October 1st, 2021

In the spirit of transparency and candour, Kevin and Jill publish weeknotes reflecting on the what and why for their team.

Kevin’s notes

Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour. (The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015)

I want to start with a brief reflection on Canada’s first National Day for Truth & Reconciliation. In recent weeks I’ve been trying to place the value of the stat holiday; is this really a meaningful way to advance reconciliation in civil society? And within the context of the day, what might be substantive action by the individual outside the symbolism of an orange shirt? Attending an event, donating to a cause, quiet consideration of one’s role in the colonial hegemony; all of these things register subjectively. I for one am wary of the performativity that can sometimes come with the settler-guilt complex. As a new marker on the calendar, what is the ‘right’ thing to do to make this day meaningful?

At a minimum, I believe the day is a useful advancement of the public conversation, which is valuable for progress in the pan-Canadian reconciliation intention. Every shirt, every conversation, the establishment of new normative truths and our individual roles in decolonization — it all adds up. I spent most the day on Pacheedaht territory immersed in the grandeur of the land. I extend my gratitude to the Indigenous people of Turtle Island, elders, ancestors, and all our relations for keeping us as uninvited guests in this idea of ‘Canada.’ We have a long way to go in aligning the Canadian experiment with our legally-binding UNDRIP accountabilities, and I’m encouraged by the commitment I see from my colleagues, friends, and the younger generations of non-Indigenous people in this country. The climate crisis, justice for BIPOC, socioeconomic inequities — these intersecting issues must be addressed concurrently, irreducibly connected.

Other things this week

  • BC Parks service transformation — forward momentum across the suite of projects. Excited for rumon carter to move into a more dedicated role in October and continue to apply his expertise and experience to the problem space.
  • BC Parks brand — reviewed the audit and guideline materials with GCPE to a fantastic response. Glad to align with the team on the importance of brand on a holistic place, beyond marcomm applications.
  • IIT Optimize team — reviewed service design methods to be fit for purpose with work they’re are engaged in. Good discussions regarding the value of qualitative inquiry, what to do with the data, and how to frame the findings in driving decisions.
  • CAS — an overdue brief proposing a service design approach to wrangling the reporting ecosystem over the next year. Reporting as a service is the lens we’re applying to the internal machinations of data collection, analysis, synthesis, and reportage. As such — what are the core problems to be solved? Who are the users? What proof do we have? And how do we create and connect value? Always start with the basics.
  • EPD design discovery kickoff — looking forward to looping back in a few weeks to see how things are progressing.
  • The STB 6 month exec review deck — glad to track our progress with Parks so Jill can report up in the coming weeks. I’m excited for senior exec to gain full exposure to the work we’ve done, the principals we endorse, the ways of working we (hopefully) exemplify, and our impact trajectory across the Ministry. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in a short time, and optimistic for our future prospects.
  • Watershed data — workshop synthesis and packaging the findings/next steps into a deck-as-report. Needs some internal review then we’ll ship to the stakeholders next week. Pure science environments are tough places for design to thrive, but we need to advance enmeshment with the social sciences at the program level to produce better conditions for success. Everything is relational and change is contingent on aligning worldviews and lived experiences. Design has a role and we’re working on the process to make sense and find the opportunities.
  • Wednesday I had a quick post-work drink with a crew from Parks. IRL! It was really nice to see faces outside the confines of the screen. Thanks for that folks.
  • Friday I caught up with Gordon Ross for an overdue yarn. What to say, I deeply value the tutelage and friendship. I’ve been so fortunate with quality mentors in my life; Rumon, Gord, Robert — I can only hope to pass along some of what I’ve learned to others with the same generosity and thoughtfulness.
  • Finally, seems like a relevant juncture to revisit this writing from a couple years ago: The Indigenization of Policies and Services in BC: Lessons from Te Ao Māori. While this was a challenging piece, it was hugely rewarding to work on. Big gratitude to Sagal for all the editorial assistance and our conversations throughout.

And with that, I’m off for three weeks finishing my master’s coursework. It’ll be nice to focus exclusively on school; I like doing well, I like being fully engaged, and I’m grateful Jill has cleared path for me to find this tricky balance of profession and academia. I won’t be clocking notes during that time, so have a fantastic October and I’ll see you soon!

Jill’s notes

The week started busy. I find it challenging to transition to the 40 minutes each-way commute to the office from the oh, 30 seconds for most of the last 18-months. I’m choosing to use the time constructively-ish. I catch up on audiobooks and, of course, my podcast backlog — yes, I admit among the reams of innovation and tech talks, some of it is true crime (or maybe a lot).

It was nice to see faces, and we are doing our best to plan time in the office as a team, so it is constructive and valuable. I like some of the reflections here re: flexibility, but I ultimately recognize that we work within a large organization with necessary checks and balances.

Of course, it doesn’t help that we failed at our first hybrid meeting, starting a solid 10 minutes late with half of us in the room physically and the rest online. Finally, we figured out the Skype (not MS Teams) Polycom and managed to re-issue the invite and weather the horrendous lag in screen-share to collaborate on a 55” inch TV — which, by the way, in a large boardroom feels like squinting at an iPad across the room. In the end, we would have been far more effective in our breakout rooms with dual screens and headphones.

Two big things popping up for me when I’m “in-person” — 1) how do I turn my camera off when I need a minute? And 2) how do I be cheeky in chat, clarify what someone has said without disturbing the meeting, or is that the point? I shouldn’t be disturbing the meeting and should be paying attention? I’ll let you ponder that, and I’m curious what other productive or otherwise activities are challenging in person?

About this week

  • We kicked off the business case and design work for the Environmental Protection Division with our soon-to-be-announced partners (contract in final stages).
  • I attended an awesome Agile Victoria MeetUp hosted by Mack Adams and Kristi Meredith on Graphic Facilitation for Agile Teams— Kristi certainly sold the importance of visual artifacts, and how you don’t have to be an artist to add value. Oh, and my stick figures have definitely levelled up.
  • I spent two long days with BC Parks and a crew of collaborators learning more about their digital services and the needs of their users. I’d say it was a valuable but taxing exercise that moved us forward but identified many gaps we didn’t expect. All I can say is that I’m happy it happened now! The setup continues over the coming month.
  • Wednesday finished with a much-needed catch-up with Maggie Cross on all things digital investment and life happenings. I managed to get in trouble for mingling as our friends from Parks who were a few tables away, but it was worth every second as I got to put some faces to names. Note to self, do not mess with table assignments — it’s a huge deal and a massive fine for restaurants.
  • Thursday was a solid day of reflection. I took the time to explore new resources, videos, and essays from Indigenous leaders and think about my role and how my actions impact those around me. I am grateful that so many of my colleagues and peers spent the day doing the same.

Finally, some heads-down work today felt like a natural transition from a heavy week to the weekend. Next week brings mixed feelings. I’m a bit terrified as I’ll be without my right hand for most of October as Kevin heads to an intensive three weeks of his masters. He’s worked hard to set expectations and set us up to succeed while he’s away. I’m proud to present our progress and seek direction from our executive. And, I’m thrilled to be guest-hosting the #DigitalBC call with Dafydd Vaughan talking about Legacy Modernization in the first of our multi-part chat exploring “The Why.” A big week is coming up.

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Service Transformation @ ENV (BC Gov)

notes and reflections from Kelsey Singbeil (A/Executive Director) and Kevin Ehman (Director, Strategic Design) at the Service Transformation Branch