Western Economic Diversification Canada staff accept the mission to innovate
Now in its second year, Western Economic Diversification Canada’s (WD) Employee Innovation Fund (EIF) is empowering staff to be more innovative in how we serve Canadians and how we work. Once again driven by a team of volunteers from across the department, this year’s EIF posed three challenges:
- Application Process - how WD can make its funding application process more accessible, efficient and inclusive;
- Promotion and Success Story - looking for dynamic and engaging ways that WD can enhance how it tells its story and promotes it programs, services and results to Canadians; and
- Open Challenge – other innovative ideas on approaches to administration, communications, program and policy design and delivery.
WD staff responded to these challenges with ideas that were bold and creative. The proposals selected for funding included providing applicants the opportunity to pitch their proposal using video, “gamifying” the submission of financial reports, creating opportunities for staff to work more closely with counterparts in other regional development agencies, and holding cultural awareness events.
Building a workplace culture that encourages innovation and experimentation is a journey. The EIF team was given an open mandate, the latitude to take risks and make decisions. This included the choice to include and set challenges, develop selection criteria and select proposals for funding.
Reflecting on what worked in the first round of the EIF and exploring what could be done better was an important part of the team’s work. For example, in the first round, the submission criteria was intentionally broad to encourage more applications, which resulted in primarily internally focused ideas. To encourage more external-facing ideas, the team opted to pose ‘challenges’ in the second round for a more focused approach. The results were outstanding, as many of the submissions were not only external-facing, but also larger in scale and improve the way WD does its work. This progression suggests the EIF has effectively empowered staff to think about doing things differently, experimenting and taking intelligent risks that will benefit clients and WD’s workplace.
WD Employee Innovation Fund Round II Projects:
- i-PAT Online Project Assessment Tool: Online tool to enable visitors to WD’s website to determine their project’s fit to one of WD’s program offerings.
- Pitch Process Project: Inclusion of a ‘pitch your proposal’ video / audio option with proposal submissions, to provide an opportunity for applicants to further present their proposed idea using media such as video and audio.
- WD Wanderer: Create first person videos to promote WD’s work and share on external website and social media.
- Network Partners Link to WD Website: Include links of WD’s Network Partners’ success stories on WD’s Success in the West page.
- WD HERO – Payment Claim Computer Game: Develop a computer game to help clients understand WD’s financial policies and reduce commonly-made errors on payment claims.
- Increasing Cultural Awareness: Launch a number of events to promote cultural awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples.
- Regional ‘Intrapreneurship’ Program: Create a customized one-day course for staff to develop their entrepreneurial knowledge and skills to build an innovative culture and create “intrapreneurs”.
- RDA Experience: Establish an exchange program where WD staff can work with counterparts from other Regional Development Agencies (RDA) to share information and support the roll out of pan-RDA programs.
- Systems and Design Thinking: Workshop to learn how to apply systems and design thinking methods to challenges faced by WD.
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