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Innovate on Demand, Episode 14: OneTeamGov Canada

You may have heard of their breakfast meetups, virtual coffee chats or their 'unconference', and wondered who is OneTeamGov Canada and what do they do? On this episode of Innovate on Demand, learn about this organization from those who know it best, and dive into its purpose and vision and how you can get involved.

Duration: 18:34
Date: July 29, 2020

Transcript

Todd 
I'm Todd Lyons.

Natalie 
I'm Natalie Crandall.

Colleen
Colleen Tiernan.

Ioana
Ioana Finichiu.

Joël
And I'm Joël Bourgeoys.

Todd
And this is the Innovate on Demand podcast.

OneTeamGov Canada. You may have heard of their breakfast meetups, virtual coffees or their unconference, and wondered who are they? What do they do? Or perhaps even.... why should you care? And if you're a regular listener to this show you know that there are skeptics on our staff, but none so cynical that we're not open to being convinced. So, why not learn about this organization from the people who know it best? I think they'll surprise you.

Todd
Welcome, everybody.

Group
Thank you. Thank you so much.

Natalie
I had a quick question for you. I was very curious. One Team Gov is a very interesting movement, one, which I think embodies what a lot of public servants think of as innovation and breaking down some barriers. What are your thoughts around that?

Ioana  
Why is everybody pointing at me? This is Ioana, by the way, I have no idea. Really. What are some thoughts about that?

Natalie
Why don't you want to talk about innovation? Because I did hear you earlier say you don't want to talk about innovation.

Ioana  
It's overdone. It's like everybody just puts innovation [tag] on, slaps [on] the label, and it's like, oh, we're gonna do something. And nobody can agree on a definition. Definitions are really important, but nobody can agree on what it is. And I don't know that we're doing anything incredibly innovative. We're just bringing humans back to being human. That's really what we're trying to do -- create a safe space for them so they can be themselves like we can be ourselves here today with you.

Natalie  
So some would say that's actually innovative in the public federal context. But, you know...

Todd
It's very novel.

Joël  
I think innovation speaks a lot to the what -- what we are doing or what we're wanting to do. And I think what we bring to the table is how should we do it? And with who? And who should we engage? And how can we create the space for public servants to actually talk about innovation. So what we're doing is not necessarily innovation, we're just creating the space for people to bring up these ideas talk to each other and hope to make things better.

Colleen  
And from my perspective, I think it's fascinating that you can connect with folks that are working in programs or working in operations or working in policy, and they've never talked to the other side of their program. And it's just mind blowing to me how the policy folks have never talked to the program folks who have never talked to the front line and so they don't have that perspective. And that's not even including, what does this all mean for the Canadians On the ground that are receiving the services from us as public servants. It's just shocking to me. And I work in a government lab where we're enabling our clients to have the conversation and to do things differently. And at the heart of it is, have you had the opportunity to connect with other people to have that conversation?

Natalie 
Thank you. That's actually very interesting, because I find a lot of times when I talk to innovators or people who label themselves or consider themselves as innovators in the public service, really, the two themes that come up all the time are people and perspectives. But what is critically important is how do we incorporate? How do we get all of those perspectives at the table. And the other one is creating that space so that we can have a mindset and space to do work in a different way.

Ioana
Can you just give them a really quick example. So we are sitting here at an 'unconference' which [makes] a lot of people [wonder] -- "What In the world is that?" They came and they trusted that we would deliver something for them. They took a chance to come here today. And there was an activity that we did called the River of Intentions, I believe. And I just happened to be there earlier today and a participant came up to me and said, "Hey, this is lovely. But next time, can we talk about accessibility? Because this is not accessible to me, I cannot participate in this activity. It's great that you do it. I see a lot of able-bodied people doing it, but I cannot do it. So can you please think about that for next year?" And from there, we had probably a good 25 minute chat, where I said, Okay, how can I do this? How can I include all of this? Can you please come and help us? And this is what we do. Every time somebody says, Hey, why don't you do this? I [say] how about you come and join us and we'll do this together. Next time we'll plan along with you. We'll take you along with us and help us help you. I know it's not everybody's business to educate us, but I'm really grateful for the people who do and give us the opportunity to get ourselves better, because that's the only way we can deliver on these things.

Natalie
That is an absolutely beautiful example of really listening to feedback and incorporating it and moving it forward. Do you have other examples through the One Team Gov File, where were significant things have changed and how you do things?

Colleen
The one thing that I would mention is there was a conversation on Twitter a couple months ago. A number of the the innovators in the public service were saying, "Hey, guys, I think we should have a lunchtime session. The morning sessions aren't accessible to us. It's really hard to get to. They're at 830 in the morning. Can we run a lunchtime session?" And we said come and connect with us. We will provide you all of the information, the How-to and you can take that. Actually, one of the seven principles [of One Team Gov] is Practical Action. And they started the lunchtime session, and we were able to pass on the torch, pass on the tools, pass on the How-to and they were able to take that and and run with it. Another thing that we wanted to talk about too, today, is the how. Because running an unconference like this, what we hope and plan and dream for is that the day will be seamless, but there's a lot that happens at the back end and a lot of planning and organization that happens to make it successful. So for us, it's really [important] having that opportunity to pass on the torch [and] show others how we can work differently together.

