and your organization. Strong articulation of the targeted benefits coupled with the creative avenues you would use to share your experiences would be expected in order to receive resources. Also, if you were asking for peer funding to access a particular learning opportunity, half of the investment would come from you to demonstrate your personal commitment to the endeavour.

For example: Key resources would be shared to help your community fully understand the benefits associated with the learning opportunity. Through promoting the innovative thinking, approaches and practices in your particular field of interest, you could help educate others and illustrate your knowledge by making recommendations on how to apply these elements in your work. You could also poll peers and potential supporters to find creative ways to meet their specific interests and needs (i.e. seek out collective issues and invite supporters to share how they would like to benefit as one of your professional development investors).

Step 3: Find creative ways to share your learning and transfer knowledge in the broader public service. For example: By leveraging social media, you could put your learning into direct practice by working with your community to find ways to do rapid knowledge transfer and test ideas in real time. As follow-up, you would also use webinars, blogs, podcasts, lunch and learns, and workshops to share your insights and ensure your peers needs were met.

Upon reflecting on my idea, Carla Johnson, a new professional and budding intrapreneur in the Government of Alberta, shared “continuous, life-long learning is the future of the public service. Public servants must learn new skills; new ways of being. Building the capacity of our work force to meet new expectations and new ways of doing business are key to public service renewal.”
Carla did her phD in education and has worked for a number of years with learners of all ages. Through this experience, she has developed an approach to building capacity called the Infinite Development Pathway (IDP). The IDP is an operating model intended to build organizational capacity by combining experience, best practice and evaluation. It is an approach to organizational learning that can be applied to any skill area.

Carla believes many organizations, including governments, have undertaken extensive projects to increase the capacity of their organizations. However, she feels the successful building of capacity is not always guaranteed. New learning is not always embraced; new behaviors are not embedded into professional practice. Building the internal capacity of an organization can prove ineffective if delivered without due consideration of some key principles.

In order for this crowd-resourcing model to have transformative impact, proper planning to ensure new learning can be put into immediate practice is fundamental. Carla suggests that one way to do this is through a Responsive Development Community (RDC), which is a mechanism that allows the exchange of ideas and expertise amongst all participants to be shared. She laments, “what we don’t need to be funding any more of is folks going off to partake in training that is, although exciting and potentially insightful, not to be applied.”
As for the model I’m proposing, Carla would like to see more structure and rigor around how knowledge can be shared, and more thinking done around expectations for what happens following the learning.


I see leadership as practices that enable others to achieve purpose. This type of crowd-resourcing model demonstrates leadership capacity in many different ways. It creates shared purpose, builds collective capacity, and beautifully showcases the principles of collaboration and the power of communities.

One of the key benefits is it helps us break free from the constraints of the lack of professional development funds and resources available today in the public service.

This model can give a community of like-minded change agents the power to use its own resources, in creative ways, to purposefully create the collective capacity needed to redefine, reinvent and redesign the public service of the 21st Century.

Let’s champion career development to be employee-owned, manager facilitated and organization supported. I believe that a necessary part of the learning organization is involving co-workers in knowledge construction and diffusion within the organization.

If put into thoughtful action, this idea could evoke a new cultural model for the public service, one that is based on collective encouragement, collective learning, and collective knowledge sharing. It would boldly demonstrate that a new era is being ushered in – one that exemplifies a strong commitment to support each other’s self-directed learning and developmental pathways for the betterment of all.

If you are interested in thinking this idea through, please reach out to Colleen at or on twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

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