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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 27 August 2015

It's Time for a CSI Queen's Park (Co-written with Diana Thai)

“I’d love to see a CSI Queen’s Park!”

Sounds like a great idea, right?  What better marriage could there be than a partnership between the world-acclaimed social innovations of CSI and the Government of Ontario?  It’s a fun idea to think about when you hear it.  When the person saying it is the Premier of Ontario, it’s not just a dream - it’s a mandate.

It’s hard not to share Kathleen Wynne’s enthusiasm.

Far more than just a co-working space, the Centre for Social Innovation is a community, an incubator, a movement of like-minded-people inspired and challenged to do nothing less than change the world for the better.  

If CSI were a Maslow pyramid, the physical space - the buildings, kitchens, desks, printers and wall space would be the bottom tier.  Moving upwards, the next tier would be the people - staff, DECAs (Desk Exchange Community Animators - more on this later), members and everyone who interacts with and in CSI space.  

Bridging the community, catapaulting new ideas and catalyzing new ones is all CSI’s programming.  The DECA program is a great example of how CSI is finding new ways to both enhance their members’ experience and support emerging entrepreneurs and ideas all at the same time.

DECAs are community animators who tackle the administrative details that allow CSI’s members to focus on what they do best - change-making.  More importantly, however, is the role of animation; understanding both members and the broader community and providing support and connectivity to help members reach higher and accomplish more together.

This is the secret sauce of CSI - the space, the programming, the amazing community animation and the consistent sense of play have resulted in a place where silos don’t form and cross-pollination is hard-wired into the system.  It’s a format that is being copied by organizations across the city and around the world and is commonly referred to as “the CSI model.”

In 2013, the X-ray Inspection Services Branch at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care  launched its first survey ever to be conducted to its 7,000 facility owners operating 60,000 machines. The survey uncovered areas where owners were unsure of how to comply with the appropriate Acts and Regulations and a system that required more accountability. This sparked a change for database requirements  and systematic reviews, modelling solutions inspired by other branches, while working within its limitations.

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It’s worth saying again - government wants to change and is trying to change, but change is hard - especially for an organization of the size and scope of government.

To look at it through a #howmightwe lens, the question governments, including Ontario’s, are asking is “how might we support the culture change we recognize we need to provide the programs Ontarians need from us?”

Well, you know - it starts with the creation of shared space, a place where people from different Ministries and agencies can co-work together.  It moves on to the animation piece - curating this community, looking for and addressing the duplication, gaps, overlaps and opportunities we know are there.  It continues with creating a culture where public servants feel empowered to discuss, collaborate, innovate and test new policy and program ideas.

As it happens, these are all things CSI excels at.  These are the attributes Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne was talking about reproducing when she said “I’d love to see a CSI Queen’s Park!

Governments across the globe are looking for ways to update our centuries-old model to be reflective of and responsive to the challenges and opportunities of our age.  Ontario has the good fortune of being home to one of the most innovative change-making organizations on the planet.

What else are Virtuous Schemers if not Agents of Change?

CSI Queen’s Park - it’s an idea who’s time has come.

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