Markets Are Conversations

Before I dive into the crux that is the title of this post, I first need to provide historical context…

In 1517, a very pious German monk named Martin Luther wrote the 95 Theses. For those not familiar, this was a document that listed 95 statements (Theses) that condemned the Pope for selling indulgences (sinners buying their way into paradise). The Pope may have been the highest ranking Man amongst the clergy…but, according to Luther, he was still just a Man. And Luther believed that only God could grant that kind of absolution.

The 95 Theses explain why selling indulgences is not only immoral, but that it is also futile. For example, Thesis #30 states “No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.”

What made Martin Luther’s 95 Theses particularly effective is that he made use of a newly established technology: The Printing Press. Martin Luther used this machine to mass-print his document and post it across Germany. Martin Luther also opted to write the theses in German – instead of Latin – so that commoners could read them as well.

This movement would eventually lead to the Protestant Reformation, a schism that would split Christianity into different sects, including Lutherans.

I now kindly ask that you fast-forward to 1999. Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searles, and David Weinberger publish the Cluetrain Manifesto, a modern-day version of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.

NOTE: Don’t be afraid of the word manifesto due to its sordid history. Manifestos simply outline a way of thinking, and a way of living. Technically, the Ten Commandments are a manifesto, but we typically refer to religious manifestos as “creeds.”

The premise of the Cluetrain Manifesto is that the burgeoning Internet would forever change the way the public and organizations interact. I would go so far as saying that it was an indictment against companies who ignored conversations taking place online. Here are a few of my favourite Theses from The Cluetrain Manifesto:

#1 – Markets are conversations.

#2 – Markets consists of human beings, not demographic sectors.

#3 – Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

#15 – In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business – the sound of mission statements and brochures – will seem contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French Court.

#50 – Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

#65 – We’re also the workers who make our companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not platitudes written into a script.

#78 – You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.

This 1999 document would essentially predict Social Media and its impact. Many organizations have embraced these values and drastically changed the landscape of our society. Citizen journalism, review websites, the sharing economy, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and MOOC’s (massive open online courses) are all examples of what the Cluetrain Manifesto forecasted.

I also believe that the principles outlined in the Cluetrain Manifesto should apply to the public service. We call it Open Government and its values are based on transparency, accountability, and engagement. I prefer to think that Open Government is all about creating a conversation between people and their government in an attempt to remedy a dysfunctional relationship. The purpose? To create trust between these two audiences.

As a matter of fact, I was both amazed and extraordinarily pleased when Corinne Charette at GTEC 2014 was asked the question “How do you measure the success of Open Government?” to which she answered (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Although it is difficult to measure, I believe trust is how we measure it.”

Thing is, you can’t measure trust with traditional means. Trust is abstract; it’s an intangible, it’s innate. Perhaps the best way to describe trust is through this exchange between Jodie Foster (a scientist) and Matthew McConaughey (a priest) in the movie Contact:

Jodie Foster: For me, I need proof [that God exists].


Matthey McConaughey: Did you love your father?

Jodie Foster: Yes…very much.

Matthew McConaughey: Prove it.

[awkward silence]

There are some things that you can’t measure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t important. I like to say that Open Government is simply the result of “Necessity being the Mother of Invention.” We NEED to trust our government and we created Open Government as our way of rebuilding our relationship and bring trust into the equation.

There are other engaged citizens, who like me, understand that culture change of this magnitude will take time. We’re ready to work with public servants to make Open Government a reality. But, it takes two to tango…we need you (government) to open yourselves to a new way of doing things and usher in a trusting and collaborative relationship between public servants and citizens.

I now leave you with the final Theses for both Martin Luther and the Cluetrain Manifesto:

“And thus, be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace. ACTS 14:22”

“We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.”

Richard PietroRichard Pietro considers himself as an Open Government Fanboy in an attempt to create Civic Engagement as Art. Richard’s Twitter handle is @richardpietro and you can learn more about his work at


Open Government is Trending

I know I’m Civic Engagement’s equivalent to being a “Homer” …no, not Homer Simpson. I’m talking about the guy who at the start of each new NHL season will say “This is the year the Leafs win the Cup!”That’s because, at least when it comes to Civic Engagement, I’m tired of the malcontents and media-click-baiters…and you know who you are. My goal is Change as opposed to whining about not having Change. So, I’ve adopted the “what gets rewarded gets repeated” approach, meaning that I encourage and cheer whenever I witness hero public servants working their butts off to bring about Change.

These folks are (for the most part) unheralded and unappreciated, and I want to do my share to change all that.

Which leads me to the reason for this post. Open Government/Data is like any other cultural phenomena, and as such I like to think it is subject to the Adoption Curve. More specifically, I’d say that Open Government is straddling the “innovators/early adopters” segment of the curve.

I’m often asked how I can be so sure of this? That’s because in the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to see the little things that give me confidence that Open Government/Data will in fact become a reality.

…and below is a list of those little things.

NOTE #1: Aside from a few key moments, I’ve chosen to ignore most of the Open Government Tour because that would be too easy. This list focuses primarily on things that I’ve found extraordinary, or that I didn’t expect.

NOTE #2: I have a terrible memory and I apologize because I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things along the way. So, I consider this as a living document and kindly ask that you please contact me to either add OR adjust the content accordingly 🙂

Federal Level

Fall 2012 – GTEC Presentation

This is my big break as public servants give me (a nobody) a chance to present at GTEC 2012. This is where I also learn about (what I now call) Hero Public Servants. People like Rob Meikle and his AWESOME presentation.

Fall 2012 – Web Experience Toolkit

I learn about the Web Experience Toolkit; An Open-Source initiative by Canada’s Treasury Board that helps websites become Web Accessible, and so much more!

Fall 2012 – #W2P

I learn about, and am invited to a #W2P (Web 2.0 Practitioner) event. This is an informal, online community of Public Servants who are using social media, and other engagement tools, to connect with each other. The #W2P is where I learn that there are MANY good people inside government who want to see Change in the bureaucracy.

Fall 2012 – GCpedia 

I learn about the internal wiki created by Federal Public Servants as a means to more quickly and fluidly share knowledge between government departments.

Spring 2013 – Accessibility Toronto

After being mesmerized by the potential of the Web Experience Toolkit, I kindly ask members of Canada’s Treasury Board if they could present the WxT at the Accessibility Toronto Meetup Group. Not only do they present, but they have also mobilized their colleagues back in Ottawa in case there are questions they can’t answer, truly showing that they embrace the values of the Open Community.

