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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.

Friday 9 August 2013

Ontario's PCs Need To Pull Together

Everybody in provincial politics likes to use the "the best indicator of future performance is past performance" line.  So, let's look at the past performance of these two MPPs:
Frank Klees is an MPP with a history of looking out for Number One. He's run for leadership before and was no fan of John Tory.

Randy Hillier orchestrated the ousting of Norm Sterling, who had been one of the longest-serving and most respected MPPs in the House.  Hillier did this to get his buddy Jack Maclaren into the Legislature.  Hillier is also interested in the Party Leadership.

It's pretty clear what these gents are up to - they want Hudak gone to make space for their own perceived benefit.  They are aggressively, competitively, even opportunistically promoting any openings that serve their interests.

Of course, Hudak should really be in favour of this approach - after all, it's the one he's been promoting with his anti-Union stance; people should be free of the encumbrance of collective bargaining, which is really what Political Parties are all about.  Hillier and Klees are the epitome of what the Hudak Tories say they believe in.

This being politics and all, what the internal fighting amounts to is blood in the water for the other two established Parties, for a gaggle of stakeholder groups and, of course, for media looking for juicy stories.  When everybody gets focused on political cannibalism, what loses focus are substantial issues (of which there are many) and shared solutions (desperately needed on fronts ranging from transit infrastructure to justice).  Political planners fretting over what positions to take can focus on attacking opponents rather than the more challenging task of stretching their cognitive selves to reach the higher-hanging policy fruit.

You'd think Hudak (and folk like Hillier and Klees) would have learned their lesson from Mike Harris, who I hear tell is among the current Leader of the Opposition's advisers:

 Of course, super-confident people don't subscribe to reality-based politics, but I digress.

For one, I wish that the Hudaks, Hilliers and Kleeses of the world would listen to folk like Peter Shurman, who I most often disagree with but have a great deal of respect for and John Yakabuski, who once honoured my grandfather in the Legislature.  Every difference of opinion doesn't have to result in a pushing match; there is much to be gained through conversation, understanding and compromise.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound,  I really want the PCs to be in the strongest position possible and focused on creative policy solutions; I want a competition of ideas between all Parties with an eye towards what's best for Ontario, rather than what serves partisan interests.  Strength through diversity, etc.

I still find it hard to believe Hudak will ever be Premier; I've got my own thoughts on what I'd like to see happen at Queen's Park.  This isn't about me, though, any more than it's about Hudak or his dissenting MPPs, or phantom menaces like Nick Kouvalis.  

If Ontario's Political Parties and those who aspire to control them focus on cynically stabbing each other in the back, fostering grudges and feigning outrage at the kinds of shenanigans which have become business-as-usual across Canadian politics, then they have no place telling Private or Not-For-Profit sectors to pull together and collaborate over shared solutions.

That's a recipe for stagnation.  Which is where we've been for far too long.

If any of us are serious about progressing beyond our political deadlock, especially as we start to lag behind competitor jurisdictions in areas like The Knowledge Economy, we have to take to heart the notion that forward together means leaving no one behind.  

Including your competition.

I hope every individual PC takes this message to heart and start thinking about why they're involved in the first place.  If you can't keep your own house in order, it doesn't give people a lot of confidence about what you can do with theirs.

Bullying: A Genetic Problem with a Social Solution by Craig Carter Edwards

Bullying: A Genetic Problem with a Social Solution by Craig Carter Edwards – October 26, 2012

Photo: Facebook

CFN – There’s lots of talk about bullying these days.  While it appears there is broad consensus that bullying is bad, we’re not quite sure how to deal with or even how to define it.  Is bullying uniquely a youth thing, because adults have more emotional maturity to handle aggression/not take harassment personally?  Does social media/violent TV contribute to bullying behaviour?  Is micromanagement a form of bullying?  How do we discourage bullies – and is it possible to inoculate people against the emotional stains bullying causes?  