Joël
The more simple it looks, the harder it was to plan before time.

Ioana
Can I be a little bit cheeky?

Natalie
Of course.

Todd
Yes. It's encouraged, actually.

Ioana  
The only answer that I have for you is, it's not innovation. It's hard work. And I think that's a little bit uncomfortable for a lot of people to have that sit there -- and let it sit there. That's exactly what it is. It's hard work. I'm looking at Todd today. Todd literally booked 12 podcast sessions, which is insane. Right? It's hard work. That's what it is. That's what we're asking people to do. We're asking them to show up -- de se retrousser les manches -- I have no idea how to say that [in English].

Natalie  
"Roll up your sleeves."

Ioana  
Thank you. And get digging in there. And we will include all perspectives and we'll all work together to create something for others.

Natalie
That's amazing. How does one get involved outside of just wanting to be involved and choosing to, and spending your own work and personal time I'm sure on things like One Team Gov? Are there people here who have that as part of their job description, for example?

Ioana
Rae? Do you want to talk about Rae [Bourassa]? Anybody?

Joël  
What do you want to say about Rae?

Ioana  
Well, this is something that I thought it was really interesting because she made an agreement with her management to have this done as part of her work duties. And she put that in writing. And she had that put into her performance measurement discussions. So she can do this and not just on the side of a desk. And you know, Joel and I were actually talking about it today that if this ends up being our job, well, we'll make it our job if this is what's needed for the public service. We're trying to create public good. If we can do it, legitimately, not necessarily just outside work hours, then yes, let's do it.

Natalie
That's very important. Actually, I think that would be a huge win. So there are some people then who are involved with One Team Gov who do it as either their regular job or part of their regular job. And then the bulk of the people who are involved, are involved on their own. I'm sure most people have supported their management

Joël  
Yes and no. Yes and no.

Todd 
Do tell.

Joël  
Well, for my part I was lucky. My manager understands that this is important, so I could take some time from work. But obviously the files that you have do not stop coming in, right? So, us three and two other colleagues, we've been meeting, we've been using our Sundays. For the six best Sundays we've been meeting and working on this full time. There's [others who] wanted to be volunteers and they actually did not get the agreement from their managers. We were talking about someone from Montreal, wanting to volunteer and her manager said, No, I'm sorry, you're not traveling for One Team Gov. And she said, Okay, I'm taking a day off. I'm paying my own ticket. I'm taking the train and I'm meeting you guys there. So, a lot of passionate people. Some are lucky -- managers understand. Others, less.

Natalie  
That's a story that shows how us at the working level in the federal government and Canadians are lucky to have people like your colleague from Montreal who's willing to stand back and say, "You know what this is worth it. This is important, and I'm going to do it myself." But that's not how it should be. I don't want to validate something that's actually not the way it should be. I'm just pointing out that we're lucky to have people like that.

Joël  
In government right now we're talking a lot about how do we move on to a more digital space and so on. And people think about the tools, but this mindset of helping people to talk to others, getting people to be engaged in government, that should be actually be cheered on, not repressed, right? I mean, this is the important part, not thinking about what tools we'll be using to telework or what tools we'll be using, and so on. Right?

Natalie  
That's amazing. And do you have engagement with other levels of government as well?

Ioana
We do. We are so, so flippin' lucky. We have City of Ottawa represented here. We have city of Barrie represented here. We have some folks from the federal level. I just found out that we have somebody from Quebec City who made it all the way here, which is kind of amazing. We have folks from Toronto, we have the Ontario Public Service represented here today. And we have a bunch of non-governmental organizations. We have a few nonprofits, so our friend Gail from Mitacs was downstairs. So the whole point is that everybody is welcome. Everybody. This is open to everyone who wants to contribute. You want to contribute to make the public sector better? Of course, we're gonna welcome you with open arms. How could we not? This totally rabbit-holes me into a conversation about why we want everybody at the table and why we want perspectives and to hear all of this. It's really interesting. We're not in competition. There are enough problems to go around and to innovate around that we will ever know what to do with. This should be a cooperative game. If we're talking about games, this should be about cooperation, about relationship building, about bridge building. We are never -- and we should never be -- in competition with each other. But who's going to get to a solution first? Who's going to have the most innovative solution? Now, there are seriously enough challenges for everybody to go around. You get a challenge, and you get a challenge, and you get a challenge. So let's figure them out. Let's not compete with each other. And let's work together. Really.

Natalie  
It's very important lesson. I think.