Summer 2013 – Codefest

I attend Codefest, an event organized by Federal Public Servants and open to anyone where the Web Experience Toolkit community can share their knowledge and engage with citizens.

Fall 2013 – Open Data Speed Dating

I participate in a GTEC session organized by public servants that brings Data Curators (public servants working on data portals) & Data Enthusiasts (users of data, and fanboys such as myself) together.

Winter 2014 – Canadian Open Data Experience

Canada launches CODE, a National contest whose aim is to bring attention to Open Data and foster an environment of creativity, innovation, and openness.

Spring 2014 –

You know those annoying government URL’s? The ones with way too many acronyms and periods? Well, the Feds are using Open Source practices to release a much simpler platform:

Spring 2014 – GovJam (Co-Create Canada)

I attend the Ottawa rendition of GovJam where I work with other public servants to develop the basis for what would become “Co-Create Canada” …incidentally, we win the competition 🙂

Summer 2014 – Codefest

Unlike 2013, I can’t attend this event, but the folks at the Treasury Board put on another Codefest making this a staple event for the Canadian government.

Fall 2014 – Corinne Charette, CIO for Canada’s Treasury Board

As part of the plenary sessions at GTEC 2014, Corinne is asked “how do we measure the success of Open Government?” Corinne’s answer? (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Although it is difficult, I believe the measurement is trust in government.”

Hearing one of Canada’s highest ranking public servant understand the fact that Open Government isn’t necessarily about efficiency, or economic growth, but about trust makes my heart sing 🙂

Fall 2014 – Canada releases v2 of its Open Data site

Government is for the most part not particularly responsive, but it is learning. And in Fall 2014 it released their new & improved Open Data site after only two years. The site’s changes are based on user feedback and growth in scope. For example, they are no longer simply focusing on Open Data sets, but also Open Information and Open Government.

Granted, work still needs to be done on the FOI side of things, but you have to acknowledge that the public service is moving faster than expected from a technology perspective.

Fall 2014 – Policy Ignite

For the first time ever, the Policy Ignite event run by federal public servants is opened to citizens. Not only that, but non-govies are invited to speak…including myself 🙂

Fall 2014 – Blueprint 2020 Newsletter

The first Blueprint 2020 Newsletter is released and can be viewed here. For more information on Canada’s plan to create a more adaptive and responsive public service, please click here.

Winter 2015 – Canadian Open Data Experience

CODE returns, but with a larger mandate that includes the provinces and municipalities. Once again, the spirit of growth and versioning is becoming prevalent with our federal government.

Provincial Level

Summer 2013 – Ontario’s Deputy Minister for Open Government
The province announces a new role:  Deputy Minister for Open Government. In other words, the province is allocating resources towards creating an engaging, transparent, and accountable government.

NOTE:  Deputy Ministers are NOT elected officials. They are some of the highest ranking public servants.

Summer 2013 – Ontario GovJam

Although I’ve already mentioned GovJam above, this was actually the first time I ever attended such an event. This one was put on by the Province of Ontario and our team submitted the idea for the Public Services Incubator (we didn’t win, although the judges said we are all winners lol).

Summer 2013 – Public Sector Open Data (PSOD)

The Province of Ontario arranges the somewhat informal group of City-based public servants who work in Open Data. Its purpose is to create a network where cities can share best practices in Open Data.

Fall 2013 – Ontario’s new Data Portal and Voting mechanism

Ontario develops new and interesting way on how to prioritize the release of Open Data sets: A citizen voting tool. Although some people don’t believe this is the best way to release data, I applaud the province for thinking differently. This kind of risk and innovation is rarely seen in government and should be encouraged more frequently.

Spring 2014 – Ontario’s Open Government report 

Some people say this report doesn’t have enough teeth, and I can see why. But what’s important is that the report hits on more than just “Data.” Their fundamental recommendation is for Ontario to adopt a three pronged approach that include Open Data, Open Information, and Open Dialogue.

…perhaps more importantly, the idea that government should work with the public (instead of just placating) is reinforced.

Spring 2014 – Newfoundland and the OGT14

Newfoundland reaches out to me and asks how they can somehow be involved in the OGT14…unfortunately, we aren’t able to come up with a solution in time. But, the mere fact they contacted me is a sign of interest in this movement.

Summer 2014 – Interesting Job Titles!

As part of the #OGT14, I got to learn that Alberta has a Chief Advisor for Open Government and that BC has a Director of Citizen Engagement.

Typically, you see government spend money on what it finds valuable. That’s why creating jobs within the bureaucracy whose sole purpose is Open Government shows signs that government are seeing Open Government as more than just window dressing.

Summer 2014 – Mandate Letters

My biggest fears during the 2014 Ontario election was two folds:

1) That Open Government & Open Data would be politicized as a party platform to “buy votes.” But once elected to office all that rhetoric would be dismissed or de-prioritized thus leading citizens to believe Open Gov/Data means absolutely nothing.

2) That all the progress in Ontario’s Open Government work would be in vain. That it was just a ploy used by a political party to create favourable sound bites during the election.

That’s why I was extraordinarily impressed when Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, released her Ministry’s mandate letters for her term in office. She didn’t have to do that and there were no expectations that she would since it wasn’t a campaign promise (that I heard, anyways).

These mandate letters have been typically internal documents and, from my understanding, they have never been released to the public. It appears as though, slowly but surely, the political establishment is drinking the Open Gov/Data kool-aid.

Winter 2015 – Service Ontario

A few years ago, the Province embarked on re-inventing how Ontarians engage with their services. is the result. It may not be flashy, but it is well conceived and designed, and I’ll give you an example.

My driver’s license expired on December 26, 2014 and I didn’t realize it until 30min before I was to rent a vehicle on December 31st. I didn’t have time to go to a Service Ontario counter, and I didn’t have access to a computer with Internet. All I had was my phone and a data plan.

In the span of about 10min, I was able to renew my driver’s license on the Service Ontario website from my phone! Because Ontario adopted “responsive design” principles, it was easy to navigate through everything, including payment!

After completing the steps, I received an email confirmation AND temporary license that I was then able to print at the Car Rental location.

…no fuss, no muss. Just simple, convenient, and reliable. That’s what I want from my government.