The latest conversation has been kicked off by the heart-breaking suicide of Amanda Todd, a victim of the all-pervasive kind of bullying that has only become possible thanks to social media.  Before her it was Jamie Hubley, another high-profile youth who killed himself after merciless torment; prior to that there was Greg Doucette.  Each of these deaths shocked us into conversation and a retributive mood.  While these specific bullying-induced suicides grab the nation’s attention, they’re a bit like the Attawapiskat crisis; individual, visible examples of a pervasive, systematic issue.

One in five students in Canada says they have been bullied.  Between Canada, Australia, the US and the UK there have been 41 cyber-bullying attributed deaths since 2003.  Youth suicides are just one indicator of the social impact of bullying – in Canada, one in six employees reports they have been bullied.  This pervasive, society-wide harassment has a hugely detrimental impact on individual mental health, the economy, our health care system, families – it goes on and on.  The problem is so significant that Political Parties from across the system are trying to find ways to legislate against it. 
If bullying is such a recognized problem, you’d think we would have a clear definition for it.  Public Safety Canada tells us bullying “is characterized by acts of intentional harm, repeated over-time, in a relationship where an imbalance of power exists.  It includes physical actions (punching, kicking, biting), verbal actions (threats, name calling, insults, racial or sexual comments) and social exclusion (spreading rumours, ignoring, gossiping, excluding)”.  The “balance of power” reference is key to our understanding of bullying; without that caveat, you could easily include everything from heckling in the Legislature to the Obama Birther movement as harassment.

How then do we define “balance of power”?  The man accused of kicking off the bullycide campaign against Amanda Todd clearly had power over her, in terms of the harmful video he’d conned her into providing.  The tables turned, though, when Anonymous outted this man, shifting the balance of power against him; the bully became the bullied.  Was it bullying when the Conservative Party of Canada spread rumours suggesting Irwin Cotler was going to retire?  Heck, aren’t allattack ads a form of bullying?

Most would say no – because politics is expected to be a blood sport.  Politicians should expect to be attacked and be prepared to fight back.   It’s through the cut-and-thrust of Question Period, election campaigns and increasingly, every political interaction in between that the public can determine not only which ideas stand up to scrutiny, but which representatives/leaders are tough enough to do the job of governing.  Somewhere in here is an unspoken notion that the balance of power doesn’t apply to politics, due to individual agency and public accountability of each elected official.  This notion doesn’t hold up to scrutiny itself, though; as politics becomes increasingly aggressive, Political Parties are becoming increasingly tribal.  How can you not label as bullying the dogged targeting of individuals by entire political packs?

What about micro-managing employers?  They have power over their employees; does abuse of the employer/employee relationship count as bullying?  Again, there are those who would argue against this, suggesting that individuals always have power over their own fates and are therefore equals in the labour market. If employees are really bothered by the treatment of a boss, they can speak to them about it and if that doesn’t work, they can quit and move to another job.  If they don’t do that, they’re just playing the “victim” card.  If this were really the case, though, would we be facing an unheralded business crisis in Canada?

For me, these aren’t academic questions.  I know what it’s like to be bullied.  A December baby, I was always the youngest in my classes.  Added to this, I have Attention Deficit Disorder, a “disability” which went undiagnosed until I was well into my teens.  Being the smallest and a bit different in how I interacted with the world, I was a natural target for those on the lookout for someone to diminish as a way of aggrandizing themselves.  From about Grade 1 all the way into high school, I was on the receiving end of vicious taunts, torment and physical abuse. 

Decades later, I still have clear memories of being chased home by older kids waving baseball bats (Grade 2).  It made them feel powerful to instill terror in a runt like me.  Then there was the time I was tied to a flag post in winter and left outside after all the other kids went back to class, laughing at me (Grade 4).  It got so bad that my parents eventually moved me to a different school, but by then the damage was done.  I had become a fearful child, mistrustful of people and afraid to speak up, knowing that whatever I said would be used against me.  This hesitation morphed into a stutter, which became just one more opportunity for my peers to mock me.

