New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network

GovMaker: Going from 900s to 1080s

By Tiziana Zevallos

Tom Schaar is a skater from Malibu, California. When he was a twelve-year-old boy with sun-kissed hair and a face that hadn’t yet grown in proportion to his adult teeth, he flew over a mega ramp on his skateboard and made three full revolutions in the air. He landed the first 1080-degree stunt ever.

The third GovMaker conference, which took place last month in Fredericton, began with a video of Schaar executing the 1080 for the first time.

_MG_9304“What would it take for government to pull out a 1080?” asked Nick Scott, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Social Policy Research Network and conference organizer, to the bewildered audience.

The conference’s main purpose was to educate on the principles and practices of open government and encourage disparate sectors to collectively address the province’s problems.

According to Joeri van den Steenhoven, director of MaRS Solutions Lab, there is a need for change in how governments solve increasingly complex social challenges; traditional approaches are not working and public resources are decreasing.

Open Government offers the tools to develop solutions with society, not just for society. It is founded in three stages: (1) making government data easily accessible and freely available, (2) allowing citizens to become involved in the decision-making process, and (3) getting beyond consultation to real collaboration or co-production of solutions with society.

van den Steenhoven said the first step to face today’s challenges is to debunk the idea that governments can’t be innovative. However, in order to innovate, one must learn from mistakes and reconfigure a solution many times to improve it.

_MG_0159According to van den Steenhoven, politicians get elected by the solutions they propose. Therefore, Labs will yield the spotlight to politicians and government if the solution they come up with is successful and will take the blame if the solution presented doesn’t solve the problem. “That’s the way to engage politicians and government to work with innovation labs,” he said.

“Government is risk adverse because there is the preconception that government can’t be wrong, it can’t fail,” said Kit Lykketoft, Senior Consultant at Workz. She added that labs offer an answer by creating a space to have an open conversation and experiment.

Mike O’Brien, Mayor of Fredericton, said his staff was challenged a few years ago to embrace process improvement techniques that are based on innovation, which focus on experimenting and then identifying and removing the causes of defects in policy.

_MG_1794“We gave [our staff] the resources to do it: the dollars and the training. And the results that they are bringing back to our council and our city are phenomenal. We are now saving annually seven million dollars, in the last five to six years, because of what they are doing,” he said.

The 900-degree spin was thought to be impossible until Tony Hawk did it. The same was thought of the 1080-degree stunt, until a twelve-year-old pulled it off.

“Open government is difficult, 1080s are difficult, but they are not impossible,” said Scott.


Tiziana Zevallos is a second-year student studying Journalism and Political Science at St. Thomas University. She attended the 2016 GovMaker Conference as a Student Ambassador of the Pond-Deshpande Centre.


Copyright 2013
A Ginger Design