Joël  
Today, obviously [we] get a lot of people are coming to us and saying, "Oh, you ran that activity. That was really well done. Thank you. We want to use that in our department." Or, "We want to use that in our organization. What can we do better?" And that's great. And there are other people who are seeing us and thinking these guys are One Team Gov. But it's One Team Gov. We're all One Team Gov. You want to run something? Run with it. We will be here to advise you. We are three people. The core group organizing this [un]conference were five or six people. We cannot run conferences like this every six months. So we need people -- dedicated people. If they want to run something, if they want to organize something, go with it. We are here to advise, give her lessons learned on how the past two ones have been.

Natalie  
Is this is a call to public service activity?

Joël  
It is totally, absolutely.

Colleen  
And I think I think part of the challenge is that in our system, this call to action, this activism has been largely, been out of us. For those of us who have been around 15 years, I think the culture is starting to shift a little bit and it's starting to be more accepted. But maybe that's in the more forward departments. Maybe that's more in the central agencies. What about the line departments? What about the service delivery departments? It's really difficult for them to see the value in busting the silos and having the conversation and creating the safe space to bring people together. They're very much in this protectionism mode of operating and that's what we need to stop. So, people ask us often for permission. You don't need our permission. We will support you. We will provide you with some tools. You can do this. You can create this space yourself. But people don't know how.

Ioana  
I know! I have an amazing example for this. Guess how many layers of approval the video announcing this unconference took to get published on Twitter?

Todd
I'm scared to know.

Ioana
Anybody?

Todd
Six?

Ioana
Zero.

Natalie  
I was gonna ask. In your management team you had to approve it, but I didn't want to blow your story.

Ioana  
Because Emma Rowe says, "You know what, I want to do a video to announce this." We're like, "Okay, you go for it. You've got time. You've got the skills." She put together the video for it. We QA'ed it. We made sure that quality assurance was there in terms of typos. Then we gave a couple of tips. "Oh gee. Do you think if you maybe add a little bit of background music?" [She said,] "Okay, I can do that." All right, she did it. She published it and it has over 3000 views. And it just went out there. Hey guys, I'm publishing. I'm going live. Okay, cool. You go for it. You do it.

TODD
No complaints? The world didn't end?

Colleen  
Self-managed, multidisciplinary team.

Todd 
Wow.

Colleen
Distributed, right there. Distributed.

Joël
We can do great things.

Todd
If we're allowed to. Or empowered to.

Natalie
I feel like we're having a whole side episode where we're talking about the dangers of governance and authority.

Ioana
The question comes up sometimes about values and ethics and you know what? If we're public servants, anybody who's listening who's a public servant knows -- or should know -- the code that they signed up to abide by. They signed up to be a public servant. They have to sign this values and ethics code. They should know what they can and can't say or do. We're not here to police them. We're here to trust them. I trust you, Colleen and Nat and Todd and Joel, that you know exactly what you're supposed to do. And if you don't, you can ask for help. You can ask for advice and guidance. But I trust that you know what you're supposed to do as a public servant. So why then, should I constantly just surveiller? I'm not here for that. Go and do what you need to do. And one thing that I did want to mention--

Natalie
Trust your folks.

Ioana
Trust your folks, all the time. They know what they're doing. Surprise. One thing is you asked something a little bit earlier about how people can get involved. And again, cheekily, I can say -- we will find you. Put up your hands. Anytime you talk to any of us -- look us up on Twitter,so you can see our faces. Chances are, if you talk to us, we're going to rope you into something, just like we roped the two of you into this today, and we are so eternally grateful for that. But really, that's what we do. Because honestly, the more I think about it, the more I realize that we're really just a platform. So, imagine that we're holding our hands together like this and people can just step on that platform and we'll give them a boost up wherever they want to go. I'm not going to tell you where you need to go. But [if] you tell me, "I need to go somewhere." I'll boost you up. I'll throw you up there as hard as I can.

Joël
She followed the principles.

Colleen
Back to the principles!

Joël
Back to the principles.

Natalie
Thank you. So I guess we'll be seeing you at the next conference again.

Ioana
Unconference. We're gonna unconference everything now.

Todd
They'll rope us in.

Ioana
We will rope you in!

Natalie
By the way, you've nailed your sales pitch with your ADM, who's always asking me to develop a new unconference on this and unconference on that, which I always think is great. I don't know if the HR world is ready for an unconference, but I'm willing to try.

Ioana
If they're not ready, it's the right time to do it.

Natalie
That's right.

Joël
You would be surprised, I'm sure.

Ioana
Well, thank you so much for having us today.

Natalie
Thank you.

Todd
Thanks for coming. It was a great discussion.

Todd
You've been listening to Innovate On Demand, brought to you by the Canada School of Public Service. Our music is by grapes. I'm Todd Lyons, Producer of this series. Thank you for listening.

Credits

Todd Lyons
Producer
Canada School of Public Service

Natalie Crandall
Project Lead, Human Resources Business Intelligence
Canada School of Public Service

Colleen Tiernan
Senior Research Advisor
Employment and Social Development Canada

Ioana Finichiu
Senior Advisor
Canada School of Public Service

Joël Bourgeoys
Policy Analyst
Employment and Social Development Canada

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