When bullying is that pervasive, there is no escape.  Even when your tormentors are gone, the anxiety remains, riddling your thoughts with disquiet and doubt.  Ihated going to school.  I didn’t like interacting with others, period.  I dreaded every waking moment, never knowing exactly what sort of private hell it would bring me.  The ADHD only magnified the pain, as I could never shut down the soundtrack of doubt and self-loathing playing non-stop in my head.  Self-harm became a way out; if the pain was sharp enough, it would cleanse my mind of the pervasive anguish that nestled there like a splinter.  Of course, the relief was temporary, and the fact that I was cracking my head against my desk hard enough to leave welts simply put another arrow in my bullies’ quiver.  Suicide was definitely something I contemplated – there just didn’t seem to be any other way out.

That was then.  Today, I am a confident, positive person that has a reputation for finding the silver lining around any cloud.  There’s nothing life can throw at me that I can’t handle.  Why is that?  Why is it that my name now appears in a byline rather than having featured in a headline like Todd, Hubley and Doucette?  When moving schools didn’t solve the problem, my parents decided to try an alternative solution; fight might prevail where flight did not.  They enrolled me in a Karate class led by a tough-as-nails Sensei with the hope that learning how to fight back might help.  It did, but not in the way they intended.

My Sensei was tough, but always fair and never judgmental.  He never criticized mistakes – instead, he corrected them.  The senior students who helped lead the lessons were the same way; they pushed the class but were always, always supportive.  They taught me how to fight back, which I eventually did.  The supportive attitude of the teachers carried over to the students; we were all in the same quest for perfection of technique, together.  Although I hated the class at first, it eventually became my community.  For the first time I could recall, there was a place I felt safe and respected, plus a group that included me as one of their own.

This element of belonging made a huge difference, but Karate provided me with even more.  The strict physical discipline and quick reaction times required by martial arts nurtured in me a level of focus and confidence that bled over into every aspect of my life.  My stutter began to fade; I became more and more comfortable in asserting myself.  At the same time, the experience of having been bullied combined with the positive experience of the class shaped my understanding that individual strength is nurtured within supportive communities. 

I tell this tale not to gain your sympathy or to toot my own horn but to show that it can get better when we address the underpinnings of bullying proactively and cooperatively.  The importance of collective morale and promoting individual resilience is understood within our military, if not those who command it.  The idea of fostering social-emotional learning and positive relationships with teachers and peers is equally a key component of Ontario’s Full Day Kindergarten program.  The entire field of positive psychology is dedicated to the development of cognitive grit the way exercise builds physical strength.  There is no reason these principles can’t be applied more broadly, especially in the places where bullying is most prevalent – schools and the workplace.

The other lesson to draw from experiences like mine is that the tools for developing resiliency aren’t instinctive.  As Colin Powell points out in It Worked For Me, social functioning is learned behaviour; this is as true for the human animal as it is in all social species.  Left to our own devices, we tend to fight, flee or circle the wagons and avoid – it’s just how natural selection works.  There’s really not much difference between the playground, Question Period or an episode of Animal Kingdom.  It takes moderators – an elder, a teacher, the Speaker, etc. – to referee social interactions, foster respect and maintain order. 

It also takes leaders to set examples and develop the kind of work or school cultures that manage down this bullying instinct. Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris famously fostered a competitive culture within the Progressive Conservative Party, believing that ambitious people would produce the best results.  Instead, the internal fighting became so toxic to the Party that Harris had to lay down the law for his cabinet ministers.  It’s the exact seem scenario that’s being fueled by theheightened, competitive rancor in Queen’s Park now.  Somewhere along the way, our political leaders have forgotten that it’s possible to be in total disagreement with someone without denigrating them as a consequence.

If we, as a society, want to have a hyper-oppositional culture that fosters survival of the fittest competition, that’s fine – but we’ll also have to accept that victimization and its consequences are part of the package, including the lost productivity, the health care costs and the youth suicides.  If we’re really serious about addressing bullying, we have to realize the only way to do so is proactively – by providing universal resiliency and social-emotional training on the one end and using programs like restorative justice to stifle bullying behaviour on the other.  The most important thing we can do to end bullying, though, is lead by example.

