Monthly Archives: January 2015

DwD Retreat & Vision for 2015

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December 10, 2014, 5:30 pm. Mostly in clusters of two or three, cheerily recognizing familiar faces, we slipped through the doors of the brightly lit offices of The Moment. The party fare was potluck, a melange of dishes from sushi to Caribbean plum pudding that soon covered the buffet table. The evening’s plan was to hold off on snacking until strategic conversations were done, but the eclectic menu like the more than decent selection of wines, proved irresistible.

So the annual DwD retreat began, a little behind schedule, with an introductory check in. Each of the roughly 40 participants was asked to recall most memorable 2014 moments from DwD or sister groups. The flow moved quickly from personal touch points to broader discussions over universal challenges to all DwD group mandates as imagined and reimagined within or between sessions. A recurring concern appears to be gap bridging, whether between theory and practice, among oppositional ideas, or, as we are hoping to address right here, more writing about what Design for Dialogue is about.

Retreat Circle










A half decade ago the still fledgling Design with Dialogue community substituted group retreats for regular December sessions. Invitees (frequent attendees and curious guests) gathered to reflect on where this community had been and where it might go in the year ahead. Over the months between Decembers we had a chance to see what our ideas looked like in action. Over time DwD spun off interest groups that now include Systems Thinking Ontario, Unify Toronto Dialogues, and Visual Thinkers. (Each is well described on our site).

Later at this year’s retreat we formed breakout discussion groups along interest lines as reflected either by DwD itself or its branches. Within the breakout groups you could hear words of passionate enthusiasm. After all, each participant freely chose to join that particular conversation.

As revealed by multi coloured stickies later positioned on a designated whiteboard, common wishes included the desire to connect with and know more about the other groups. Within conversations participants naturally demonstrated variety in emphasis, some seeing new skill acquisition or procedural approaches as paramount, with others seeking greater clarity on content or aiming for substantive outcomes, a record of followup or research emerging from sessions.

Our convenors expressed their own aims for the new year. More participation from the OCADU student (and undergraduate) community would be welcomed as would be an outreach for social innovation projects & practices. Continuing to explore the wider community building ties to areas of expertise with resonance for Design with Dialogue is another given, as is the strengthening of cohesion within our informal community. Participants by and large appeared to like all these suggestions and expressed approval.

How did this retreat differ from sessions gone by? The deliberate focus on key themes and an overall deeper sense of commitment stood out as distinguished from previous more concrete planning outcomes. This feels more authentic and probably will prove to be – if we do the work.

 Thanks to Donald Officer for authoring this piece, Greg Judelman for the photographs, and Erica Bota for the live sketching.


The Co-evolution of Connected Citizens in Canadian Governance

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Can we motivate civil society to form a collaborative approach to Canadian governance?

 How will governing – public decision making – be influenced through citizens evolving new digital and place-based channels?

The January DwD was a public workshop convened by OCADU’s Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab) as part of our ongoing SSHRC-sponsored action research conducted during 2014.  We hosted 25 participants in reframing and representing key challenges and future innovations that might influence civic participation and governing across Canadian government sectors.  A current model of the Gigamap (large-scale system map) as a departure point for participant contributions, you can contribute to the discourse by building on and critiquing the findings of a recent major workshop via card sort and dialogue mapping.


Governance in our digital era is a central challenge facing government institutions and societies in the coming decades where information ownership is uncertain, power is dispersed, and authority and accountability need to be reconceived. Last November  we convened a diverse group of practitioners, policy experts and academics to explore how digital technology and new flows of information have been influencing governance and government practice, and where it might have potential to more significantly transform analysis, engagement, policy, service delivery, and accountability.   We are seeking many perspectives on the promise and concerns of digital engagement, and the positive possibilities for designing and delivering public policy and services. We want to hear your views on how governments at all levels in Canada might re-conceive various governance practices as digital tools and practices continue to evolve.


We are interested in discovering how the practices and expectations of governance are and will be shifting from the vantage point of citizens and other stakeholders, communities, and sectors. We aim to explore how Canada – with all of its levels of government and regional diversity – might evolve as a basis for considering how government practices ought to transform.

Gmap KK baseline-sm







Digital era governance can be understood from a technology-centric viewpoint or a governing practices perspective, which largely colours the values and strategies under discussion. Since the start of the Internet era, governments have sought greater efficiencies and interaction with citizens and stakeholders.  Digital governance includes issues such as citizen rights and uses of data, the questions of government control through ICT, and the online management of benefits and services. It is now simple to pay parking tickets online. But understanding the core issues and arguments in legislation remains as murky as ever. Is it fair to suggest that digital rights may filter the power of citizen access?

We asked participants to do some homework to familiarize themselves with some of the issues and trends in “digital governance” and the larger trends concerning Canadian government relevant to discussions.

Gigamaps:  The Gigamap presented at the Ottawa conference was displayed in the workshop as an evolving model. Final visual maps may appear more like this online Gigamap on the Circular Economy from a student team in our OCADU SFI course. Maps may include system diagrams as found in this student project on the adaptation of veterans to civilian life