Ottawa 2016: Exercising a mindset for Innovation

How can we find common ground to solve common problems when we have different backgrounds and are in competition for power? That is the atmosphere we felt within the House of Commons on February 4, 2016. This year’s Fellows had an opportunity to attend Question Period and to hear Minister of Finance Bill Morneau respond to inquiries about the government’s fiscal policies, including the anticipated federal budget deficit.

We came to this Question Period racking our brains to understand how the public policies on innovation that we’ve been working on for the last year with Action Canada would be received, discussed and possibly adopted on Parliament Hill.

We believe that fostering innovation can lead to higher standards of living, and that Members of Parliament can approve policy to accelerate innovation, leading to these desirable outcomes. But based on the debate we heard, making innovation policy is not  easy.

 With a federal budget deficit, it becomes more difficult to agree on priorities and what to fund first. The day before our Parliament Hill visit, we attended a dialogue on How Ottawa Works, presented by Graham Flack, Deputy Minister at Canadian Heritage. This dialogue taught us that the process and inner workings of central agencies and line departments in order to design policies are challenging and complex.

 If the overall experience on How Ottawa Works  has taught us anything, it is this: we cannot have an innovation policy if we don’t foster a culture of innovation in every sector of our society. And this starts with public servants who must be creative and look outward to identify the patterns of our common problems, and foster innovative policies for solving those problems.

As we all know, innovation is a critical factor that determines the overall economic health of a country. Looking for a more innovative Canada, let’s ask ourselves this question: How does Canada compare to other countries?

 According to the Bloomberg Innovation Index, Canada was no longer one of the top 10 innovative countries in the world in 2015, and the World Economic Forum ranks Canada only 26th for business innovation. These rankings tell a worrisome story for the future of Canadian growth and our standards of living.

 The urgency of these factors suggests that we strengthen the bonds of collaboration between government, researchers and businesses in order to deliver a comprehensive innovation policy. In times of budget constraint and urgency to out-innovate competitors, open innovation must become the cornerstone of our innovation policy.

While in Ottawa, we also participated in a dialogue with Louise Fréchette, former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, who reminded us that Canada has made major contributions to the world, not only in humanitarian affairs but also in science and innovation during the last decade. As we reach the 150th anniversary of our country, we should revitalize our innovation ecosystem and open a new era of Canada’s role in the world.unnamed

– Youmani Jérôme Lankoandé, ’15

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Mar 7th, 2016
7 Mar 2016



Vancouver 2015 : Une approche gagnante pour l’innovation

Lors de notre passage  à Vancouver, nous nous sommes retrouvés dans les bureaux branchés et hipster d’une compagnie Internet. À première vue, tout était normal: des employés relativement jeunes, une attitude décontractée et des bureaux à aire ouverte très design. Cependant, Hootsuite est bien plus qu’une autre start-up calquée sur le modèle de Silicone Valley. Cette entreprise symbolise comment le Canada peu et doit développer un modèle d’entreprise alternatif à celui de nos voisins du sud. Hootsuite, qui emploie plus de 200 personnes et à une valeur supérieure à 500 millions $, a réussi à attirer et garder des talents de grande qualité grâce à la qualité de vie offerte aux employés. Les entreprises équivalentes aux États-Unis paient davantage leurs employés que leurs concurrents canadiens, mais elles ont aussi la réputation de leur presser le citron avec de longues heures de travail ce qui créer un haut  taux de départ. Quant à elle, Hootsuite offre des horaires raisonnables permettant aux employés de profiter de l’exceptionnelle localisation de Vancouver. Ici, la principale innovation organisationnelle est de ne pas voir les employés comme une simple ressource humaine sans s’intéresser à leur besoin personnel, notamment celui d’avoir une vie équilibrée, afin de construire une réelle équipe de travail. Ainsi, Hootsuite a su attirer et maintenir des talents malgré qu’elle n’était pas à Silicon Valley et qu’elle rémunérait moins bien. Les entreprises canadiennes doivent être innovantes et stratégiques comme Hootsuite si elles désirent rester compétitives et la solution n’est pas d’imiter leur concurrent, mais plutôt de miser sur ce qui permet au Canada de se démarquer, la qualité de vie !

-Jonathan Plamondon, ’15

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Jan 31st, 2016
31 Jan 2016



Vancouver 2015: Same City, Different Angle

Despite everything I was told in advance, I wasn’t expecting to be surprised in Vancouver.