Don't Be Hasty (Updated)

We can spend our lives rushing to accomplish lots, poorly, at the expense of ourselves + our relationships, but life isn't an assembly line. It's more like a garden. When you take the time to nurture, savour and share, life provides accomplishment every step of the way - and what you build, you build to endure. 

When you're living a distracted life, every minute must be accounted for. You feel like you must be checking something off the list, staring at a screen, or rushing off to the next destination. And no matter how many ways you divide your time and attention, no matter how many duties you try and multi-task, there's never enough time in a day to ever catch up.
That was my life for two frantic years. My thoughts and actions were controlled by electronic notifications, ring tones, and jam-packed agendas. And although every fiber of my inner drill sergeant wanted to be on time to every activity on my overcommitted schedule, I wasn't.
You see, six years ago I was blessed with a laid-back, carefree, stop-and-smell-the roses type of child.
When I needed to be out the door, she was taking her sweet time picking out a purse and a glittery crown.
When I needed to be somewhere five minutes ago, she insisted on buckling her stuffed animal into a car seat.
When I needed to grab a quick lunch at Subway, she'd stop to speak to the elderly woman who looked like her grandma.
When I had 30 minutes to get in a run, she wanted me to stop the stroller and pet every dog we passed.

When I had a full agenda that started at 6:00 a.m., she asked to crack the eggs and stir them ever so gently.
rachel macy stafford 2

My carefree child was a gift to my Type A, task-driven nature --but I didn't see it. Oh no, when you live life distracted, you have tunnel vision -- only looking ahead to what's next on the agenda. And anything that cannot be checked off the list is a waste of time.
Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, "We don't have time for this." Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: "Hurry up."
I started my sentences with it.
Hurry up, we're gonna be late.
I ended sentences with it.
We're going to miss everything if you don't hurry up.
I started my day with it.
Hurry up and eat your breakfast.

Hurry up and get dressed.
I ended my day with it.
Hurry up and brush your teeth.

Hurry up and get in bed.
And although the words "hurry up" did little if nothing to increase my child's speed, I said them anyway. Maybe even more than the words, "I love you."
The truth hurts, but the truth heals... and brings me closer to the parent I want to be.
Then one fateful day, things changed. We'd just picked my older daughter up from kindergarten and were getting out of the car. Not going fast enough for her liking, my older daughter said to her little sister, "You are so slow." And when she crossed her arms and let out an exasperated sigh, I saw myself -- and it was a gut-wrenching sight.
I was a bully who pushed and pressured and hurried a small child who simply wanted to enjoy life.
My eyes were opened; I saw with clarity the damage my hurried existence was doing to both of my
Although my voice trembled, I looked into my small child's eyes and said, "I am so sorry I have been making you hurry. I love that you take your time, and I want to be more like you."
Both my daughters looked equally surprised by my painful admission, but my younger daughter's face held the unmistakable glow of validation and acceptance.
"I promise to be more patient from now on," I said as I hugged my curly-haired child who was now beaming at her mother's newfound promise.
It was pretty easy to banish "hurry up" from my vocabulary. What was not so easy was acquiring the patience to wait on my leisurely child. To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young.
When my daughter and I took walks or went to the store, I allowed her to set the pace. And when she stopped to admire something, I would push thoughts of my agenda out of my head and simply observe her. I witnessed expressions on her face that I'd never seen before. I studied dimples on her hands and the way her eyes crinkled up when she smiled. I saw the way other people responded to her stopping to take time to talk to them. I saw the way she spotted the interesting bugs and pretty flowers. She was a Noticer, and I quickly learned that The Noticers of the world are rare and beautiful gifts. That's when I finally realized she was a gift to my frenzied soul.
rachel macy stafford 3

