Systems evolution: A gigamap – Canadian Government Executive

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March 25, 2015

Systems evolution: A gigamap

What is the central challenge facing government institutions and societies in coming decades? We define this challenge as Digital Era Governance, where information knows few boundaries, power is dispersed, and authority and accountability need to be reconceived. The accompanying infographic map is a work in progress, a visualization serving to elicit and represent perspectives, insights, issues, patterns of change, shifting values and norms associated with this transformation.

Led by a team from OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab), as part of an initiative of the Digital Governance Partnership, this work is being co-created as a gigamap. Gigamapping is defined as “super extensive mapping across multiple layers and scales, investigating relations between seemingly separated categories and so implementing boundary critique to the conception and framing of systems.”

The goal is to identify key perspectives, knowledge gaps, researchable themes, stakeholders and experts, to contribute to further discussion. We hope that this evolving systems map will provide inclusive perspective on complex governance opportunities and challenges, capturing diverse insights and views on how evolving digital systems, communities of practice, social and cultural constructs are changing and will continue to impact how governance works in Canada, including its institutions and activities.

This work guides and reflects our efforts to identify prospective partners and to define researchable topics for a significant grant, and framework to monitor Canada’s progress. Initial funding is through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) partnership development grant, “Digital Governance: Transforming Government for the Digital Era,” to develop a national and international research partnership. This was awarded in 2014 to the core partner group: Institute on Governance, sLab, Dalhousie University’s School of Information Management, private sector firm Mighty Purpose, and the University of Victoria’s School of Public Administration.

Our focus is not only on how digital technology and new flows of information have been influencing government practice, but also where it might have significant potential to transform analysis, engagement, advising, service delivery, backroom capabilities, and accountability. The Digital Era Governance project is structured as a “foresight commission” to cultivate long-term perspective on the futures and guide multi-sector vision building.

Soon after the SSHRC award we set out to develop a working system map of governance issues and relationships unfolding over the future, as understood by participants. Our process highlights several gatherings. Participatory work on this digital-era governance system gigamap began when on November 14, 2014 in Toronto we convened a diverse group of 50 observers, practitioners, and experts from inside and outside government. A team from sLab facilitated the meeting using Open Space and visual techniques. Graphic recordists sketched how practices and expectations of governance are shifting from the vantage point of citizens and other stakeholders, communities, and sectors. We explored how Canada – with its levels of government and regional diversity – might evolve as a basis for how such practices ought to transform.

Between meetings we undertook a system mapping process based on contributions in dialogue. These processes centred in visual thinking and systemic design are being used to identify and map out complex challenges and opportunities, uncover diverse stakeholders, issues, tensions, and common ground. Further illuminating changemaker perspectives, the OCAD team next worked with Toronto-based event series Design with Dialogue, in January 2015. This facilitated discussion identified emergent, holistic views on the scope of the challenge and diversity of elements.

From inception, an objective for the gigamap was to intersect with the two-day Digital Governance Forum held in Ottawa in January. The gigamap, previewed to delegates at the Forum as a line drawing, is here extended and enhanced.

We hope the work presented here is challenging and relevant to your concerns in Canadian governance. We’re keen to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas and to expand the partners network. Please share your thoughts with Evert Lindquist, principal investigator (evert@uvic.ca).

 

The facilitation/visualization team from OCAD University’s Strategic Innovation Lab included Stuart Candy, Peter Jones, Patricia Kambitsch, Kelly Kornet, Goran Matic, Peter Scott, Jill Sharrock, and Greg Van Alstyne.

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