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Conversations with Changemakers

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Our Digby Youth Intern, Graham, reflects on some of people he has connected with and some of what he’s learned

by Graham Cromwell, Youth Intern, Turning the Tide

Recently I’ve been having some conversations with some awesome system changers. The first conversation I had was with Keita Demming. He was talking with me about how changing systems takes a lot of patience and it also takes making the right connections. He then proceeded to connect me with some people who could help with my understanding of systems change

I spoke with Amanda Hachey from Noulab [if you check out their team, you’ll recognize several WeavEast’rs-Ed.] in New Brunswick. She and I had a conversation about systems change work in general and how we can’t really make a change quickly. This type of work seems really ‘sexy’ but once you get into it there are a lot of barriers to making real change so it takes stamina and patience.

This type of work seems really ‘sexy’ but once you get into it there are a lot of barriers to making real change so it takes stamina and patience.

A couple of weeks later I had the opportunity to speak with Nick Scott, who is currently the Director of Innovation Services in the Digital Academy at the Canada School of Public Service. He had previously been working in New Brunswick as the Executive Director of Open Government and Innovation. 

Nick was awesome to talk to as he had the perspective of working with the government from the non-profit sector. The idea of open data was really coming from his time working in a non-profit where they had to report a lot of data back to the government but when they needed data from the government they couldn’t get it. This is something that has gotten a bit better thanks to people who have been working in open government initiatives, but is still not where it needs to be. 

Nick and I also talked about how there are no silver bullets in systems change work. There is no single answer that will fix the system; it takes a lot of small changes that are non-obvious. Unfortunately for some of us, that means we can’t really be in this work for the glory. There won’t be an obvious tie back to what you did when the system is fixed but at least you will know you did the right thing.

Amanda works on systems change by collaborating with government and other stakeholders. Nick, by actually being in government and changing the systems they have in place. Keita, by consulting for companies and people in various industries. 

What system are you changing, at what level and how? I think if we can answer these questions for ourselves it can become our North Star, something to look at when it seems like we don’t know what’s going on. As long as we know we are headed in the right direction then we are all good.

Links to Keita’s podcast episodes with both Nick and Amanda:

Learn more about Graham

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