Transforming the Ontario Public Service for the Future: What Happened

By Andrew Do
October 23, 2017

Public services around the world face immense challenges when responding to rapid changes and complex policy problems against a backdrop of intense fiscal pressure and rising citizen expectations. As such, public services must adapt accordingly. The Ontario Public Service (OPS) too faces these challenges. In response, the OPS initiated its Public Service Renewal project based on what is outlined in this discussion document, Transforming the Ontario Public Service for the Future. The discussion document lays out the current state of the OPS and its efforts to drive transformation in the short term, while also setting out key directions for what will be needed for the OPS for the future.

To date, the Public Service Renewal project team and the Secretary of the Cabinet have engaged with OPS employees to gather their feedback and input to help shape what the future of the OPS could look like. However, the Public Service Renewal project team recognized that this cannot be a conversation that happens only among OPS employees. It is also about reimagining the relationship between Ontario’s public servants and Ontarians. Therefore, Ontarians must also be active participants in shaping the future of the OPS.

What happened?

The OPS engaged the Policy Innovation Platform at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) to host an engagement session with participants from a variety of sectors outside the OPS. This session invited Ontarians to help shape the future of the OPS based on their relationship and interactions with the OPS. We had the following breakdown of attendees:

PSR post colour categories

In designing this session, we decided to ground the engagement with four of the six core principles that are driving the Public Service Renewal project in the OPS:

  1. Empowering Ontarians: Developing partnerships with the people of Ontario to develop public policy with them, and not just for them.
  2. Delivering evidence-based, outcome-focused policy: Using rigorous evidence to inform decisions and achieve better results in more cost-effective way.
  3. Promoting open delivery systems: Opening more services to stakeholders and the public so we are better positioned to meet the needs of Ontarians in new and innovative ways.
  4. Cultivating an open and inclusive public service: Empowering our leaders and employees in creating a more open, diverse and inclusive workplace.

We thought these principles would resonate with participants and enable them to contribute their suggestions to these principles about how to better position the OPS for the future.

BII+E’s Policy Innovation Platform held a number of highly interactive workshop activities throughout the event, starting with an icebreaker. We wanted participants to imagine their own interactions with the OPS from their diverse perspectives, using a classic SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat) analysis.

After participants identified the key threats and opportunities, they generated ideas of how the OPS could respond. Participants then voted on the ideas they thought were the most promising.

Participants also had an opportunity to ask Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Ontario Public Service Steve Orsini questions about the future of the OPS. The session was an opportunity in which a public service leader invited feedback from the public about what they need their public services to be in order to work better for Ontarians.

Stay tuned for our forthcoming white paper, which will include insights from this well-received session.

For media enquiries, please contact Coralie D’Souza, Director of Communications, Events + Community Relations at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.

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