Posts Tagged ‘Citizen Engagement’

Government 2.0 – Managing Risks

I attend many workshops on Government 2.0 initiatives. At these workshops, attendees are always looking for concrete examples of Government 2.0 initiatives or best practices. I came across a publication that outlines steps one should take in managing Gov 2.0 projects with a specific focus on managing risks.

Section 3.1 – “Projects” – outlines concrete examples of Gov 2.0 initiatives around the globe. This is a great resources for anyone looking for best practices.

The document can be accessed here:
Government 2.0 Guide to Managing Risks


Retention in the Public Service

This past summer, the Public Policy Forum released a report entitled “The Road to Retention” that tackled the issue of retention in the public service. The report was based on the outcomes of a series of workshops with representatives of Canadian workplaces and roughly 300 “Generation Yers” (those between the ages of 18 and 30, from a wide range of regional, linguistic, sectoral, cultural, academic, and socio-economic backgrounds). The intention was to identify what are Generation Y’s values and expectations when it comes to work and the workplace; what is the impact of these values in an organizational setting; how has the conception of work evolved; and how can employers attract and retain young workers.

I believe that the report gave an accurate portrayal of the workplace values of today’s youth (consistent with my own and my colleagues). Some key conclusions that I took away include:

• The not-for-profit and public sectors, in particular, have struggled because of rigid, process-heavy, and risk-averse structures
• Young employees consider mentoring as an essential part of their professional development, and they look for mentors beyond direct supervisors or managers to find colleagues who can inspire, guide and challenge them. Despite the significance of mentoring, participants felt that most organizations today do not provide such opportunities
• Generation Y fuse work, home, and social spheres; they don’t compartmentalize their lives. Thus, Generation Y value “informal work environments” and are not proponents of rigid rules (such as internet censorship at work; attendance rules).
• Generation Y are lifelong learners and don’t consider the end of University as the end of their learning path. Thus, both continuous formal and informal learning pportunities are important and valuable.
• Generation Y value timely critiques about their performance, and when recognition is involved, it does not have to be monetary, but meaningful to the recipient.
• As a generation that thrives on new ideas and risk taking, young employees embrace responsibility and being treated as a “value-add” to the organization. Thus, a stimulating work environment is one that allows employees to challenge assumptions, fosters experimentation, tinkering, and engagement in new surroundings.

The report also goes on to outline 10 recommendations for employers to attract and retain young employees. From a public service perspective, I do think that there are conscious efforts being made to incorporate strategies such as the ones identified in this report, however, it remains at an individual, rather than systematic, level. My own recommendation for the public service would be to have central agencies (such as Treasury Board Secretariat or the Public Service Commission) and unions assume more of an active role in reforming public service management practices to be more consistent with youth values. This can include anything from setting up a cross-departmental mentoring program, to establishing more forums for collaboration and communication (GCForums is a good example of this).

I encourage all public sector employees, from managers down to working level, to read and promote/adopt the recommendations outlined in this report. The report can be downloaded here:

Other Youth Retention Strategies:

Eastern Ontario Development Program – Youth Retention Strategy
A Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador
Saskatchewan Youth Economic Engagement Council

Internet: Made us better informed or just distracted?

06/06/2010 1 comment

“The information we consume is increasingly flat and homogenized. Designed to reach millions, it often lacks nuance, complexity and context. Reading the same factoids on Wikipedia and watching the same viral video on Youtube, we experience is a flattening of our culture.”

“We are the first few generations to receive most of our sense of the world mediated rather than direct, to have it arrive through one screen or another instead of from contact with other human beings or with nature”

Adbusters #90

A good example, Hilary Clinton farts!

This video is hilarious. Seems like 4.3million other people think so as well. But it is a distraction more than anything else. With 1000s of videos on the internet of political debate and discourse, a mash-up of Hilary farting gets the most views.

The advent of the internet was suppose to benefit humankind with its onslaught of information, readily accessible at our fingertips, making us better informed individuals. The Internet has helped individuals and businesses to overcome geographical, cultural and logistical barriers. It shrinks time and distance. It simplifies complex business processes and enables more effective communications. As social and cultural barriers continue to fade away, more individuals and companies are able to participate in the global economy, regardless of their size or location.

However, when the majority of people are navigating towards the 10 second soundbites, farting mash-ups, and other spoof videos, are we really better informed or just distracted?

