Digital service

Really busy last few weeks. Fun though. A few cool things that have happened:

Chris Govias announced that he’s starting as the first Chief of Design with the Canadian Digital Service. I first met Chris years ago in London when he was working at Expedia, met him again when he spoke at AGI Open, and eventually got to work with him when he was Head of Design for the Ministry of Justice. Alongside actual design work, we spent a lot of time together on defining the user-centred design job roles as part of the Digital, Data and Technology professions work that’s happening in the UK government - which might sound boring, but is crucial in getting government to treat technology and design jobs as real things alongside more traditional professions like accountancy, the military and callcenter staff etc.

Guess what I’m trying to say is that Chris is an actual designer with loads of experience, and he also knows how to get things done in government. If you’re a designer in Canada and interested in improving public services, you should keep an eye on what he’s up to.


Similarly, Carrie Bishop wrote about their first year as Chief Digital Services Officer for San Francisco. Carrie helped out GDS a few years ago, contributing to a strategy that evolved into our cross-government services work, our government as a platform products, and some of our ideas around data.

So far in San Francisco they’ve pushed out a few really interesting things, like this service that helps residents find affordable housing. Carrie is wicked smart, and legit the only person working in digital government with better taste in sneakers and rap music than me. If you’re in San Fransisco and want to contribute, get in touch with the team.


Lastly, Giles wrote a thing about going to Vienna to see the It’s OK poster he made with Sonia (it’s being exhibited in the 2017 biennale, and you can download a copy to print out yourself). Read the whole thing, but this bit stands out

the ‘Its ok’ poster did not seek to define the culture of GDS, it sought to reflect it back

Giles Turnbull, Thinking about permission

There are plenty of people who have worked at GDS longer than me, but I joined at about the same time as most of the people who talk about founding it - and a constant theme thoughout has been how any ideas that worked, that persisted, that resonated beyond the walls of the organisation, are ones that started with the people working on the ground. The people writing the code, the people designing for users, the people spending months figuring how to reverse-engineer policy logic from ‘black box’ oracle systems without breaking anything.

It’s weird to me that the more my job has evolved to include management stuff, the more expectation there is to have ‘vision’ whilst allowing for less time actually doing the type of work that actually leads to relevant ideas. There’s something really wrong with how this industry approaches leadership.

Anyway, @ me.