FWD50 2023

November 6-8, 2022 | Ottawa and online

Expanding in-person and online

With 2022 showing that hybrid events were the future, we expanded both onsite and virtual content this year.

  • Online, we used a new platform that improved networking and interaction between attendees, as well as adding some dedicated virtual-only workshops that welcomed nearly a thousand participants.
  • In person, we added a second building (the Horticulture Building in Lansdowne Park) dedicated to workshops, and installed six soundproofed booths that allowed physical attendees to join their colleagues online.

We also added a three-week Executive Cohort that began with four web-based sessions, and culminated in two days of in-person meetings at the Canadian Center for Cybersecurity. Conceived entirely for public servant executives, this new content looked at leadership, cultural change, and other front-of-mine topics for those leading the charge to build digital services and modernize government.

We also expanded our department pass model with a No Department Left Behind program, which ensured that in the face of sweeping budget cuts nearly every Canadian federal department could participate in the event. And we added a library of nearly 30 books written by our past and current speakers for attendees to browse.

What others are saying

“Another great conference with fantastic speakers. You are really pushing the boundaries of what can be done in conferences.”

“From QR codes for agenda & real-time translation to livestreams, it's the best melding of online platform with offline conference I've ever seen.”

“FWD50 is still the most important yearly conference on transformation.”

“It was truly fantastic to be in the company of so many thought leaders dedicated to enhancing public services. The presentations and the carefully crafted schedule at FWD50 were top-notch.”


We were back at our home in Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park, using both the Aberdeen and Horticulture buildings to handle over a thousand in-person participants. The lounge area was optimized for meetings and discussions, with plenty of space for impromptu meetups and morning sessions by our many partners and civic tech groups.


In-person attendees.


Regions represented around the world.


Countries participating since 2017.


Speakers and mentors.

This year’s content

The lineup welcomed Ministers Anand and Beech, civic tech pioneer Jennifer Pahlka (author of Recoding America), some of the architects of the UK GDS, digital ambassadors, and more. Inevitably, AI figured in some of the content, but the real focus was on the crisis of implementation, and how to replace siloed, waterfall mentalities with modular, agile processes.

2023’s speakers

This year’s faculty was made up of academics, public servants, consultants, and technology experts from around the world, as well as a dozen expert mentors for one of our workshops.

Jennifer Pahlka

Author of "Recoding America: How Government Fails in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better"

The Honourable / L’honorable Anita Anand

President of the Treasury Board, Government of Canada

The Honourable / L'honorable Terry Beech

Minister of Citizens’ Services, Government of Canada

Nele Leosk

Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador at Large for Digital Affairs, Department of Digital and Cyber Diplomacy, Estonia

Robyn Scott

Co-founder and CEO, Apolitical

Tom Loosemore

Partner, Public Digital

His Excellency Saeed Al Mulla

Executive Director, Customer Experience Affairs, Department of Government Enablement, Abu Dhabi

Dr. Alexis Wichowski

Professor of Professional Practice & Program Director, MS in Technologies, Columbia University School of Professional Studies

Gulsanna Mamediieva

CEO, Digitality GovTech Center of Excellence

Daphnée Nostrome

Head, Digital Talent Strategy, Benefits Delivery Modernization, Service Canada

Dr. Wafa Snaineh

President, Gov. Design Academy
Board Member, The International Foundation for Customer Experience in Government

Uchenna Moka-Solana

Founder & President, MokSol Impact LLC


Our partners at Apolitical, as well as Ramy Nassar, ran virtual workshops for those joining from afar, while a new "conversation codes" mentor meetup prompted round table discussions with some of our speakers, as well as other experts we'd invited.

Want to take a peek at 2023’s sessions? Check out the agenda!

2023 Agenda

Some of this year’s innovations

We ask public servants to innovate and take risks, so we try to embody that ourselves. Each year, we experiment with new technologies and formats to improve attendee experience. Here’s what we tried in 2023.

A new online platform

We switched software providers this year in favour of a platform that allowed 3-minute "speed networking" and could integrate with a broader range of tools. It also allowed users to choose French for the user interface if they liked.

Realtime translation

We added real-time French voice translation to the French and English captioning of past years. In-person attendees could visit a URL with their smartphone to listen in, while those watching online could switch between French and English audio directly in the stream.

Mentor Topic Tables

In past years, attendees have asked for a chance to meet with our speakers, or to tackle specific topics. We generated a tool that asked questions to get things started, which participants could access by scanning on their phones. And we invited a dozen subject matter experts to join the conversation at each topical table.

A backstage walkthrough

We threw caution to the wind on the third morning and did exactly what the AV team doesn't want you to: Opened up the keynote talks with a live walkthrough of the AV and production team, the in-person audience, and the venue. We're always trying to find ways to connect physical and virtual participants in this new hybrid world, and this particular approach worked great!

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