Prime Minister needs to lead Open Government

Today, the Ottawa Citizen published a story entitled “PM needs to lead ‘open government’“. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault told a parliamentary committee Thursday that, with a few exceptions, the government has been slow to put its electronic data online, even though Canada is one of the most Internet-connected countries in the world. She went even further and suggested that Canada follow the US lead, when Barack Obama issued an executive order on his first day in office that outlined the US Government’s commitment to providing an unprecedented level of openness and to establishing a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration.

While the executive order did not garner much media attention, I do believe that in the future, Obama’s executive order will be regarded as the catalyst to creating Government 2.0. In the USA alone, we have already witnessed an explosion of initiatives by regular citizens to use government data to improve services. The Sunlight Foundation is the best example. They have digitized information and packaged it on various websites (,,,, etc) to allow citizens to collaborate in fostering greater transparency.

If Prime Minister Harper were to follow through on the Commissioner’s recommendation, it is suggested that leadership on open government be based on the following principles:
1) Services are more valuable when they offer citizens choice – therefore, data should be available through filters and lenses as well as in “raw” format.
2) Data should be easy to find – many governments today post data online, but it is buried in large webpages with inefficient search options. Use Portals!
3) Collaborate – both with other government departments and with the private / non profit sector. Often, different organizations collect similar data on a similar issue. A holistic perspective should be considered when compiling and communicating data.

Mandatory Voting?

I recently read an article entitled “Making Voting Mandatory” on a new website I discovered: The Mark News. Actually, they discovered me. I got signed up to their mailing list randomly. At first, I emailed the sender and asked about it. He mentioned that my name came up on a blogroll and that he thought I may be interested in the content of the webpage. Turns out, I am.

Thus far, the Mark News seems to be a news webpage/forum for open debate on political issues. By the nature of my profession, I am trained to identify bias. From my minor account of the content on this webpage, I cannot accurately say what its slant appears to be. Regardless, Make Voting Mandatory peaked my interested.

I recently wrote about a research study that “debunked” political apathy among youth. The premise of the study was: youth are not apolitical, they just want to engage in the political process through non-conventional methods (social networking, debate, participation). This article supports that premise, arguing that political parties in Canada dont target all voters in elections, but rather play to their base. The “get out the vote” campaigns that the United States recently experienced are simply not found in Canada.

Unfortunate it is. It appears as though the media has given up on youth activism as well (not to say it hasn’t in the USA also). I often listen to radio talk shows, both out East and in the prairies, to gain a perspective on the political pulse around the country (talk radio is very telling!) I rarely hear efforts to engage young people. Interviews conducted hardly include youth. There appears to be minimal efforts to reach out to University campuses. Employees themselves are often older!

As social networking and communication gain momentum, and companies like Google become juggernauts, I do believe that politicians everywhere will have to rethink what Government really means.

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Political Apathy Among Youth Debunked

In 2007, I recall listening to a radio talk show in Winnipeg that discussed the “apathy of young people towards politics”. Citing low voter turnout among young people (defined here as those aged 18-24), the general consensus was that today’s youth are less politicized, ask fewer questions, and have lost a sense of collective values.

A recent research project undertaken by Policy Research Initiative addressed these perceptions directly (among others in their analysis of youth values across a spectrum of topics). The full report can be read here: Investing in Youth – PRI

This report validated a common theme within the press that often portrays today’s youth as lazy, self-centered, and out of touch with older, more “responsible”, generations. A recent forum entry I read supports this perspective, citing “Lets face it – the world isn’t like it use to be. My parents and their parents valued family, history & heritage.”

As the “Investing in Youth” report demonstrates, youth are not very different from their seniors in terms of their interest in political matters. What is different is that youth are more interested in the so-called “non-traditional” forms of political participation (such as those that contribute to defending causes – fundraising, signature gathering, blogging, petitions, discussion groups, information campaigns, boycotting products, etc) rather than traditional forms of political participation, such as voting, membership in political parties, rallies, etc. In addition, the study shows that in the area of volunteer work, or participation in cultural or professional organizations, those aged 18-24 have the highest participation rates than any other age group.

To accurately understand youth’s interest and participation in the political process, a much deeper understanding of political participation is required. Non-traditional forms of political participation are changing the way the world works, as Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social-networking have shown us.

With this reality in mind, policy makers, politicians and the media should be careful not to represent youth as apathetic, or stereotype them as so. Instead, policy should be oriented to encourage the use of non-traditional forms of political participation, as it presents positive implications for the democratic health of society, the confidence level of youth, and the relationship between government and its citizens.