Transforming Cities from Within: FAQs

1. You talk about innovation in a bunch of ways - what do you mean?

This is something that we will explore fully through the learning journey, so it’s okay if this is feeling messy at the beginning. The term ‘innovation’ is used to mean many different things, and in the learning journey we’ll define it more fully for each of us. Embedded in the values, purpose, and practice of innovation for the facilitation team is that innovation needs to move us toward equity, decolonization, and sustainability. We will draw on many different thinkers and resources in our exploration of innovation, and you can find out more about some of these here.

2. What makes for an appropriate complex challenge to work on through this journey?

It might be helpful to explore the differences between simple/clear, complicated, and complex challenges if you aren’t already familiar with these distinctions (more here). This learning journey is best suited to complex challenges; there are other, better processes to use when working on simple or complicated challenges (e.g. project management). 

 

It is also important to have room/space in your timeline, workplan, and process to explore, and that you do not already have a specific, pre-determined solution in mind that you are figuring out how to deliver. This happens frequently in the public sector, even if the challenge that you are working on is complex. The learning journey will begin by framing your complex challenge as a question, so you could do some early testing using this technique to see if you can frame your challenge in this way as a way to test out your challenge and see if it will be a good fit for this learning journey.

3. What are some of the outcomes that I might expect for the challenge that I’m working on?

Although we may be using theories, techniques, and processes that are less common in the public sector, and that are often more messy and iterative than you might be used to, you can still expect milestones and outcomes along the way. Each stage of the learning journey has practices and techniques that lead to a deliverable or outcome, all of which contribute to working on your challenge. For example, you will prepare a design brief to scope out the complex challenge you are working on. You’ll do action and user research to give you insights about the challenge that you are working on from those that are most affected by it. You’ll make a systems map that describes different dimensions of your challenge and identifies powerful places to intervene in this system. You’ll develop a large number of creative ideas in response to all of this work, and you’ll test some of them out through experimentation. You’ll learn how to evaluate learning and impacts of working on complex and systemic challenges, and you’ll tell a story about your learning journey in a powerful and compelling way.

 

Of course, there are many personal and professional development and transformative learning outcomes that are at least as important as what you do with your challenge, and these will be different for everyone. You may not be able to check a specific “done” box at the end of this journey, but let’s be honest - working on complex climate change, equity, and decolonization challenges is going to take us more than 8 months. 

4. What if I’m not sure how to put together a team, or a support circle?

There is no one right way to think about this, so here are a few thoughts and ideas to support your team building. Do you want a group of people working on the same complex question, or will a mix of different questions work? If everyone is working on the same question there will be a stronger sense of team, and more brain- and heart-power harnessed; however, it might mean that your team can’t be as cross-departmental, rooted in community, and/or diverse as you would like. So what’s most important?

 

It also really matters that the team members are interested in learning - together - in this particular way. So sending the invitation around to colleagues to see who gets excited about it might be a good lead to follow in building a team, rather than focusing too much on a specific challenge to work on. Taking an approach of finding the people that say an enthusiastic “yes” and then figuring out the shared challenge, might be a good approach. Remember that you only need to find one other team member to apply, and that this can be a staff colleague or someone from another organization if that is a better fit for what you want to work on.

 

The circle of support can start with someone on your team in a supervisory role - someone who will help you to protect the time and energy that you’ll need to participate fully in this learning journey. So if you aren’t sure where to start, start there. You can also think about who the people are that champion climate change, equity, and decolonization work in your local government and community. You only need to find two people to begin, and you’ll likely add others to your circle of support along the way.

5. Tell me more about the research aspect of this project?

This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), and has Behavioural Ethics Review Board (BREB) approval from UBC. The research is focused on generating useful theory for practitioners working on public sector innovation, as well as on contributing to academic thinking and research in this field. This research is built upon doctoral research into transformative public sector innovation labs, which is setting the foundations for this work. As participants in this learning journey you will also be active co-researchers.

 

Some of the research questions that we are beginning with include: 

  • What competencies, capacities, and capabilities are needed for transformative innovation on complex public sector challenges? How can they be learned and practiced?

  • What theories and practices can inform and support different approaches and pathways to working on complex and systemic challenges of climate, equity, and decolonization in the public sector?

  • What enabling conditions might need to be cultivated, or need to be in place, in order to support and lead to transformative change in Canadian cities?