Municipal Level

Spring 2012 – Data, eh?

The city of Toronto organizes a free event where they invite citizens to learn about the inner-workings of the City, as well as hand out Open Data Awards. This is my first exposure to the vast Open Gov/Data community and I am welcomed with open arms by the City of Toronto.

Spring 2013 – Apps4Ottawa

Ottawa runs its “Apps4Ottawa” which was first born in 2011…and mostly organized by one, dedicated public servant who believes in this movement.

Spring 2013 – Wellbeing Toronto

The City of Toronto releases version 2 of Wellbeing Toronto, a web-based measurement tool that enables access to community economic and social wellbeing indicators across City of Toronto’s 140 neighbourhoods.

Not only is this relevant Data Sets, but I always get giddy whenever government adopts the philosophy of versioning!

Summer 2013 – Toronto IT Roadmap

I’m asked by the City of Toronto to represent the citizen’s perspective and help facilitate their IT Roadmap workshop. I don’t think many citizens are invited to such things, but the City of Toronto is learning the value of having an outside perspective.

Fall 2013 – Open Data Workshop

Me and a friend of mine create an Open Data Workshop based on Toronto’s Open Data portal. The workshop is designed for Grade 10 Civics Students and we are lucky enough to be invited by a handful of highschools to deliver the workshop.

Winter 2014 – Top 10 list of reasons to not release data sets.

Blair Labelle (at the time) was Guelph’s City Clerk and he presented at an event called “Love & Data” hosted by the Province of Ontario. As part of his presentation, he delivered his Top 10 List of the hilarious reasons he hears for not releasing data.

Winter 2014 – International Open Data Day (PART 1)

This is perhaps the most awesome example of Open Government because it brings together all of the elements.

I’m proud to have been part of a committee that constituted Industry, Engaged Citizens, Students, and Public Servants from Ontario and Toronto. We supported and trusted each other, and we worked together to organize a fantastic event.

We didn’t go way outside the box, but we did test the boundaries of the box, and that’s all you can ask from government. That it is ok for them to step outside of their comfort zone with engaged citizens who share the same values.

Winter 2014 – International Open Data Day (PART 2)

The City of Toronto attends not only the Friday conference, but also the Open Data Hackathon on the Saturday. For the entire day, these public servants work hand-in-hand with citizens to build and create with Open Data.

This is rarely seen, and certainly not on the weekend.

Winter 2014 – Toronto Changes Tweet

Me and friends of mine are working on a project that would change the way Torontonians engage with an ever changing city, more specifically, its development process. As part of that effort, we try to visualize that process and send a tweet to Toronto City Planning asking if they confirm our assumptions.

Not only do they respond, but they respond quickly and thoroughly (we ended up taking the conversation to email and even got a meeting!)

Spring 2014 – Open Data Song

Toronto’s Open Data Lead, who is also a musician, releases his newest creation: The Open Data Song.

…civic engagement as art, you gotta love it!

Spring 2014 – CBC Email

In the spirit of supporting each other, The Region of Peel writes a very favourable email to the CBC regarding the #OGT14. They help opened doors that I would otherwise not be able to. They are the very manifestation of the Open Government culture:  Enabling citizens.

Summer 2014 – Surprising Politicians

It isn’t too often that I will praise politicians, but I have to give credit where it’s due.

1) Brian Bowman, Winnipeg Mayor – At the time of the #OGT14 Winnipeg event, Brian was at the time just a mayoral candidate. Although many mayoral candidates attended my event, Brian is the only one who approached me at the end with real human qualities, as opposed to the “photo-op / kissing babies” kinda way.

He came up to me and said that when he first announced Open Gov/Data as part of his platform, most people didn’t understand what he was talking about. The message fell on deaf ears. He said that he didn’t know how to make the content relevant to people, but thanks to the #OGT14 event he had a much better idea on how to frame the conversation with Winnipegers.

He was being genuine and vulnerable. He admitted he didn’t know everything and that he learned thanks to the #OGT14 and the public at-large.

Those are the qualities I want to see from elected representatives.

2) Daniel Bourgeois, Moncton City Councillor – At the Moncton event, I kept saying “politicians” and Daniel kept correcting me and using the terms “professional” versus “municipal” politicians

I asked him why he kept making that difference and he told me that except for maybe Halifax and one more Maritime municipality, all city councillors were volunteers and paid a stipend equal to below-minimum-wage!

He kept insisting that they, as councillors, live, shop, play, work, and socialize with their constituents and that they weren’t victims of party politics. At which point I apologized and now have this difference in mind whenever I go on one of my diatribes lol.

I too can learn from politicians, and that’s the spirit of Open Government…having an Open Mind; one that sees value in collaboration.

Richard PietroRichard Pietro considers himself as an Open Government Fanboy in an attempt to create Civic Engagement as Art. Richard’s Twitter handle is @richardpietro and you can learn more about his work at

Corporate Activism

I had a fascinating month of reading. I am smack dab in the middle of Todd Gitlin’s book Letters to a Young Activist and, this week at work while pondering the role of the corporate function, I discovered Harvard Business Review’s (HBR) great article from earlier this year “Why Corporate Functions Stumble.”

The HBR article goes into great depth about the various maturity levels of corporate functions from HR to Finance and IT and I recommend it for anyone who sits in these roles. More to the point of this blog, I have been in several discussions this year which call these functions corporate enablers, to emphasize their role in enabling the organization to succeed. Just one look at the Treasury Board (TB) policy suite, and you can see stacks and stacks (and stacks and stacks) of rules and guidelines and standards that one must follow to do things. Looking a little deeper, one sees the other side of corporate functions in the government, in that the policies are good practice and do not stand alone, but rather as a corporate whole.

So, seeking a more active solution then accepting one story, I looked into the word corporate. Oxford Dictionaries lists the origin in the late 15th century, from Latin word corporatus, past participle of corporare ‘form into a body’, from corpus, corpor- ‘body’. So corporate comes from a verb, to form various pieces into a body, kind of like glue. Corporate functions do not exist for their own sake, but for the sake of the joined body. The ideal joining job is when the glue is invisible, and so I discovered the reason I never got an A in arts and crafts. Thank you for reading…

Anyway, corporate glue exists to ensure things work together and work according to predictable rules. What predictable forces are essential in glue? Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) states cohesive forces (stick to itself) and interfacial forces (stick to others) are required. Corporate functions must work cohesively within themselves, intra-corporate and inter-corporate, but also inter-facially to bring the body together. If HR and Finance are working in opposite direction to IT, the glues do not stick to one another and the end state (connected body) fails. If the function is overbearingly bureaucratic, then it can repel the parts of the body rather than join them. This is the beauty of the TB policy suite, it is intended to be read as a (reasonably) interconnected whole, not perfect, but there for you to find if you try. On a final note, just like the glue must commit to invisibility, the body must accept the value inherent in the glue and take a corporate mindset.

