|by Nick Charney|
Last week in Halifax IPAC hosted its 67th annual conference. I've embedded a video of a DM panel addressing the question "What keeps Deputy Ministers Up at Night?". It's worth watching.
|by Nick Charney|
|by Kent Aitken|
“Some [moments of dissent] are canaries in the coal mine telling us that something is awry… [employees willing to challenge assumptions] just may become creative assets to public organizations if their dissent is listened to and channeled appropriately.
That can happen is public organizations strive for a culture that accepts, welcomes, and encourages candid dialogue and debate. Cultivating a questioning attitude that encourages a diversity of views and encourages staff members to challenge the assumptions and actions of the organization is important.”
|by Nick Charney|
#w2p - standing for Web 2.0 Practitioners - was one of the first widespread online communities of public servants in the social media era, first launching in 2009. It used the #w2p hashtag on Twitter combined with regular in-person happy hour type events to build a community of Canadian federal public servants (and some non-governmental folks as well) interested in online technology, innovation, and public sector reform. Unique for government, it was a completely grassroots and organic network. Members organized a number of Collaborative Culture Camp "un-conferences" starting in 2010 and the work of the #w2p network was featured in the Clerk of the Privy Council's 2012 report to the Prime Minister. - Ryan Androsoff, Wither #w2pEssentially, #w2p is the hipster hashtag of yesteryear. It was #gc2020 before #gc2020 was a thing, before the mainstreaming of hashtags into popular culture and public service culture, back when being on Twitter (et al) was a still 'risky' proposition. We traded tactics, strategies, documents and shit stories about the use of social media and collaboration technologies in government over drinks once a month. No single person was in charge and we rotated hosts and venues, there was only one rule: we are open to anyone, but there's no selling.
[Evaporative cooling] occurs when the most high value contributors to a community realize that the community is no longer serving their needs any more and so therefore, leave. When that happens, it drops the general quality of the community down such that the next most high value contributors now find the community underwhelming. Each layer of disappearances slowly reduces the average quality of the group until such a point that you reach the people who are so unskilled-and-unaware of it that they’re unable to tell that they’re part of a mediocre group. (Thanks to Meghan Hellstern for putting this on my radar.)When I first saw evaporative cooling put forward as a possible theory, I pushed back against it. However, I've since re-evaluated my position, especially in light of a second, closer reading. First, one of the community's core tenets was openness. Open communities are more susceptible to the effects of evaporative cooling than closed ones. Second, there was also a considerable amount of social gating (mechanisms that allowed people to self-select out of the group). If you weren't on Twitter your weren't really #w2p (recall this was earlier days for Twitter, before mass market adoption). Moreover, few executives participated because it was a place where influence came from being online rather than traditional organizational/hierarchical authority. Third, when the community was small, recognition and reputation was actively managed through the social layer. As it started to scale up it took on new members (and/or attracted 'tourists') these social controls broke down. Cooling accelerates when people don't understand/value the established social hierarchy of community. (Caveat: yes, despite all the collaboration rhetoric, social hierarchies, loyalties and even factions did exist; the retrospective memory of a homogeneous community is a myth). Fourth, there was some complex interplay between what happened on Twitter (the community's plaza) and what happened at the meet-ups (the community's warrens) that was complex and impactful beyond any explanation; again see my caveat above.
[I]n subcultures ... we find a rebel spirit succumbing to perhaps the only force that could destroy it: gentrification.
Gentrification is the process by which nebulous threats are pacified and alchemised into money. A raw form – a rough neighbourhood, indigenous ritual or edgy behaviour such as parkour (or free running) – gets stripped of its otherness and repackaged to suit mainstream sensibilities. The process is repetitive. Desirable, unthreatening elements of the source culture are isolated, formalised and emphasised, while the unsettling elements are scrubbed away.
Key to any gentrification process are successive waves of pioneers who gradually reduce the perceived risk of the form in question. In property gentrification, this starts with the artists and disenchanted dropouts from mainstream society who are drawn to marginalised areas. Despite their countercultural impulses, they always carry with them traces of the dominant culture, whether it be their skin colour or their desire for good coffee. This, in turn, creates the seeds for certain markets to take root. A WiFi coffeeshop appears next to the Somalian community centre. And that, in turn, sends signals back into the mainstream that the area is slightly less alien than it used to be.
If you repeat this cycle enough times, the perceived dangers that keep the property developers and yuppies away gradually erode. Suddenly, the tipping point arrives. Through a myriad of individual actions under no one person’s control, the exotic other suddenly appears within a safe frame: interesting, exciting and cool, but not threatening.
So you believe in change and doing things right. But do you do things less than right for the opportunity to do things right in the future? Or dogmatically stick to your guns, but end up alienated from the organizations and people that can facilitate progress? Do you stay as a garage hacker, or join an organization that limits your freedom but expands your impact?
Ryan Androsoff was recently musing about whether the W2P (web 2.0 practitioners) community in the Government of Canada had withered, and he captured the discussion. It seems I'm not alone in viewing the people in that community as innovators and schemers, but that they've moved on to "operationalizing" their goals or simply "doing."Or as Brett Scott puts it in The Hacker Hacked:
Any gentrification process inevitably presents two options. Do you abandon the form, leave it to the yuppies and head to the next wild frontier? Or do you attempt to break the cycle, deface the estate-agent signs, and picket outside the wine bar with placards reading ‘Yuppies Go Home’?To be clear, there's nothing sinister about this mainstreaming. It's a perfectly legitimate career move if you are willing to accept the inherent trade-offs.
|by Kent Aitken|
"We are currently witnessing the gentrification of hacker culture. The countercultural trickster has been pressed into the service of the preppy tech entrepreneur class. It began innocently, no doubt. The association of the hacker ethic with startups might have started with an authentic counter-cultural impulse on the part of outsider nerds tinkering away on websites. But, like all gentrification, the influx into the scene of successive waves of ever less disaffected individuals results in a growing emphasis on the unthreatening elements of hacking over the subversive ones.
In this setting, the hacker attitude of playful troublemaking can be cast in Schumpeterian terms: success-driven innovators seeking to ‘disrupt’ old incumbents within a market in an elite ‘rebellion’."
|by Nick Charney|
"You think Nicholas is dangerous now? You should have seen him when he was young. What I love about him is that you can push him a bit and watch how far he runs."Time to dig in I suppose.
|by Kent Aitken|
"The high concentration of federal employees in the NCR is considered to be undesirable because public servants at all levels run the risk of losing sight of the interests and concerns of the regions and the people across the country they have a duty to serve."
|by Melissa Tullio|
We need to move away from a culture of CYA and learn to speak frankly of the barriers and risks associated with change.and
Let's all start speaking real-talk.So here’s my real-talk. I'd like to explore a series of barriers I’ve encountered being a public servant for more than seven years, and suggest some ways to overcome them.
The opposite of creativity is fear.Inside the public service, fear takes the shape of deeply entrenched risk aversion, and defaulting to a (very broken) status quo. Fear leads to bad decision making, ignoring opportunities for growth/change, and oppressing diverse talent and voices in the organization.