My promise to slow down was made almost three years ago, at the same time I began my journey to let go of daily distraction and grasp what matters in life. And living at a slower pace still takes a concerted effort. My younger daughter is my living reminder of why I must keep trying. In fact, the other day, she reminded me once again.
The two of us had taken a bike ride to a sno-cone shack while on vacation. After purchasing a cool treat for my daughter, she sat down at a picnic table delightedly admiring the icy tower she held in her hand.
Suddenly a look of worry came across her face. "Do I have to rush, Mama?"
I could have cried. Perhaps the scars of a hurried life don't ever completely disappear, I thought sadly.
As my child looked up at me waiting to know if she could take her time, I knew I had a choice. I could sit there in sorrow thinking about the number of times I rushed my child through life... or I could celebrate the fact that today I'm trying to do thing differently.
I chose to live in today.
rachel macy stafford 4

"You don't have to rush. Just take your time," I said gently. Her whole face instantly brightened and her shoulders relaxed.
And so we sat side-by-side talking about things that ukulele-playing-6-year-olds talk about. There were even moments when we sat in silence just smiling at each other and admiring the sights and sounds around us.
I thought my child was going to eat the whole darn thing -- but when she got to the last bite, she held out a spoonful of ice crystals and sweet juice for me. "I saved the last bite for you, Mama," my daughter said proudly.
As I let the icy goodness quench my thirst, I realized I just got the deal of a lifetime.
rachel macy stafford 5
I gave my child a little time... and in return, she gave me her last bite and reminded me that things taste sweeter and love comes easier when you stop rushing through life.

Whether it's ...
Sno-cone eating
Flower picking
Seatbelt buckling
Egg cracking
Seashell finding
Ladybug watching
Sidewalk strolling
I will not say, "We don't have time for this." Because that is basically saying, "We don't have time to live."
Pausing to delight in the simple joys of everyday life is the only way to truly live.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Demand More From Your Staff, But Abandon Them In Tough Times

I've written periodically on how poorly we do when it comes to hiring/training/supporting practices across the board, but especially in politics, from the politicians on down through to their staff.  I've even suggested some ways we could do better.
Thing is, we know, from study after study, how harmful our current approach is to both our health and our economy.  The Feds have even developed a psychological health and safety standard to address the kinds of concerns that stem from the labour relations practices favoured by the likes of Tony Clement.  When there are succeeding, best-practice models to crib from, why on earth aren't we consciously choosing to do better?  If we truly believe people matter, precarious employment leads to presenteeism and the like, why aren't we investing in the people who shape our policy?
As the voter/ultimate shareholder, it's up to us to look in the mirror for that answer.

In Tough Times, Abandon Your Employees

Bruce K.

Bruce K. Co-author of Smart Customers, Stupid Companies. Helps companies be more humane.

Henry Blodget's excellent piece on short-term greed got me thinking about a very basic question: do companies owe their employees loyalty when the economy gets tough?
For some time, I've been appalled that major companies are simultaneously laying off employees and reporting record profits. The picture differs depending on where you live and work, but that's a fairly common trend.
Contrast, for example, CNNMoney's report at the beginning of this year, Hey Wall Street, Get Ready for More Layoffs with John Cassidy's July 16 story, which starts like this:
What do these large dollar numbers have in common: $6.5 billion, $5.5 billion, $4.2 billion, and $1.9 billion? They represent the latest quarterly net profits made by too-big-to-fail banks—in order, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs.
Now imagine that your company has been growing quickly, and that the culture of the company is to expect employees to step up when challenges and opportunities emerge. If there is an important pitch coming up, you are expected to stay late or work over the weekend. If there is an important order to fill, you are expected to work until the order gets filled.
You work hard. You step up. You are a hard-working and loyal employee. You recruit your friends to come work at your company; you put your personal reputation on the line.
Then the economy hits a rough patch. The company lets you go; two months later, they announce record profits.
Is that the right way to do business?
I understand that companies are not charities, and that they can't exist forever paying out more in wages than they earn in revenues.
But it strikes me as horribly short-sighted for a company to simultaneously report record profits and fire loyal employees. But some will argue that companies are here to make money for their investors, and that such moves are entirely warranted.
That's why I'm calling on companies that employ this strategy to make it obvious. I suggest they band together under the banner, "Profits before People". In fact, to make this easier, I've created a few simple ads they could run to attract more investors.
I'm not trying to be cute or clever. If this is an intelligent and proper strategy, why shouldn't companies formally declare that they follow it?
Take a look at my crude examples, and create your own Profits before People art, then post links in the comments below.
On the other hand, if your company sticks by its employees in tough times, then PLEASE feel free to brag about that below.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Open Government