Well that is all I have for now, but I will leave you with a quote from Mr. Gitlin’s book to remind us all to keep learning for a better, more connected public service in 2015.

“Ignorance of the past may be an excuse for people with lesser ambitions than changing the world, but it’s no excuse for you.”

Thanks for reading and happy holidays to all.


Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this is entirely my own initiative and what I post here does not necessarily reflect the view of the government, my office or my position there in.

Craig Sellars
Craig Sellars is a passionate Canadian public servant and biologist. Connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigSellars.

The Intrapreneurial Spirit

I write this blog because I have an unwavering belief in the potential of the public service.

With this belief in mind, and with an Intrapreneurial spirit, I use this platform as a way to reimagine, redefine, and redesign the 21st Century Public Service.

Intrapreneurs are people who adopt entrepreneurial attitudes and apply start-up practices within large bureaucratic organizations. Recently, I came across another excellent illustration of this concept featuring David Gram, Head of Business and Marketing Development at Future Lab, on how LEGO continues to invent the future of play. Gram reveals how LEGO avoided going bankrupt in the face of challenges, while promoting innovation within the larger organisation to ensure that they will “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.”

I’ve been studying public innovators and intrapreneurship in government formally, and more importantly, informally over the past decade. Now, I interview “intrapreneurs in action” because I want to showcase their inspiring Principles and Practices in an attempt to accomplish two goals:

  1. Demystifying how innovation actually happens in government; and
  2. Shining a light on innovative thoughts and actions.

I have interviewed both new and experienced intrapreneurs including the head of the Canada Revenue Agency, Deputy Ministers, Assistant Deputy Ministers, managers, analysts, administrators and even interns.

What I have found in my research is that intrapreneurs share principles of commitment, perseverance, determination and patience. They seek to understand how to get things done in government, and how to do things better, while also addressing systemic problems in creative ways. Imagination and a sense of possibility drive their intrapreneurial spirits.

Here are a few of my key learnings from this year’s interviews which serve to highlight examples of intrapreneurship and demonstrate why I’m so inspired.

  • Despite government’s trepidation around the use of social media in its early days, the Commissioner of Revenue and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) was an early adopter, and has since become a social media trendsetter in the federal government. Committed to creating the space for a new organizational culture to emerge, Andrew Treusch uses tools like Twitter to meaningfully communicate in real-time with his 40,000-person organization. It’s his relentless personal commitment to the organization, and his people, that drives him to try out new ways to seek direct policy input about the future of the CRA from workers “on the front lines.”
  • As a 14-year Deputy Minister who was so committed to moving breakthrough thinking forward, Maria David-Evans would put her word, reputation and career on the line by promising her resignation if a change initiative she was championing didn’t deliver the results she passionately believed were possible.
  • The first-ever Open Data BC Hackathon where people interested in open data were invited to access information and legislation to brainstorm ideas, create, and showcase apps to demonstrate different ways data could be used creatively.
  • Dragon’s Den type policy pitches, Tiger Teams, Communities of Practice, and federal and provincial lectures by public servants (in the style of TED talks) are all simple examples of intrapreneurship in action.

In fact, the BC Public Service has a Corporate Intrapreneurship Competency. In the Achieving Business Results section of Strategic and Business Leadership levels, the competency is described as:

Corporate intrapreneurship focuses on venture creation, governance, differentiation and integration of new ventures within the organization. This job requires the following most of the time:

  • Pursues opportunities on behalf on the unit within the organization for new areas of activities;
  • When dealing with new challenges or initiatives, moves forward in the face of incomplete or unclear information and adapts along the way;
  • Takes the lead in addressing risky situations/problems; 
  • When faced with setbacks and discouragement in a new project, searches for solutions to keep the project going.

As you can see, intrapreneurship is about a mindset rather than an output. It’s about the “how” you get to better outcomes by trying new practices, taking different approaches, and involving more problem-solvers in the problem you’re addressing.

Intrapreneurs don’t lead change alone; they do not work in isolation. Rather, they are fascinating strategists, capable of finding the right mix of people, with the right set of skills, at the right time.


I’m calling 2015 “the year of demonstration.” One of my biggest frustrations with people who want change is the lack of innovating through demonstration, particularly in the public service. This is a natural consequence of fear of failure and adversity to risk.

What if we freed our “intrapreneurial spirits” to redefine our roles as public servants – to see ourselves as convenors, connectors, collaborators and solution-seekers?

Citizens’ expectations and demands are only going to increase while government budgets continue to shrink. We can’t do more with less until we reimagine our role as public servants. Taking full advantage of the collective intelligence, tenacity and creativity of public servants throughout our entire organization can help us meet the needs of the 21st century. No longer can we place key challenges in the hands of a few managers and leaders – today, we must put them in the hands of every employee.


I want to be clear that intrapreneurship is not about undermining the direction or rules of our institutions. On the contrary, I have found that effective organizational change agents operate within the system to shift the system. Unleashing the intrapreneurial mindset is about creating vehicles to enable robust policies and improve outcomes through building a collaborative culture.

So, how do we redesign the next generation of public service?

Beginning with a mantra of relentless optimism is a good start. We can support each other’s desires to bring about large-scale disruptive change by mobilizing a broad range of people, expertise and latent assets in new and exciting ways.

Let’s challenge ourselves to become master collaborators in 2015. Mass-scale collaboration is needed to address our challenges, like individuals cooperating in a massive multi-player online game. We need to work together to tackle our issues.


Informal networks have always connected like-minded public innovators. I am a big believer in operating in the “space in between.” After all, this is where the magic happens – where innovation thrives and start-up practices live. Today, it is easy to cut across organizational boundaries and create exciting connections.

It’s through these self-organized social networks that intrapreneurs are demonstrating methods to reimagine, redefine and redesign the next generation of public service.

