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Picking our Projects

I grew up on a farm. It was a childhood marked by the feeling of gravel beneath my feet, dirt on my hands, and the joy of picking produce right from the field. I wish I could tell you that picking projects is the same but I have yet to encounter gravel, dirt or produce during a partnership chat (bonus points if you make this happen!)

For nearly two decades I’ve worked hard to make government services better, and in doing so, I have met many public servants committed to the same. While using the latest technology may get more buzz, at CDS we’re starting with the basics of good service, because that’s what matters most. When you engage your government, (1) what you need to know and do should be clear, and (2) it should be as easy as possible to actually do that thing. This isn’t about website redesign; modern tech and methods gives us a real opportunity to meet user needs as we transform our services and, in many cases, move them online.

Humble beginnings

We’ve hit the ground running with our first delivery team, focused on a few summer projects. We’re exploring how to open access to home energy efficiency data, how to improve the user experience during parts of the citizenship process, and how to help government crowdsource solutions with entrepreneurs and experts outside of government. We start by doing our homework, so we’re spending time with people behind the scenes, learning about current processes and observing service users.

Our early projects are designed as relatively short sprints, taking 2-3 months each. At the same time, we’re laying the groundwork for deeper engagement with some key service delivery departments. By getting to know their users and their business well, we’ve already begun to “fall in love with their problems”. Two of the groups we plan to get to know well over the coming months are immigrants and veterans, as we’ll be partnering with these departments to help accelerate their plans to improve service over the years to come.

While this work gets underway, we’re also on the lookout for other service design and delivery problems that could be potential projects. There is no shortage of opportunity, but particularly in the early days, we’re building our team’s capacity and we have to pick our projects carefully.

Prioritizing projects

So how do we pick what we work on? We focus on external services, and in particular, advancing services that have a broad reach (e.g. used by a large number of people). We also look for opportunities to get involved at the front end of a problem, so we can work with you and your service users on discovery and design, before determining the best way to get the right digital solution in place. If you’re just looking for tech support to meet the timeline on a committed deliverable, we’re not a good fit.

We use this handy list of questions to explore projects in terms of our three Rs: Readiness, Reach and Replicability. When we are assessing projects, we also take into consideration our capacity, availability, and expertise at the time.

What to expect

Your time is valuable, so we keep our intake process light. As we expand our capacity and interest grows in the near future, we’ll be iterating on this intake process to ensure we get the best results for Canadians. When you reach out to us, we’re looking to hear about the problem you need to solve. Within a week or so, we’ll reach out to set up an initial chat to gather some background information.

If the problem falls within our wheelhouse and we think there’s potential to partner, we’ll schedule a few follow-up meetings with our broader team and yours, to dig deeper. Colleagues within your program or policy areas, operations, client service, communications, privacy and information technology sectors need to be engaged to ensure awareness and support from the outset.

If we both decide a partnership makes good sense, we’ll put in place a light touch agreement that outlines our approach, roles, responsibilities and timelines. And then, we get to roll up our sleeves and get to work! It’s important to keep in mind that we intend to work in the open with partners, sharing our lessons learned, challenges and successes along the way as much as possible.

So far the response has been incredible! We’re humbled by the interest we’ve received to date and look forward to the many conversations to come. So with the above in mind, don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to set up a chat about your problem and explore how we can help.