  • What might we learn about the traits, positionalities, purpose, values, histories, supports, and stories of individuals in the public sector that persistently lead transformative innovation work, even in the face of great difficulty?

  • How might we evaluate the impacts and outcomes of transformative innovation and learning?

6. What are the dates for this session?

Please have a look at the table below for dates. All sessions are from 9:30am-12:30pm (PST)

Date
Session type
Description
May 4
Immersive session
Foundations of Public Sector Innovation
May 11
Immersive session
Decolonization and Equity
May 18
Immersive session
Imagining Possible futures
May 25
Immersive session
Revisiting design brief
June 15
Workshop session
Systems Mapping
July 6
Immersive session
Ideation
July 7
Immersive session (with guests)
Prioritization
July 13
Workshop session
Prototype Concept Development
September 14
Workshop session
Prototype Planning and Testing
October 5
Workshop session
Evaluation
October 26
Immersive session
Learning out Loud
Nov/Dec (TBC)
Immersive session
Evaluations, Storytelling, Futurizing
 
 
 
 

Program Overview

The urgency and complexity of the challenges that cities face continues to increase, with no end in sight. The role of cities to model solutions, shape policy priorities, direct resources, and advocate for larger scale changes on the national and global stage is also growing. The particular challenges of climate change, growing inequity, ongoing colonization, and structural racism and oppression not only intersect with one another, but they also require fundamental reframing and rethinking of how they are approached by the public sector. The current dominant systems, structures, and paradigms of public sector problem-solving are too narrow and constrained if we are to get at the root causes of these challenges and catalyze ambitious, high impact, durable, systemic, just, and transformative innovation.

 

Together we will co-create a community of practice where we will support each other’s learning, and practice reciprocity and deep listening. We will ground these experiences in an applied challenge that each of us is responsible for in 2021, seeking to develop and prototype high impact solutions to a complex climate, equity, and decolonization challenge in our home community. We will work at the personal, organizational culture, and systems levels to learn and enact transformative and emergent innovations on some of the most pressing challenges of our time. This is an action research project with funding from SSHRC, so the cohort will also participate in interviews and reflective work throughout the journey that will be part of the research project.

 

This learning journey will walk a cohort of City staff and community partners from across Canada through these trails together. It will stretch us beyond making improvements to the existing system, and into the spaces of transformation, emergence, and resurgence. We will joyfully dream into reimagining the cities that we love, and remembering their histories. We will build our individual and shared capacities and competencies in a collection of high impact and versatile approaches to social innovation. We will reflect deeply on our own histories, stories, paradigms, positionalities, and privileges and what these mean for current- and future expressions of ourselves and our calling/work. 

Program Overview

The urgency and complexity of the challenges that cities face continues to increase, with no end in sight. The role of cities to model solutions, shape policy priorities, direct resources, and advocate for larger scale changes on the national and global stage is also growing. The particular challenges of climate change, growing inequity, ongoing colonization, and structural racism and oppression not only intersect with one another, but they also require fundamental reframing and rethinking of how they are approached by the public sector. The current dominant systems, structures, and paradigms of public sector problem-solving are too narrow and constrained if we are to get at the root causes of these challenges and catalyze ambitious, high impact, durable, systemic, just, and transformative innovation.

 

Together we will co-create a community of practice where we will support each other’s learning, and practice reciprocity and deep listening. We will ground these experiences in an applied challenge that each of us is responsible for in 2021, seeking to develop and prototype high impact solutions to a complex climate, equity, and decolonization challenge in our home community. We will work at the personal, organizational culture, and systems levels to learn and enact transformative and emergent innovations on some of the most pressing challenges of our time. This is an action research project with funding from SSHRC, so the cohort will also participate in interviews and reflective work throughout the journey that will be part of the research project.

 

This learning journey will walk a cohort of City staff and community partners from across Canada through these trails together. It will stretch us beyond making improvements to the existing system, and into the spaces of transformation, emergence, and resurgence. We will joyfully dream into reimagining the cities that we love, and remembering their histories. We will build our individual and shared capacities and competencies in a collection of high impact and versatile approaches to social innovation. We will reflect deeply on our own histories, stories, paradigms, positionalities, and privileges and what these mean for current- and future expressions of ourselves and our calling/work. 

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