We can foster this intrapreneurial culture together. Anyone can be a part of this growing movement. There are no barriers to entry; all that’s needed is for us, the intrapreneurs, to lead by example while creating collaborative vehicles that connect our experience, ideas and solution-focused enthusiasm.

If you’re interested in reimagining the public service, reach out on twitter to @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.

The Diversity of… Well… Diversity

“Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room.” – Michael Dell, 2003

Much as it has perplexed my wife, I’m a member of a public administration book club. Yes, such a thing exists. It’s an academically-inclined group. Most of the members have Master’s degrees. Almost all live and work in the NCR (National Capital Region – GovSpeak for the Ottawa area). Plus, they’re brilliant.

And then there’s me.

No Master’s degree. Born and raised far from Ottawa, in Edmonton. I’ve worked in public sector service delivery, but never in a “policy shop”. The world of the NCR is mostly foreign to me, and when I’ve been to Ottawa I’ve felt more like a touristy outsider than a government insider.

That said, I’m warmly welcomed to the club. My opinions are sought in book selections and I actively contribute to our discussions. While I sometimes feel like an odd choice for a book club of policy wonks, the reality is that I bring to the club a diversity that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

When we think of diversity, we often focus primarily on employment equity categories – women, First Nations, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities. Sometimes we think more broadly, and include prohibited domains of discrimination – national or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, marital or family status.

While these are all valid, and important, angles on diversity, they aren’t exhaustive. Humans are just too, well, diverse. Diversity itself has a near-infinite number of dimensions.

In the context of our book club, I bring geographic diversity to the group. There are perspectives on the public sector that can’t easily be had from within the sometimes-insular bubble of Ottawa.

Other members of the group work outside of the public sector, and they bring occupational diversity. Being outside the public service and its trappings allows for scrutiny, and for insight not visible from inside.

Occupational diversity is perhaps why politicians seek outsiders – academics and businessfolk – to provide oversight or advice on the public service itself. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service is comprised of members from the worlds of business and academia.

This is the true benefit of diversity – it combats our limitations and biases, which we sometimes have difficulty seeing. If we’ve always done something a certain way, we may be blind to other (perhaps better) ways.

To minimize those blind spots, diversify your personal and professional network. Say hello to the cleaning staff, vendors, contractors, and stay in touch with retirees. Connect with citizens who are visiting your office or service counter. Ask them their names and a bit about their experiences, and share a bit of your own. Connect with those outside your usual social and occupational groups.

You’ll need to be ready to hear the unexpected. If nothing else, you’ll gain a wider perspective on our country and its place in the world. Canadians are a diverse bunch, in far more than skin tone or religion.

In what ways is your work unit diverse? How do you seek out diverse (including ‘outsider’) input and for feedback? As a leader, do you seek out diverse counsel and viewpoints when making decisions?

George Wenzel George Wenzel is a journeyman public servant. He has worked delivering programs and in internal services, most recently in Human Resources. His mission has been to improve service to Canadians by improving frontline management. You can find him online at,, and on Twitter @georgewenzel.

Inspiring Versus Engaging

We all love the feeling of being inspired. But what does it mean to be inspired?

Millions of people have listened to inspirational speakers and felt as though they could take on the World with impunity. They watch a great TED Talk, or buy tickets to a Tony Robbins event, or witness something that gives them that feeling of “I’m gonna go out and do something with my life!”

Thing is, it stops there. Being inspired is akin to getting your cocaine, heroin, nicotine, or gambling fix. It’s a goodie-good feeling of goodness that masks people’s lacklustre lives.

Inspirational moments are fleeting moments and have a terrible efficiency rating when it comes to instigating change. Those inspired people will go home, watch re-runs of The Bachelor and generally complain about Monday mornings.

That’s why I find it is important to differentiate between “Inspiring” and “Engaging.” Something that is inspirational is just a feeling. Being engaging implies and often leads to action.

I acknowledged that a person/speech/presentation can both be inspiring and engaging. For example, I was inspired by Dave Meslin’s TED Talk on apathy many years ago, but he also managed to engage me into something that was so much bigger: The terrible marketing that surrounds Civic Engagement. This engagement eventually led to the Open Government Tour.

Yet one more example is George Carlin’s rant “I’m a modern man.” I love that rant. I find it inspirational because the man is a freakin’ philosopher cleverly disguised as a comedian who only needed 3.5 minutes to cynically and poetically describe our societal values. His rant resulted in me developing (and living) the Principles for Leading an Open Life.

I eventually created my own rant entitled “We are open people” whose purpose is to capture the values of an Open Society (as an answer to George’s cynical perspective).

I realize that I’m unique. There aren’t many people who are as easily engaged as I am. My beef isn’t about unengaged people. It is about how we put so much value in the term “inspirational.” In my limited experience, being inspired does not generally result in action.

Think about all those people that tweet out inspirational quotes. I mean, we would have World Peace if we all actually acted on those quotes! People would be kind and happy! Empathy would rule the day!

But we don’t have that. For the most part, all those “inspirational” quotes are a façade mocking our selfish society. That’s why when people tell me “I was inspired by that!” I ask them: “OK, what are you gonna do now?”

…and I usually get blank faces.


Richard PietroRichard Pietro considers himself as an Open Government Fanboy in an attempt to create Civic Engagement as Art. Richard’s Twitter handle is @richardpietro and you can learn more about his work at

Looking Forward to Looking Beyond

Looking beyond is a practice I try to cultivate daily. I read newspapers, blogs, research articles, watch videos and follow social media accounts that appear to have little or no connection to what I am doing today or sometimes what I have been planning to do tomorrow.

The surface of the earth was not mapped all at once or by a single person, but rather progressively over decades and centuries and by seeking out the unknown in places that were, well, unknown at the time. I may not have time today to talk to everyone around me or see every process that connects with mine or my team or on the immediate project, but over time I can build a global map and establish the linkages which will lead to current and future successes. Regularly, I end up with “that’s okay I can do that tomorrow or the next day.” I still have time to accomplish what I will, much of that is unknown too, and daily or even weekly progressive effort over a long period can yield substantial results. I may not find a piece of the puzzle today, but I may find some glue to hold it more tightly together.

When a new project or task comes up, when I think I am done planning, looking for inter dependencies and then delivering, I look a little further beyond the immediate time, space and scope to see what the logical next step is. To see where the team can go a little further today or where we can solidify gains already made. Occasionally this leads to false linkages, false understandings, and even backpedalling, but if the same effort is applied tomorrow, I have a chance to recover, or to uncover and correct a misconception.

