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What’s this all for, really?

A note to Canada Beyond 150 participants from a member of the project design team

As the project work for Canada Beyond 150 kicks off, it’s natural to want to align your efforts to a final product. As participants in a policy development initiative, you might reasonably speculate: Is this about creating a new policy or program? Is this about developing a new tool that could help the Government of Canada better deliver services? Or is this about something different altogether, something that I haven’t yet imagined?

As one of the project planners for Canada Beyond 150, I know that the project is designed to have very real and tangible outcomes. Each of you will help develop policy prototypes to test and refine in collaboration with stakeholders and partners in the civil service and beyond. Along the way, you will also build up your policy knowledge base, assemble a new and innovative toolkit of methods and approaches, and forge enduring relationships with stakeholders and partners.

I will add that there are very likely to be a number of intangible outcomes too. Outcomes that we can’t strictly speaking “plan” for, but outcomes that will contribute to culture change, enhanced capacity in the policy community, and better results for Canadians all the same.

To help make my case, I’m going to ask you to follow me back in time to 2010—to a time shortly after canada@150 (the precursor project and inspiration for Canada Beyond 150) issued its summary report and it fell into my hands in exactly the right way at exactly the right time.

“As one of the project planners for Canada Beyond 150, I know that the project is designed to have very real and tangible outcomes.”

The scene is set in Boston, where I had been studying for a graduate degree in philosophy at Boston College for some time. I was looking for a change. I wanted to find a career where I could put my critical thinking, reading and writing skills to work. I wanted to make a difference. And I wanted to serve the public good back home in Canada.

I applied to the Recruitment of Policy Leaders program, a promising program that recruits professionals with diverse achievements and experience into mid- and senior-level policy positions across the Government of Canada. Needless to say, its emphasis on “diverse achievements and experience” appealed to me, given the limited appeal of academic philosophy in most other professional corners.

Unexpectedly—and to my mind, miraculously—I was invited to interview. I knew it would be hard. I knew that I would have to go deep on policy issues, challenges and solutions. But there was one problem: I had been spending my time with the ancient Greeks and modern Germans. I had literally no background in the public policy issues of the day, and only three short weeks to prepare. Where to turn?

Enter canada@150. Some quick research brought me to the landing page for the summary report, and it was a goldmine of policy thinking and recommendations. How can Canada be competitive in an increasingly multi-polar world? There’s a paper for that. What is the future of Arctic policy, and what are the opportunities and challenges for Canada in that region? There’s a policy brief on that. How can we re-design Canada’s five largest cities to be more sustainable and efficient for the +60% of Canadians who live in them? There’s a policy deep dive on that too.

“Could the participants in canada@150 have foreseen this kind of outcome? Unlikely! But their work certainly had an important impact on my career—as well as a host of other developments in the policy world today.”

canada@150 gave me a roadmap to think through these and other issues. The thinking and policy development that went into that project were vital for my preparation for that interview. It was a tough one—the hardest I have ever done, in fact. But when I was asked to give a spontaneous 30-second elevator pitch to a Deputy Minister on a policy issue of my choosing, I was primed. I passed the interview and joined the public service in September 2011.

Could the participants in canada@150 have foreseen this kind of outcome? Unlikely! But their work certainly had an important impact on my career—as well as a host of other developments in the policy world today. The aforementioned papers on Arctic policy, municipalities and Canada in a multi-polar world were early gestures towards what have since become renewed policy approaches to the Arctic, infrastructure and trade. More intangibly, the canada@150 paper on public service similarly gestured towards what would become Blueprint 2020. And canada@150’s use of online wikis—I know, it sounds so dated now—inspired what is today the suite of GCTools.

I submit that you cannot, strictly speaking, plan for these kinds of outcomes. Of course we have objectives and milestones. And of course we have a baseline for the impact that they will have. But these can’t take the full measure of what you will do and the impact you will have. Many of the outcomes and products from your work will unfold under the surface. They will ripple out over time. But they will be vital all the same.

These ripple effects below the surface—these cascading impacts behind the scenes—may in their own way be as important as the tangible deliverables that Canada Beyond 150 will issue. Over time they will have a real impact on Canada and Canadians, and provide real benefits to the public service. I encourage you to be open to their potential, and to let that motivate you to do as much with this experience as you can. You’ll never fully know where it will land.

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Social Media for Govvys

Social media is an evolving ecosystem that is becoming increasingly important for networking, professional development and personal growth. It has been a game changer for me in my public service career, helping me realize that I have colleagues outside my small work unit in Prince Edward Island that are passionate about making a difference in the public service. If it weren’t for social media magically melting away departmental and regional boundaries, I would not have been able to connect with, and learn from, so many of my Government of Canada colleagues.

As you embark on Canada Beyond 150, I strongly encourage you to be social media ambassadors. Use this unique opportunity to get familiar with social media, to network with experts and those outside of government. Share your journey with colleagues as you collaborate, innovate, share and “work smarter” —beyond organizational and regional boundaries. Your commitment and efforts will help shape and prepare the public service for the workplace of the future.

“Share your journey with colleagues as you collaborate, innovate, share and “work smarter” —beyond organizational and regional boundaries.”

However, as a “govvy”, I recognize that sometimes it is difficult to know where the line is, and how to avoid crossing it as you embark on sharing and networking on social media. To help with this, I have compiled some general dos and don’ts, based on things I have learned— and experimented with —throughout my social media journey as a public servant:

Show (more of) your human side:

The public nature of social media can scare “govvys” away from sharing anything outside of work topics. However, if you only talk business, you’re not letting anyone get to know you. And ultimately, people collaborate with people, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be (a very conscious version of) yourself online.