There are currently two key challenges facing government operations: 

1)      Government service delivery model is consumer based
2)      Government focus still leans heavily on end results without sufficient thought to the design of the experience that leads to that result

Using healthcare as an example, we

·         Don’t own our health and well-being so much as we contract it out (medicine, physiotherapy, ERs, etc.)
·          Complaining about contractors (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists) isn’t the same as direct ownership of our own care – we are motivated to gripe about service (I’ve seen a dozen specialists but don’t feel any better) not own the process of maintenance (if I did more exercise at home/monitored my diet/worked with my employer to better address at-work stress, I could proactively own and maintain my own health)
·         Government Service Providers cater to specific clienteles, providing a mass produced, more uniform experience for diverse populations with differing needs; it’s customized service, not tailored service
·         if you don’t have a lot of access, you simply don’t get the service (see upcoming Toronto Central LHIN report on Mt. Dennis); telling people they need to step up simply doesn’t do the trick, nor does trying to provide more of the same to everyone
·         ERs are like corner stores, places we go to for that emergency need – a great model if those services are being sold in situ, but they’re not

This is a model that worked more-or-less successfully for all producers/service providers over the last century or so, but society has become more complex, diverse, specialized, busier and as a result, less focused.  More emphasis needs to be placed on changing the relationship between government and taxpayers from provider/client to something more like an investor/entrepreneur model.

Similarly, there are many internal challenges facing the Ontario Public Service (OPS) that impede the maximization of service provision and the ownership of work by individual public servants.  The OPS is undergoing, in fits and spurts, a Human Resources Change Management review with the intent of identifying the internal communications, accommodations and ownership barriers that lead to avoidable presenteeism among OPS employees.

Under Premier McGuinty and now, Premier Wynne, the Government of Ontario has made great strides in empowering end-users – CCACs are an example of how government can educate and empower demographic/regional groups with specialized needs to better understand and manage their own health experiences.   I don’t believe there has yet been much consideration of the impacts of and solutions for presenteeism within the OPS, but that’s a bridge that needs to be crossed if we truly want to foster open, accessible and accommodating government services.

The challenge and opportunity I see presented with any Open Government Initiative is to shift the focus from a product/sales model to one that’s experience-based/collaborative.


There are plenty of reports that provide examples of current government service experiences.  The upcoming Toronto Central LHIN report on challenges faced by, in particular, Somali-Canadians living in the Mt. Dennis community provide a perfect example of how current process are meant to provide outcomes for clients rather than delivering a user-friendly experience of accessing services and feeling ownership of that outcome.

Dave Meslin has a great TedX Talk about how this works in practice; if Nike designed their consumer experience and marketing the same way government has, they’d be a much poorer company.  The same holds true for internal motivation; if employees are seen as functionaries, they aren’t motivated to do their best work.  This has been identified as a real problem within the OPS which has struck an OPS HR Change Management Committee to review the internal problems they have identified.