 The fourth of our five fellowship conferences was held in Vancouver, the city where I’ve lived and worked for more than a decade. The excitement about coming to Vancouver was palpable among many of my fellow cohort members, some of whom had never been to Vancouver. And despite travelling just 2 blocks from my apartment to the hotel, I learned that no matter how much you think you know about your own city, an Action Canada conference in your hometown will show you something new.

 We spent a Friday afternoon in early November visiting Discovery Parks, a hub for technology companies. We visited HootSuite, one of the world’s leading social media companies. And we capped it off with dinner at Sai Woo, a new restaurant in Chinatown.

 The opportunity to hear my city described by others made the conference just as new and interesting as if it was in a city I’d never visited. The way that start-up investors used different words than I would to describe Vancouver’s economic opportunities. Employees of HootSuite speaking about their company, contrasting with how local media describe them. Even the bus trip to Chinatown was a new experience, as the driver took different routes and turns than how I would navigate the city on foot. The result was seeing the same buildings, the same landscapes but from different angles.

 The city’s ability to change, to evolve, and the excitement among people who are trying to build something locally – all of it was on display at that afternoon. I’ve lived here for 14 years, but it was a good reminder that while we often seek out new opportunities and ideas from afar, there are plenty of layers to peel back right at home.

-Kevin Quinlan, ’15

photo credit: Kyle Lawrence

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Dec 8th, 2015
8 Dec 2015



Labrador 2015: The Language of Our Ancestors

Nakuumik, the Innuktitut word for thank you. This is the first of many Innuktitut words I learned during our time in the North. While in Labrador, Fellows learned about Inuit culture, identity and heritage, and the important role that language plays in their preservation. We heard from older Inuit about the challenges of maintaining the language and ensuring its propagation, and from younger Inuit about how learning the language of their ancestors connected them to their community and heritage.

This struggle really speaks to me as it’s one that I live in my own life. Although I spoke it growing up, I’ve almost entirely lost the ability to speak my Indian dialect, Kuchi, the only language my grandmother spoke. And yet, in Nain, the Inuit have come up with an incredibly innovative way of protecting the language that is such a fundamental part of their culture and identity. They recognized the need to adopt new technologies and harness new media for their benefit, and developed a Rosetta Stone CD-ROM language program teaching tool for Innuktitut.

We met Rita Anderson, a Nain elder, who dedicated three years of her time and painstaking effort to creating and perfecting the CD-ROM language program, thanks to funding received from the Government of Nunatsiavut. Rita was instrumental in the development of this CD-ROM, which is now used in the communities and schools of Nain and other Inuit towns along the coast of Labrador, to teach and revitalize the language. The once-endangered Innuktitut language has found new life. Using an innovative technique, the Nunatsiavut government has taken tangible steps to preserve, protect, promote and propagate their traditional language. Now, granddaughters will be able to speak to their grandparents in the language of their ancestors.

– Ayesha Harji, ’15

photo:  Action Canada Fellows with students in Nain

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Oct 26th, 2015
26 Oct 2015



Labrador 2015: Lessons Learned from the Inuit of Nunatsiavut

Resilience, warmth, leadership.  These words come to mind when I recall the Labrador Inuit we met during our latest Action Canada working conference. Like the rugged, beautiful landscape we trekked, the Inuit of Nunatsiavut shared their immense beauty of spirit despite the daily challenges they face.

What we saw and heard was striking. Our time in Nain with members of the Nunatsiavut Government, and workers in their one and only medical clinic, revealed barriers to health unheard of for most Canadians.

Imagine living in a community where the closest obstetrical or palliative care is an hour away by plane. Imagine your family nearly twice as likely to suffer from diabetes, and five times more likely to struggle for enough food than the average Canadian. Here, Inuit youth are 30 times more likely to take their own lives than youth in the rest of Canada. Life expectancy is decades too low.

Lack of housing, lingering effects of residential schools, domestic violence, and geographical isolation all pose challenges to health care – a reality we can’t ignore.

Yet the Nunatsiavut Government is fighting back. Rec centres and programmes getting youth back to the land are emerging. Local role models are leading the way with resilience and creative innovation to transform a community from within.

Nakkumek, Labrador – thank you — for this lifetime of lessons I took away after a few short days in your presence. I hope we can all understand how to give back to you to make an even stronger and healthier Canada.

-Jane Thornton, ’15

Photo:  Jenny Merkuratsuk, Hebron National Historic Site

Publié parPosted by Action Canada
Oct 11th, 2015
11 Oct 2015

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