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them,” wrote Albert Einstein. Knowing where I am, provides the foundation for going where I need to go. Once I see what can be delivered, this does not remain a demarcation of the end, but a new beginning for the next journey. Yes, I have to deliver today, but a progressive ethic and drive to know where my team connects with other teams, where my team is going next year, and where my whole organization is at today, this is looking beyond.

Thanks for reading and have a great month.


Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this is entirely my own initiative and what I post here does not necessarily reflect the view of the government, my office or my position there in.

Craig Sellars
Craig Sellars is a passionate Canadian public servant and biologist. Connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigSellars.

Open Government Statues

I’m new to Ottawa, and as such, I decided to explore Parliament Hill the other day. Not so much the structure, but the actual grounds. And as I was walking around, I couldn’t help but marvel at the statues of the founding fathers of our country.…and then it dawned on me. I was sitting here, eating my muffin and drinking my coffee and had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity (Pulp Fiction fans will recognize this quote).

We need new statues.

Not to overshadow those figures who moulded this country, but to welcome a new culture of collaboration. Plus, the imagery those statues represent values from a foregone era that are somewhat obsolete with today’s sensibilities.

Before we go much farther, I want to make sure you all understand that I’m in no way attempting to diminish the achievements of our past leaders. What they accomplished was nothing short of extraordinary. This post is simply an examination on how art can influence government culture, and how government culture can influence art.

…so, let’s start with the basic interpretation:
The High and Mighty

The vast majority of the statues depict a kind of ostentatious superiority that remind me of famous Napoleon paintings. Chest out, chin up, fearlessly leading a nervous populace into strange territory. The statues are also elevated making them both figuratively AND literally untouchable.

This kind of distancing of our leaders from the commoner may have once been a reality, but we’re now forging new relationships between these two audiences that are levelling the conversation.
The Low and Inept

Citizens on these statues are often portrayed as begging for help and hoping “that someone” will take care of them. “That someone” will show them the way. “That someone” will make their ills disappear. And more often than not, these citizens are women.

This imagery promotes the Shepherd / Sheep relationship between government and citizens and glamourizes the subjugation of women in our society. Once again, this may have once been relevant, but is no longer the behaviour we want to encourage. Citizens can now take care of themselves. Citizens are now pointing the way. Citizens are organizing and taking charge. If anything, citizens are saying to government “please move, you’re in our way” or “don’t worry, I can take care of it. I just need a little bit of help with this thing.”

Tim O’Reilly proposed that we need to see government as an enabler instead of a do’er. The imagery depicted at the Parliament Hill statues show government as a doer, and citizens as beggars.

Backs turned

I was lucky enough to visit Dave Meslin’s Fourth Wall exhibit a few years ago. There, he made the most astounding observation: “Have you ever noticed that all the windows on Toronto’s City Hall towers face inward? Nine hundred and sixty windows looking at each other and zero facing outwards. This serves as a metaphor for the state of public engagement in Toronto.”

I couldn’t help but notice that the Parliament Hill statues I saw (except for Laurier) all face the Parliamentary Buildings and have their backs turned to Canada. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into something that isn’t there, but if I’m not, then we need to acknowledge that there’s a kind of insular elitism being portrayed here. One that does not reflect the values of Open Government.
The exceptions that prove the rule

Now, there are two statues in particular which I think portray the values of Open Government exquisitely.

The Women’s Suffrage. Two things: One, they are the only statues that display women (aside from Queen Elizabeth sitting on her high horse). Two, they are at ground level where a group of five women are seen working together to bring about change. There are seats, tables, and tea is being served. The way the statues are presented, you can almost feel as though you are actually part of their efforts. The installation invites people to participate in the conversation and be treated as equals.

Robert Baldwin & Sir Louis-Hyppolyte Lafontaine, Canada’s Joint Prime Ministers. It is interesting to note that the only statue that display two political leaders working together has a very “open” base.

Although the figures are still elevated, you can’t help but notice a different attitude being conveyed here. It feels as though the memorial is welcoming you with wide open arms and offering people a place to rest or shelter themselves from the elements. Baldwin and Lafontaine had to work collaboratively, and as such, their memorial embodies the spirit of collaboration and openness. Whether or not this true behind the scenes is another matter. What is important is the message being reflected to Canadians: working together is about being open, welcoming others into our environment, and protecting one another.

…what wonderful imagery to showcase the collaborative spirit.
Society 2.0 / Statues 2.0

As mentioned earlier, I’m not trying to challenge Canada’s past leaders, or how they’ve been portrayed. And I’m certainly not suggesting these statues should be taken down or be “rebooted.”

What I am trying to say is that we can’t ignore our past if we are to progress as a society.

Some of those statues on Parliament Hill project a value system that is no longer aligned with the way our society functions. These founding fathers belong to a society that features a barren educational system; A society where its citizens were mostly stationary; And in a society where communication channels and networking were limited. During such an era, you needed a God-like figure that would break all-odds and provide answers and build solutions for a destitute population.

Thing is, we now live in a society where just about everyone can gain access to a rich knowledge base; We now live in a society where citizens have the ability to span continents with a fraction of the resources that were once needed; We now live in a society where anyone can be heard from anywhere, and at any time…and more importantly, LISTEN TO anyone from anywhere, and at anytime.

I suppose what I am saying is that I can’t wait till the first Open Government Statues are created.

Richard PietroRichard Pietro considers himself as an Open Government Fanboy in an attempt to create Civic Engagement as Art. Richard’s Twitter handle is @richardpietro and you can learn more about his work at

Being an Employer of Choice

“So our message to students and graduates is, we need you in the public service and we will be out there and will be recruiting.”

— PSC president Anne-Marie Robinson, quoted in the Ottawa Citizen, November 6, 2014

To learn about working for the government, I visited the website. It’s where the Public Service Commission branded the Government of Canada as an employer of choice. Back in 2001, the site highlighted diversified work, attractive compensation and opportunities for advancement as reasons to join. If you became a part of this team, you’d be working for a “model organization”.

It sure seemed like an amazing place to work, and this branding is part of what attracted me as a recruit. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for an employer that tries to be a model for all others?

