Friday, June 13, 2008

Reloaded - CPSRENEWAL.CA Weekly: Tell Us How

[Update June 16 - We appreciate and welcome your comments.

The message we were trying to convey with this post is NOT that we should sit back and wait it out, but that is it insufficient to repeatedly deliver the renewal imperative without ever giving direction on how one can actually get involved.

The final statement of this column suggested that perhaps someone with the authority and the resources (i.e. the centre)
should move to provide us with a public service wide Web 2.0 platform, as suggested in David Eaves Column (to which we linked).

We are already involved, in many of the informal renewal channels alluded to by the comments, however we have had to rally most of our efforts on our own accord, without the benefit of being pointed in the right direction. The simple example of the PS wide web 2.0 platform would be an easy way to draw in participation from people who want to participate but cannot find an avenue for their creative energy.

We hope this clarifies our column. Thanks for your feedback.]

Original Column Below:


Kevin Lynch, the Clerk of the Privy Council, presented a deck on Public Service Renewal at the 2008 APEX Conference.

[Editorial Note: The Clerk’s deck is suggested pre-reading for what follows. The commentary below responds to his presentation. We would also recommend this deck presented by Max Valiquette, President of Youthography Inc. as it provides additional context.]


The first half of the Clerk’s presentation was an explanation of why Public Service Renewal matters. It contained all of the latest demographic data and used it to hammer home the importance of the Renewal imperative.

Here’s the rub.

We here at (contributors and patrons alike) already know Public Service Renewal matters; we already know why it matters. Surely Public Service executives already know why Renewal matters. We’re fairly certain that those of us who are genuinely interested in Renewal want to hear less ‘why’ and more ‘how’. The commentary below is therefore aimed not Clerk’s “Demographic Imperative” but on the issue of communication and engagement.

The Clerk’s deck closes with a slide on Key Public Service Renewal Messages, only one of which we want to touch on here. Specifically, the Clerk’s final point (our questions there to in parenthesis):

Communications and your engagement are key to renewal:

  • Get Involved! (How? When? During NPSW?)
  • Speak up! (Where? Can we be critical, or does that contravene PS values & ethics?)
  • Make suggestions! (To whom?)
  • Become part of renewal! (We want to, tell us how?)
  • Be make a difference! (It doesn't feel that way to us... not yet.)

If we have truly found the key for renewal then we must have some inclination of where the lock is?

Don’t we? No? Not yet?

The underlying question is a recurrent and imperative one – tell us how!?

Tell Us How to Participate in the Renewal Process

Should we step outside the Public Service and start a website dedicated to Public Service Renewal like others have? Only to eventually be brought back into it after proving your mettle? Are our contributions undermined because we have to preface them with disclaimers and tread lightly for fear of reprisal? While the above comments are somewhat tongue in cheek, the underlying point is that there are ways to get involved within the existing Public Service framework, but they are often informal undertakings, spread by word of mouth, and subject to sharp declines in interest due to the mobility of labour within the Public Service.

If the Public Service wants to engage youth in the renewal process it needs to provide opportunities to participate and provide feedback, and it should be done in a manner that allows for both the productive use of the latest technologies and face-to-face interactions. Moreover, these opportunities need to be easy to find, properly resourced, and actively championed by Senior Management. That being said, engagement at all levels and across all demographics is important.

We think there is an opportunity here for strong leadership from the centre on creating a mechanism that would facilitate both communication and engagement – the key to renewal.


  1. AnonymousJune 13, 2008

    Tell us how?
    Are you looking for an online form or a DG steering committee or a new program office?

    I do appreciate that you guys post this blog, and it is an important gesture toward renewal. But in a few words, Renewal is about creating it. You won't find it in any committee, program or initiative.

    Renewal is about regular and influential people inside of government using their mellons (thinking) and adapting to the inevitable realities coming to their own "corners" of the public service. It's about having the courage to make changes and push limits whenever that seems needed.

    Sure, you may have a bit of a struggle on your hands, but renewal only going to happen when some of the important tussles over what needs to be done versus the way we've traditionally gone about things are engaged in.

    So, don't wait for the magic solution to renewal to be proclaimed. There isn't one.

    Do you really think our 50 and 60-year-old ADMs are going to stick around to see this thing through? It's obvious they won't be here, and all they have is a pretty good picture of what's coming--not what to do. That's why the Clerk's messages are not prescriptive.

    As for how, that's up to us. And that's why we need to step up and make the absolutely necessary changes happen in our own little spheres of influence. It's about people like you and me stepping up and stepping into places and things that need to change.

    This is how Renewal could actually become reality.

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  4. So let me see if I understand your idea of renewal. Someone (preferably someone in higher power) tells you what to do, when to do it, and how you can send feedback? Presumably while you sit and wait for direction?

    Oh...I thought that was a hierarchy.

    So, if you had a chance to provide feedback, what would it be?