To properly design government service delivery for transparency, efficacy and a user-friendly experience that results in the end-goal of stronger Ontarians for a stronger Ontario, here are three themes that need considered:


For both end-user and service-provider.  People have a much harder time motivating themselves to go through frustrating experiences, which accessing government services often is:

·         The correct entry-point for the service required often isn’t clear; you can spend hours on the phone, frequently on hold, being sent back and forth between service providers without ever finding who is ultimately responsible for your concern
o   This is because service delivery isn’t clear; there is no service map of what government does anywhere; as such, there is plenty of unidentified and avoidable duplication, gaps and overlaps that feed in to frustration by both user and provider
·         Employees don’t always have clarity of mandate – what are they doing, when direction is being changed from above, the reason for changes aren’t explained nor is front-line input solicited.  You end up with frustrated employees not motivated to go above and beyond in their work
·         A laissez-faire approach to service modelling (the service is here, come find it if you want it) leads to standardized services that make sense to their designers, but not to the variety of users intended to access them

The first step to improving service experience is to map services out.  This can be constructed like a family tree, with tiers of service and how they connect/don't connect made clear.

There is also a need to better understand the nature of current end-user experiences, both what works and what doesn’t and employ a design thinking approach (tailor the product/service for intuitive use by end-users, not try to train users to engage product/services the way they are).  This approach of designing services for mass-customization has propelled Apple to success and can work just as well for government.

Lastly, we need to revisit the employee experience and expectations based on current HR management understanding and techniques.  Companies like Environcis are doing a great job of teasing the best out of their talent by moving beyond the standard financial carrot-and-stick model of motivation.

When employees feel like they are part of their work rather than tools for their bosses, they do a better job and are less likely to look for the added-value they feel entitled to (longer lunches, using government resources for personal use, etc.).  This provides a better experience for end-users as well.

When end-users feel like government wants them to use their services and that they are an active and appreciated part in the process of nurturing stronger individuals for a stronger society, they are more inclined to participate.  Of course, services need to be designed for use, which leads us into the next theme:


Who is trying to discover government services?  What are they looking for?  What are their instinctive search behaviours?  What tools are they using to do so (laptops, smartphone Apps, the phone, Constituency offices, OPS service offices, etc)?

In person
Compare your experience walking into a Target or a Nike store to that of walking in to a government service office. 
·         How welcome do you feel? 
·         How encouraged are you to explore, ask questions, etc.? 
·         Are the providers you engage with trained on how to zone in on your need through asking the right questions? 
·         Do those providers have a general sense of cultural sensitivity and how to identify potential barriers to communication/end-user assistance?

Borrowing from existing models of service delivery and customer experience design, it is possible for government to remove frustration from the experience and make it more enjoyable for everyone.

The redesign of government websites with the how can we help youpopular and featured windows are a definite step in the right direction – we need to go further. 

End-users don’t always know what they’re looking for and might not be sure of how to phrase a query to find it.  The more complex the process is, the less likely they are to engage in it.  By having websites that facilitate this process, we can enhance service accessibility, improvement of use and also collect internal metrics to foster better design tweaks in future upgrades. 

·         Add more guidance to websites – they should look like a smartphone with labelled icons (images help those with limited English/French and ease the process for those who simply don’t know where to begin) that help narrow one’s search.
o   i.e. – I’m looking for specialized help for my elderly grandparent, where do I go? The Ontario Ministry Of Health and Long-Term Care website would have a “senior” icon that leads me to more senior-related services.  If I know my grandparent has mobility issues, I could also push on an icon that leads me to a sub-menu with related icons.  Whichever route I take I will land on the services, service locations and contact information for the specific resources/providers I need to help my grandparent
·         Add value to the experience – my previous search patterns can be remembered, allowing for pop-ups aiding in the directional process.  Other pop-ups could include “tips and tricks” (in the grandparent example, related to senior care, senior self-care, etc)
·         Smartphone Apps can be designed to help individuals better monitor and communicate their needs (this is a concept being tried out in other fields right now)


This brings us back to the first point; OPS employees are largely viewed as cogs in the machine rather than part of a team; service end-users are viewed as clients rather than partners.

Revisiting internal HR practises, clarifying responsibilities and enhancing internal communication equality is a key part of nurturing an open, transparent government services that achieve their maximum potential.

Reversing our current consumer-based model of service provision to give end-users more ownership of their own care with providers acting more like EAs than sales agents/managers is a critical step is we are to ensure the financial feasibility of service provision down the road.

