Recognizing that the federal public service must evolve to keep pace with change, canada@150 was an innovative project launched to explore the challenges facing Canada and their implications for the public sector.
One hundred and fifty public servants within the first five years of their careers were selected from across Canada and across departments and agencies to undertake a one-year learning exercise.
The focus was on developing policy capacity and skills such as forward scanning and critical analysis, while demonstrating the potential for web 2.0 technologies to foster collaboration. For the most part, work was undertaken online. However, there were four conferences at critical junctures to teach new skills, introduce new ideas and provide an opportunity to meet experts and other participants.
We learned the importance of creating bridges between departments and looking more holistically at the challenges facing the country and the public service. As a result, we have new leadership skills and lifelong networks, and can speak with confidence about the future of our institution and our commitment to preserve the best while adapting. We are now integrating these lessons in our home departments and driving public service renewal.
As a new public servant I have been active in a number of initiatives aimed to address the public service renewal enigma. I have participated in new professional networks, developed learning opportunities, been mentored and been a canada@150 participant.
And yet, as I scan the public service renewal environment filled with all these initiatives and dialogues on the future, I ask myself, “So what now?”
I truly believe in the work of the public service and the fact that we can make a difference in how we work with each other and in the lives of those we work for – Canadians. But I am tired of the rhetoric, the dialogue, the discussions and the requests (I am guilty of these) to senior public managers to be heard. Sure, new professionals have an important voice, but all employees in the public service have an important voice.
Canada@150 taught me new tools and techniques to deal with emerging problems, to question some of the basic assumptions we make when contemplating policies, projects or programs. The initiative also taught me that sometimes you have to stop talking, roll up your sleeves and get dirty in the work. Canada@150 was not just about ideas; it showed me that I have a responsibility to act.
There are lots of great ideas out there; canada@150 came up with almost 150 recommendations for public service renewal that will change my world if you help me implement them. However, there is no single solution for everyone. Under a united vision for PS2.017 each of us has to find a passion or idea that speaks to us and become its champion.
Are we scared of change?
Ultimately, I am responsible for my career, for the advice I give and the job I do, for the type of environment that I work in, and to the people of Canada. I am also responsible to act – to change, be a change agent and champion ideas that I believe in.
Change is scary, especially when we have to accept responsibility for it. But change is important and I can’t afford to stand still when the realities of how I work, with whom I work and the needs of Canadians are changing so quickly.
Canada@150 was not a report or a “learning initiative.” It is not static. Instead, it is brand, a passion; it is alive. Canada@150 will be carried forward by all of us (participants or not) who have a vision for a better public service and a desire to realize that.
The next steps for the project are to help others embrace its ideas and the sentiment behind it: working towards a better public service in the service of Canadians; helping everyone find a passion; and providing a space for them to reach beyond their job description so that they can be champions of change and contribute to the organization.
I am committed to living the canada@150 brand and I will always remember that actions speak louder than words.
Tabatha Soltay, affectionately called the chief agent of chaos by her boss, is a special advisor with the federal Policy Research Initiative. She is a canada@150 participant and tweets about public service renewal at TabTalks.
The canada@150 vision for the public service in 2017
“PS2.017 is an adaptive organization that places the right people in the right jobs at the right time, nurtures a high-trust and learning work environment, fosters a culture of collaboration, is technologically savvy, confidently champions alternative and innovative policy development, and values engagement with citizens and stakeholders.”