The GCTools - Advancing Public Service Renewal through Digital Collaboration

Nick Wise is Executive Director for Digital Collaboration and Community Management with the Chief Information Officer Branch at the Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada. His team provides direction and support to promote enterprise collaboration and to strengthen CIO organisations in advancing digital government. 

In many ways public service renewal is about transforming the Government of Canada into a smarter and more sensitive organisation – one that supports and learns from innovation, and one that responds to the changing needs of public servants. This is not necessarily new, but the challenge today in a complex, dynamic and rapidly evolving public service environment is how to embed or institutionalise the renewal imperative. How can we help such a large and complicated bureaucratic organisation common in many Westminster systems where accountabilities are defined vertically, hierarchically and divided into ministries, adapt in an agile and intelligent and sustained manner? Part of the answer in addressing this almost Darwinian impulse is to allow for ideas and energies to merge, clash, compete and disrupt across the bureaucratic structures. This is where conventions are challenged, experimentation and innovation happen, where new approaches are born, tested and shared.  GCTools are making an important contribution in this regard, helping institutionalise capacity within the Government of Canada to innovate, to learn and to adapt. 

The GCTools are a suite of enterprise digital collaboration applications that connect public servants with each other and with the information and development opportunities they need to work and thrive in the digital age.  The core GCTools, open to public servants, include: 
  • GCpedia, a wiki-based collaborative workspace and knowledge sharing platform (similar to Wikipedia); 
  • GCconnex, a professional networking platform for connecting people and ideas (similar to LinkedIn, Twitter & Medium); 
  • GCintranet, a central repository for information and communications; and 
  • GCdirectory, an employee directory service.
The GCTools contribute to the transformation of the public service by facilitating interdepartmental sharing of knowledge and information, and helping public servants build and grow communities to work together as policy entrepreneurs to meet the needs of Canadians in an open and transparent environment. They provide a virtual workspace for experimentation and exchange that cuts across occupational, organisational and sectoral boundaries, and provides a bridge to thought leadership and practitioners in the policy sphere allowing creativity and enterprise initiatives to flourish.

With a focus on agile development and user-centric design, the GCTools provide a simple, easy to navigate ecosystem that today connects more than 130,000 public servants. They help to create relationships, spark experimentation and innovation, and support the sharing of best practices. They have been used to drive and sustain whole-of-government employee engagement activities (e.g., Blueprint 2020), a reset of the Government of Canada’s policy management framework, peer-to-peer IT support services and many other initiatives.

This evolving digital workspace connects employees to employment and professional development opportunities through the Opportunities Platform on GCconnex. The platform quickly and easily matches employees with at-level mobility (i.e. micro-missions and job swapping) and development (i.e. mentoring and job shadowing) opportunities by leveraging the content in employees’ GCconnex profiles.

Created with the vision of an open and transparent government, GCcollab was recently launched, a digital collaboration platform to build cross-sectoral awareness and relationships between federal, provincial and territorial public servants and academics and students from universities and colleges across Canada. GCcollab enables open data and information sharing among members of the public sector and academia, helps the public service to identify and recruit key talent for hiring/bridging, and works to demystify and strengthen cross-sectoral impressions of the public service.

The GCTools are making an important contribution to public service transformation and renewal, at a time when adaptation in a rapidly changing environment is imperative. They provide a social, safe, democratising platform that supports a government-wide ecosystem for collaboration, experimentation and action helping the Government of Canada become a smarter and more sensitive organisation.