The good, the bad and the ugly of Government of Canada innovation work

Published On Aug 6, 2020

“We need to talk very openly about things that fail and why they fail.”


Over the past few years, discussion about the use of human-centred design (HCD) methodologies emerged in the Government of Canada in an attempt to build stronger engagement and trust between multiple stakeholders. With the implementation of HCD in Government Canada digital and service delivery, investments were made in Innovation Labs, with events such as Design Jams and Showcases. Buzzwords like agile, co-creation and co-design are used in front of audiences of often bewildered program owners who aren’t sure what these events mean in terms of their own project delivery, while most IT delivery experts smile and nod at what they perceive as a rebranding of requirements gathering exercises and business process mapping.

To fix the lack of understanding, a rush to hire user experience researchers and service designers to take on the user-centric lens took place to outsource the responsibility of innovation. In the absence of a clear understanding of the levels of data, digital and design literacy among the public service and its leaders nor any clear outcome definition, the false belief that more experts running more activities would lead to more innovation began to spread.

Today, with little to no traction on innovation or significant cultural change with the Government of Canada, it’s time to step back and share the lessons learned from the lived experience of Government of Canada innovation and ask some fundamental questions to shift the conversation away from innovation theatre activities towards more productive outcomes for citizens.

Ashley Belanger and Chamika Ailapperuma collectively share over 30 years of experience working on Government of Canada program delivery and large-scale change initiatives. They met at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada on the Digital Design and Innovation team, whose primary focus is to support digital service transformation. They will share their experiences building a design and innovation team and lessons learned working on multiple innovation-oriented HCD activities.

Chamika’s tri-sector experience and change management expertise supplements Ashley’s Government of Canada program delivery and managerial experience in this walk-through of the challenges and opportunities in innovating Government of Canada programs and services.

This talk is intended for decision makers who want to better understand the operational realities of digital transformation, design and systems thinking as well as those interested in opportunities to evolve data, design and digital literacy within the public sector.

Continue the conversation with Chamika on Twitter or find Chamika and Ashley on Linkedin.


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