Through a lengthy hiring process, I joined the federal public service in 2001. After rewarding but low-paying shiftwork jobs in the nonprofit sector, it truly felt like a dream job – fair pay, good benefits, and daytime hours. The Commission’s branding matched my experience. I had interesting work and opportunities to learn and grow.

Once employed as a Fed, I stopped paying much attention to the site. After all, why bother looking at entry-level job postings if I already had an entry-level position? In retrospect, I probably should have kept an eye on it though. Thanks to the Internet Archive, we can all take a look at the evolution of how the federal government has branded itself as an employer.

Like most websites, has evolved over the years. The employer of choice branding was expanded in 2005 when another five reasons to join the public service were added, including a rich career path, continuous learning, and effective work-life balance. All good stuff.

The site changed dramatically in June 2012. The phrase “employer of choice” and those five reasons to join the public service? They’re completely gone. Today, the site is simply a search engine for job postings, with little context about why someone might want to join the federal public service. While some individual departments and agencies maintain Careers pages, I could not locate a current government-wide answer to the question why should I want to work there?

Large and small, public and private, every employer wants to have the best employees. To this end, many organizations present themselves as an employer of choice via recruitment websites. Examples include Telus, Alberta Health Services, and the Ontario Public Service. Such sites answer the question “why would you want to work here?”.

Today, for the federal government, that question is left unanswered. Indeed, the Destination 2020 plan includes an action item to “define and communicate the Federal Public Service Brand.” So, perhaps we simply don’t have something new to say just yet.

Or, perhaps, the reason we can’t answer the question is because we’ve simply lost sight of it. After a few years of downsizings that’s certainly understandable. We’ve had many colleagues depart and few new hires join us. Many of us feel stressed and under pressure to do more with less.

For myself, I choose to believe that the public service is still a rewarding place to work and an employer of choice – those words from 2001 resonate with me today. No other employer offers as many points of service, career paths, or opportunities. The pay is decent and the work has a purpose.

My perspective is clouded, though, because I’ve worked with and for a number of exceptional public service managers.

Those managers have little influence on how the government as a whole brands itself to potential recruits. To their employees, though, they are the employer. If team members feel welcome and part of a larger cadre of public servants, they, like me, will tell their friends. Likewise, if ignored, under-developed, or mismanaged they’ll also share stories of their ‘bad boss’ with their friends too.

Those great managers have solidified my opinion of the public service. If you’re a manager, you have the opportunity to be the public service brand. Be a leader who makes each member of your team feel truly important. Treat them like a million-dollar investment Canada’s future, because that’s exactly what they are.

What do you believe creates an employer of choice? More importantly, what can you do to foster that kind of environment for yourself? For your colleagues? For your employees? Every day is a choice to be that model employer. Choose wisely.

George Wenzel George Wenzel is a journeyman public servant. He has worked delivering programs and in internal services, most recently in Human Resources. His mission has been to improve service to Canadians by improving frontline management. You can find him online at,, and on Twitter @georgewenzel.

How Changemakers Get Things Done in Government: Intrapreneurship in Action

Photo - Linda Beltrano2 web
In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Linda Beltrano, Executive Director of Oil and Strategic Initiatives, who I had the pleasure of working with when I first joined the public service over a decade ago. Linda led our tourism policy initiatives within the branch team while I worked on sector development. I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by Linda when we were first introduced. Her reputation precedes her not only as a brilliant strategic policy designer and scholar of research methodology and evaluation, but also as an incredibly talented painter and jewellery designer.

Linda’s mantra has always been “let’s get the job done right.” She is a master of institutional entrepreneurship who has successfully moved big initiatives through government by staying laser focused on tackling the problem she is asked to solve. This has led to her being assigned complex files in government to lead as well as some incredible accomplishments.

In addition to having a great mind for policy development, Linda is also a thoughtful, caring and invaluable mentor. She concerns herself with the people around her and is always there when they need her – ready to offer a listening ear and honest advice.

With her over 30 years of experience in the public service, I was honoured to have Linda share her principles, practices and lessons from the field on how to get things done in government. She truly demonstrates what passionate commitment and intrapreneurial thinking can look like when put into action.

Here is a snapshot of Linda’s experience and accomplishments: Currently, Linda is the Executive Director of the Oil and Strategic Initiatives Division in the Ministry of Natural Gas Development. She is responsible for assisting in the development of recommendations related to energy exports and the opening of new export markets.

Linda has held the following positions since 1981:

  • Executive Director of Geoscience and Strategic Initiatives
  • Director of Program Planning, Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Act Now BC
  • Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives for Ministry of Tourism Sport and Arts
  • Director of Corporate Relations and New Forest Opportunities – Linda was a member of the executive team that established and developed, New Forest Opportunities, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Forest Renewal BC, which included the construction of an office on Reserve – a first for BC
  • Senior Advisor, Aboriginal Initiatives, Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture
  • Development of Small Business Program for Aboriginal Women
  • Regional Development Officer and Director Rural Development Branch for Ministry of Economic Development, Small Business and Trade
  • Senior Development Officer for the Northern Alberta Development Council, Province of Alberta
  • Winner of Green Ideas Shine Award for British Columbia Public Sector Employees
  • Nominated by industry for Women in Natural Resources Minerva Award.

I first asked Linda about her approach to problem-solving. This is how she answered…

“You have to dive into the opportunity and look at all the sides of the perceived problem. There are always pros and cons connected to each course of action. You have to first figure out where government wants to move on the problem, and then you need to work within the confines of the system to start moving a particular approach forward.

You also need to know the vision of where you want to go and ask yourself ‘does this opportunity match up with the vision and the mandate I have been given?’ If it doesn’t match up, your approach is not likely to work.”

One of the projects that Linda most enjoyed leading was the BC Resort Task Force. She explained that government recognized the exciting investment opportunities that were available, but didn’t know how to best capitalize on them. Government wanted to examine how long it would take to get resorts approved so they could fully understand the process from start to finish. Prior to this, no one had fully described the entire sequence and timeline. Linda explained…

“To figure this out, our group took this approach:

  1. We sat down and created a team;
  2. We identified our needs and what supporting documents we needed to fully understand the process;
  3. We documented the entire process;
  4. We laid out a vision of how we could reduce the overburden on resort developers where possible; and
  5. We identified all the players – we knew we needed all the stakeholders to be a part of achieving this vision and we worked closely with other levels of government, First Nations, and industry developers.”

