To boldly go

As GC Entrepreneurs (GCEs) we are one of the Government of Canada’s newest innovation teams. Part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to upskill the federal public service and support experimental programming. We embarked on a year-long journey in policy and program entrepreneurship as the first cohort of Nesta’s States of Change training in Canada. As the Federal Public Service gears up for Beyond 2020, we look back on our first year and forward to our future!

Who the GCEs are

Selected by a member of the Deputy Ministers Task Force on Public Sector Innovation each GCE acts as an action-oriented innovation ambassador. 18 GCEs started (now we're 14) representing a diverse cross-section of “mid-career” public servants. That means policy analysts, scientists, financial officers and IT professionals.

As members of that task force, we try to advance new approaches in the public service while transforming core systems. From grants and contributions to procurement, co-creation, and human resources. We experiment with disruptive technologies like AI, blockchain and machine learning in government.

Under the wing of innovators who've done all this before

World class experts have been on hand to share advice and provide training on experimentation, visualization and policy entrepreneurship. They range from InWithForward - a Social Design Organization in Toronto - who set us loose on Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood to conduct an ethnography exercise to understand the power of “thick data” and qualitative research methods, to expert advice from one of Obama and Clinton's top aides - Tom Kalil - who launched countless science and tech initiatives across their presidencies.

What we actually did

We formed small, diverse and non-hierarchical teams to tackle thirteen diverse projects without a natural home within a specific department or agency. We are nimble and take risks by bringing a variety of skills and experiences to the table while applying their States of Change training in “real time”.

We generated buzz for our projects with social media campaigns (#drugchecking, #myMOBI). Building momentum to support our qualitative research, prize challenges and experimentation. Connecting and co-creating with external and internal public servants, we've generated solid insights on how the GoC can help transform core systems in areas ranging from AI and HR to mental health and addiction.

The public service hails disruptive technology as a “game changer”. But government processes, rules and structures remain a constant challenge for all federal departments and agencies. Yet experimentation by the GCEs highlights the potential for AI and blockchain to revolutionize the delivery of public services to Canadians. The AI for Official Languages team is exploring the benefits of AI to save time, reduce costs and improve quality in translating texts in both French and English. One day, why not all languages, including Indigenous ones? The GCEs launched a vocal campaign to assess the GoC’s capabilities in AI by leading a series of interviews with AI practitioners.

The Digital Identity team examined the consequences of Canadians shifting to the digital realm. Exploring how that shift could affect services and interactions online, from government service delivery to day-to-day financial transactions.

GCEs are also looking to gain powerful insights from the use of outcomes-based programming like prize challenges and pay-for-results initiatives. The drug checking technology challenge addresses problematic substance use and supports innovative harm reduction initiatives for affected communities.

Hacking bureaucracy

With trust and support, public servants can ignite change in a risk-averse culture. With the right training and tools, public servants can change mindsets and behaviours by reframing complex challenges. Using prototyping or design thinking to develop scalable experiments and solutions, public servants can mitigate risks and tackle uncertainty.

Creating teams that exist outside their 'home' organization and hierarchy, allows public servants to operate with an open mind, explore new ideas or adapt methods. Embracing methods from one context to develop innovative solutions that work in a government.

With eyes to the future

We're looking to raise our game. Beyond 2020 is the spur for the DM Task Force to create an agile, inclusive and well-equipped public service. This first version of the GCEs nods to a future that shows how a group of open-minded, talented and resilient individuals can turn their efforts into an action-oriented team of innovators.