It's a starting point.  I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

If Syria was Britain Would Canada Be Doing More?

Not for a moment do I think a single Member of Canada's Parliament is ambivalent to the horrors happening every day in Syria, or for that matter any number of other places in the world.  It would be delusional to assume that Canadian involvement through force of arms would make the Syrian Civil War go away, even if we had the right - which we most certainly don't.  Unlike other nations, we have never declared ourselves the world's policemen; as such we've never had to watch our back like other nations, either.  Our more selective use of force and focus on diplomatic approaches has historically served us well.
Yet the Syrian Civil War has seen the death of at least 93,000 souls, 6,500 of which have been children.  Our Parliament bubbles over on issues such as abortion or providing sufficient supports for Aboriginal children on Reservations - what about the youth of Syria?  The United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees says "we have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rawandan genocide" - a black mark of inaction in our history, yet still our response in both words and actions is diluted.  How often do our Parliamentarians give voice to Syrian Canadians, worried about the fate of loved ones back home?
Canada has a proud history of both fighting hard when the time calls for it and serving as an international conscience when the need is dire.  One of the most inspired conflict de-escalation tools of the last century - Peacekeeping - was a Canadian innovation.  Have we lost that creative solution making ability?  Has our resolve wavered?
To the best of my knowledge, we don't presently have any Parliamentarians of Syrian background.  As such, none of our Parliamentarians have a direct connection to what's happening on the ground in Syria - none of them have familial skin in the game.  This isn't to suggest they are willfully indifferent to the plight of Syrians, any more than they are willfully indifferent to the plight of homeless people or persons with mental illnesses here at home.  Human beings are limited in their capacity to understand what doesn't impact them directly and for our current Parliament, Syria isn't personal.
It's not just Canada.  The US, who does like to see itself as the world's policemen, are on the sidelines.  Britain and France, countries that have never been squeamish about stepping in to foreign conflicts when their interests were at stake, are also sitting on their hands.  There's no Suez in Syria, after all.  History won't judge us on where we thought our best interests lay; as with the Residential Schools, history rightfully judges us on the consequences of our actions or inaction.
I have to wonder - if there were more Syrian Canadians, or more Members of Parliament with Syrian connections, would we be hearing about this conflict more?  Would anyone be advocating for a stronger role for Canada?  Conversely, if the Civil War were happening in France, or Britain (countries with more direct, albeit much diluted since WWII, ties to Canada) and the death toll of innocents was similarly mounting, would Canadians be demanding greater action from our government?
It's all well and good for our current government to so heavily promote flag and country, but what makes Canada great, what has always made Canada great, are its people - and they come from everywhere.  At our best Canada is a representation of what the world's diverse people can accomplish when they pool their resources and live, build and play together.  We create a tapestry as dynamic as it is diverse, as rich as the world itself.  It's this variance, this connection to everywhere, that has inspired us to act and given both the raw ideas and personal connection to seek resolution for conflicts wherever they arise.
I worry about the future for Syria, as I do for the people in Greece, in Romania, in Afghanistan and Somalia and in hotspots all over the world.  War is a life-forming event; those youth who grow up in conflict will know conflict, but not what it's like to seek compromise.  Much as engagement isn't our priority now, diplomacy may well not be theirs tomorrow.  Lots of Canadians are worrying, but worrying is not the same as taking action.
This is one of the reasons why I think polyculturalism is a good thing, even a necessary thing as our world grows hotter and our population swells.  We simply can't do this: every nation to itself is not going to work any more.  Our fates are too intertwined.  The simple fact of being Canadian - of living side-by-side with people from everywhere, of being represented in government by people of backgrounds different than yours forces the conversation, empowers comprehension and ideally, nurtures a better world.
Because of our history and our composition, Canada remains best-positioned to set the example others can follow and to come up with the creative conflict solutions that others can share.  We've done it before; we can do it again.
It shouldn't matter what the major demographics groups of our population are, nor where our economic interests like.  Canada should lead by example for the simple reason that it's what we do best.