Linda stressed the point that it’s critical to bring all of the key people into the dialogue about the future at the very beginning of an initiative. Failing to do so can often risk the success of the project.

Instead of focusing on who is part of a particular problem, Linda likes to stay focused on who is part of the opportunity, and she believes that reframing a problem as an opportunity will attract the interest of most people. Linda continued…

“We always tend to look at challenges as problems. Why? If you start talking about these problems as opportunities the light goes on for people. They start to see the benefits and want to be part of the process.”

Linda pointed out that they were also really fortunate to have an enthusiastic Minister of State, who wanted to reduce the burden for all the major stakeholders. She believes that this was key for the team to meet their mandate.

Here is where Linda shared some of the opportunities facing the public service today…

“I am seeing the need more and more for clear information so people can make good decisions about whether or not they want to pursue projects. Today, we have a lot of misinformation and biased opinions floating in the media. Technology has opened up some very powerful and exciting informational doors, but more often than not, there is bias being built in. The role of the public service is to give people accurate and factual information.”

In Linda Beltrano’s words, her approach to building a guiding coalition to help move big opportunities through government involves the following…

  1. “Start with identifying the right players;
  2. Seek out and define the opportunity;
  3. Determine the benefits and how to distribute them to everyone;
  4. Work with the most accurate information possible – always present the pros and cons (this often involves speaking truth to power);
  5. Do your research – understand the world you’re trying to change, think through where the resistance might lie, and understand why it might exist;
  6. Develop a Project Charter and the start to finish Critical Path. This way, if you have to collapse the process, you know where you can do it;
  7. Understand who you work for and how the bureaucracy works – the various roles of the Assistant Deputy Minister, the Deputy Minister, and the Minister are important to grasp. They can help you reach your goal;
  8. You need to know the decision-making tree – how government functions;
  9. Writing is vital – you have to be able to convey your message eloquently. I think this is a problem in today’s public service – we are missing good, effective writers; and
  10. Diversity in the workplace is key – there are many advantages to maintaining a multi-generational workforce – everyone brings something to the table in terms of experience and problem solving ability.

These approaches are not new, but they are very important because they force you to think through the twists and turns of the change you’re trying to bring into effect. They will prepare you for the constantly changing circumstances in government. They also help you build resiliency into your change efforts so when you meet resistance or come up against barriers; you know how to maneuver through them. This is also where you build out your different scenarios, your plan A, B and C, and helps you avoid getting spooked by surprises.

You never know what lies ahead. We are living in changing times and you need to be able to constantly adapt.”

Here are Linda’s thoughts when it comes to “defining the problem” – she believes that “if you can define the problem …then you don’t have a problem…”

She explains that most problems stem from an inability to effectively articulate what the issue actually is. By clearly defining the problem, you can get to the root cause which is what needs to change.

Linda’s problem defining process starts off by asking these basic questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • Is that really it?
  • If we do x, y and z, will that fix it?

Linda sees the process very much like an infinity loop that you have to keep going back through because if you stop going back to the basic questions, it is very easy to get sidetracked and lose focus.

When asked about how she has dealt with major resistance to a new idea or approach, she had these words of advice…

“Really explore what is causing the resistance. Sometimes resistance is not bad, it can be important because it causes you to go back and ask the important question of ‘is this the right course of action.’ If you are doing something big, then of course there will be resistance. Expect that and be ready for it. Have your different scenarios well-planned for how you are going to shift and move forward.

Some days, I don’t think we are as strategic as we should be. We don’t always look at the depth of the project. I like to look at a problem like it is a rubik’s cube – you have to see the interconnections and all the sides before you determine your best course of action.”

One of Linda’s former Deputies told her that there is always a push-and-pull tension in government when you’re bringing new policy through… and that is okay. It is healthy. This is when you go back through the loop to reflect on the mandate for change.

Linda shared lessons learned throughout her career…

  1. “Stay calm and carry on;
  2. You need to believe that in the end something always works out;
  3. Keeping people informed along your thinking path is critical – have your plan, communicate it well with your Deputy, so in turn they can communicate it well with your Minister;
  4. Keep an eye on budget and staffing – always!
  5. Surround yourself with multi-skilled, multi-talented people – never see yourself as the smartest person in the room;
  6. Always have an open door policy and invite your team to talk about different ways of doing things. Your team needs to be able to give you all the information and feel comfortable and free to bring whatever info they come across. Your job is to analyze all the data and prepare to present the pros and cons;
  7. Trust your intuition and trust your team;
  8. Identify actions when making recommendations – this keeps everyone action-focused; and
  9. The Golden Rule – always remember that people are your most valuable resource.”

I probed Linda about working under the radar when trying to build a new opportunity for government because many of the change agents I work with feel that they have to keep their ideas and approaches under the radar until the timing is right and a window of opportunity appears. She had this to say:

“You need to know when to stay under the radar and when to come up. This can be hard to do in a political environment. It can sometimes come down to a combination of knowing when it’s the right time to bring something forward and being told to come forward with a new, bold idea.

If you’re communicating well, usually the time to come up becomes obvious. If you have done your critical path, you also have a pretty good idea. Sometimes we wait too long to showcase a project and we lose the opportunity. This is why timing is very important.”

When asked about the next generation of public service, Linda’s eyes lit up as she described what it might look like:

“The skill sets are definitely different. Expectations are very high with people coming into the public service today. I think the future is going to be a very exciting time. Some of the minds are incredibly sharp, and people can use technology in so many fascinating ways.

As the next generation of public servants continues to learn and understand how to get things done in government, they are going to become exceptional leaders. The decision-making will be much better because these up-and-coming leaders have a much broader understanding of the triple bottom-line, which inspires me. These are very respectful people who care and are engaged.

The future skills of government will include socially-minded techies, business development experts, economists, and writers. In the future, it will be evermore critical to effectively tell the story around key opportunities.”

Finally, when asked what her legacy will be after a lifetime in the public service, Linda told me this:

“My proudest moments have been when the projects I’ve worked on have taken hold. I have always loved trying to tackle complex problems and figuring out what the core bases of these problems were. I’m grateful for all the diverse files I’ve been able to work on and lead in the public service, and the amazing people I’ve had a chance to work with.

Working in the public service is not about going to work every day and sitting in front of a screen. It’s about doing something and achieving something of value. If you’re not making a real contribution you’re not fulfilling your potential.”

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.