User Experience + Mindfulness

Toronto's Civic Innovation Office

Toronto’s Civic Innovation Office is an in-house accelerator, which tackles a complex city challenge each year, in collaboration with innovators inside and outside of City Hall.

  • Role: Design Strategist

  • Timeframe: 6 months

  • Contributions:

    • Worked with Mayor John Tory, City Manager, Bloomberg Philanthropies and senior bureaucrats to lay the foundation for a new Civic Innovation Office.

    • Introduce human-centered design, UX, and design thinking to scope the team’s first priority project and innovation process.

    • Worked in collaboration with city leadership and funders to finalize project proposal and get it approved by all stakeholders.

    • Designed, tested, and developed the team’s website at 1/10th the original allocated budget.


The Full Story…

An Open Call to City Staff

Our first action was to post an open call asking the entire City of Toronto staff to help us define our scope. We read and scored 150+ submissions to narrow to a short list of projects most likely to directly impact residents of the city while also inspiring internal organizational development. Next, I planned and facilitated a playful design thinking exercise where we synthesized top-scoring submissions into meaningful thematic priorities to focus our work.


Inclusive Civic Engagement

The leadership level of government involves complex agendas, budgets, and conflict. Once we had a thematic priority, I applied research methods and design thinking to align influential political, bureaucratic, and philanthropic stakeholders. I used survey research and subject matter expert interviews to narrow our focus and get a specific project approved by senior leadership of the city: creating a more inclusive civic engagement strategy for the City of Toronto.


Defining Process and Strategy

A key aspect of my role at the city was to create a strategy which married modern design process with existing government process. In collaboration with Mayor John Tory, City Manager Peter Wallace, our funders at Bloomberg Philanthropies, and city staff from various divisions, I created a brand new problem-solving approach for the city. After over 15 iterations, the team now has a well-defined innovation process which puts residents first: an ambitious application of human-centered design process to the realities of local government.


Teaching the Government to Work Lean

The process diagram above includes countless insights about how to apply lean, agile, and human-centered processes to government. Yet perhaps the best example of bringing a lean approach to government might be how I produced the team's website. With only 2 weeks to get it done, I facilitated a few collaborative workshops and put up the website using SquareSpace, getting it online and approved at 1/10th the original allocated budget, including information architecture, wireframing and even an unmoderated usability test.