Imagine yourself at a meeting as colleagues are arriving. You’re probably going to talk about a whole range of things: what you did over the weekend, a new restaurant you tried, a hobby, TV show, etc.; social media should work in the exact same way. The best online identities are real, honest, and focus on what makes you unique and what you can offer. Associating your character traits with your personal brand makes you more memorable to your virtual networking peers.

A balanced formula:

Your online brand should be both personal and professional. If you manage to find the right balance, your brand and connections will be stronger. My own formula is to share one-third my own content, one-third of others’ content and one-third personal interaction, by sharing things that are important to me and interesting to others.

“At the end of the day, social media is all about conversations, shared interests and relationships. Keep it natural, be yourself, be considerate of others and use your common sense.”

I encourage you to find your own sweet spot between professional and personal branding, but don’t create multiple accounts on the same social media platform. This makes things confusing for your connections, and leaves your brand seeming inconsistent. The things you don’t want your coworkers to know about you shouldn’t end up on the Internet at all. At the end of the day, social media is all about conversations, shared interests and relationships. Keep it natural, be yourself, be considerate of others and use your common sense.

Think hard before you post:

When posting, remember that your comments are public—for the entire world to see. Comment online the same way you would at a meeting, over coffee or in a public forum. The safest assumption you can make is that absolutely everything you publish on your social media sites can be read by everyone you come in contact with, sometimes even after the post has been deleted.

As a general rule, a few areas shouldn’t be discussed on your social media accounts. Don’t complain about colleagues, clients or your employer. My own rule is to stay away from any talk of religion or politics. And although it probably doesn’t need mentioning, avoid advocating any kind of illicit activities.

Duty of loyalty to our employer:

Be clear and transparent that your views are your own, but remember your duty of loyalty to your employer still applies. This is the same for every line of work, not just for “govvys.” For example, if you work for the private sector or a not-for-profit, you are an ambassador for your organization, and if you as an employee do not support and stand behind programs and services that your organization offers, why would the public?

As public servants we need to refrain from public criticism and balance our right to freedom of expression with loyalty to our employer. Ask yourself: would you want your manager seeing your post? Even better, would you want your post to appear on the cover of the Globe and Mail?

“I love having the opportunity to see [my virtual connections] outside the 140 characters on Twitter.”

Nothing beats meeting your virtual connections in person:

Take the opportunity to meet your virtual connections in person. To me, there is nothing quite like face-to-face interaction. Whenever I travel I try to reach out to my virtual connections so we can meet in person, and for those I have already met, I love having the opportunity to see them outside the 140 characters on Twitter.

Additional resources

To go beyond my tips, check out the Social Media at Work video that was adapted by Transport Canada, and inspired by a similar video by the Australian Government. Treasury Board also developed a Social Media in the GC infographic to help you better understand the difference between official, professional and personal social media accounts.

Finally, if you haven’t ventured into the online world yet, follow these tips and start today—you won’t be disappointed.

See you all online!

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Welcome to New Participants from a canada@150 Alumni - Jodi LeBlanc

From left to right: Kate Hoye, Jodi LeBlanc, Isabelle Mondou at the Canada Beyond 150 launch event.

Nine years ago, Jodi LeBlanc was fixing computers and working for the IT Division of Veterans Affairs Canada when she was selected for Canada Beyond 150’s previous initiative, canada@150. At that point in her career, she admits, she didn’t fully understand how government worked as a whole system of interconnected departments, crown corporations and functional communities. Applying to canada@150  would change that.

“It transformed how I looked at the Government of Canada. I was connected to 150 engaged colleagues from across Canada. The experience strengthened my network and reinforced the importance of collaborating across regional and departmental boundaries. The sky is the limit of what you can do when you work with a passion for the Public Service.”

Today, Ms. LeBlanc is the Regional Manager with the National Managers' Community in Atlantic Canada, working closely with Canada School of Public Service, developing and promoting learning and development opportunities for managers.

canada@150 was also her first exposure to policy development. By working with canada@150 participants and enablers she began to understand the intricate relationship between overarching government policy and her work in program development, human resources and information technology.

Though she admits she never ended up going down the policy stream. She indicates that the experimental tools, such as foresight, for policy analysis opened her mind to understand the bigger picture; understanding how her work fixing computers had an impact on Canadians. Ms. LeBlanc also confirms that canada@150 had a lot to do with her career path. The experience helped her find passion for the public service, in a way that she began to go above and beyond her day-to-day work. The experience helped her realize the importance of fostering a network of public servants both in-person and virtually. It inspired her to engage beyond her day job; chairing the Federal Youth Network, a national network encompassing 14 regions across Canada, becoming a GCTools Ambassador, as well as getting involved in other corner of desk whole-of-government initiatives.

When asked what the most valuable thing that canada@150 was able to give Ms. LeBlanc, she emphasizes the strong relationships she formed and continues to foster. Through the virtual and in-person meetings, Ms. LeBlanc engaged with expert mentors, project enablers, and senior government leadership, while working closely with a talented group of public servants from across the country.

To this day she has kept in touch with many of the canada@150 alumni, wiki-composed three published articles, and continues to collaborate on joint-initiatives connected through Government of Canada events and activities.

Jodi will be providing mentorship throughout Canada Beyond 150. Connect with Jodi on Twitter.