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The Invitation

Let’s gather as international public sector innovation (PSI) practitioners in a community of practice (CoP) where we will explore the transformative boundaries and edges of practice together. The public sector is being called to work more ambitiously, systemically, and respectfully on the most urgent and complex social and ecological challenges of our time. So what might public sector innovators need to cultivate within ourselves, and what might we need to nurture amongst us, to become better catalysts, enablers, and advocates of this transformation? 


Maybe you work in an innovation unit or lab, are on an in-house design team, or are an intrapreneur nested in a team that is innovating in some way. Wherever you sit, we are seeking PSI practitioners who are holding big questions about why it is time to be more ambitious in the transformational intent of your work, how you are doing that, and what this all might mean for the larger movement of public sector innovation at this moment.


This CoP looks like:

  • Virtual sessions each month(ish) from October 2023 - November 2024. Optional invitations to experiment and practice in between. You can join all of the sessions or drop in when you are able to, the design will be flexible.

  • Dialogue amongst international PSI practitioners - meaning you are currently working within or directly alongside a public sector organization in an innovation capacity - coming together to share and learn with one another.

  • Offered at no cost to participants, with thanks to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada New Frontiers in Research Fund.

  • An action- and applied research project co-hosted by the University of British Columbia, States of Change, Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation, La 27e Region, The Lab in Auckland, and the City of Vancouver Solutions Lab.


If you already know you are interested in joining, please register your interest here.


If you have more questions, please keep reading, and/or please be in touch.

Call to Action + Accountability

Public sector organizations are facing increasing pressures to address complex challenges like climate change, growing inequities, reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, and many others at the scale and rate that these challenges demand. Innovation in the public sector is quite urgently needed, and public institutions must begin to adapt the paradigms, processes, systems, structures, and tools of our trade. In order to transform the root causes of these kinds of complex challenges, we must look beyond the dominant paradigms, systems, and structures that created them (e.g. New Public Management, colonialism, capitalism). Many so-called ‘innovations’ may be inadvertently working to uphold these problematic systems and structures of the dominant system and distract from, or even prevent, more radical transformation from occurring. 


Some questions that we are holding as we begin:

  • What does it mean to push the boundaries of public sector innovation at this time?

  • How might we (re)imagine and strengthen the theories of transformation we are using to support higher impact, ecologically responsible, and socially just public sector innovation work?

  • How are personal/inner and systems/outer work shaping the ways that we think about and practice transformative public sector innovation, and how can we clarify and deepen these entanglements?

Pushing the Boundaries PSI Community of Practice Overview

Communities of practice (CoP) are groups of people who share a concern or passion for something, and learn how to do it better by interacting and supporting each other. As a result of working together in this way, members of CoPs tend to learn more quickly than if they were working on their own. As a group, CoPs tend to generate insights that are useful in different contexts, apply them in practice, share them with the broader field, and mobilize and inspire impact.


The Pushing the Boundaries of PSI CoP will begin by setting some shared foundations for our work together through two live dialogues and blog posts by different authors. We will then have three focused cycles of inquiry: (1) What are helpful and strong theories of change for transformation? (2) How might we connect the inner- and outer work of transformation? And (3) TBC based on what emerges from the CoP. Each of these three cycles will have two ways to be involved - as a more involved Core member, or a more observational Constellation member (more on this distinction in the FAQ section). We will close the experience with a learning festival of some kind (tbc) that will invite other PSI practitioners in to learn and be inspired by the work of our CoP, and to see what might come next in this field of theory, strategy, and practice.




Lindsay Cole

Ph.D. - University of British Columbia + Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Project Lead

Lindsay is a public sector innovation practitioner, an applied and action researcher, and an educator currently working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with both the University of British Columbia, and with Emily Carr University of Art + Design. She's working on two projects - one is focused on international public sector innovation labs and units working on transformative innovation toward social and ecological justice and wellbeing. The other is with the Zero Emissions Innovation Centre of Metro Vancouver, and bringing practices of social innovation, systemic design, and equity-centered practices in service of their climate action goals.


Prior to this, Lindsay founded and led the Solutions Lab at the City of Vancouver – a place where breakthrough, transformative solutions to some of the city’s most complex social and ecological challenges are being sought. She worked on a variety of exciting projects with the city over her 13 year tenure, including leading the planning and public engagement process for the award-winning Greenest City Action Plan. Lindsay holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in public policy, planning, transformative learning, and design, and is grateful to live on the unceded, traditional, ancestral, and gorgeous territories of the shishalh peoples, also known as the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia.

Penny Hagen

Ph.D. - The Lab, Auckland
Connecting Inner- and Outer Transformation Cycle Co-Lead

Penny assists public sector teams and communities to take a participatory and systems-orientated approach to equity and wellbeing. Penny has supported cross sector teams and communities across Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia to respond to complex social issues by connecting policy and evidence to the lived realities and aspirations of communities. Penny's practice integrates approaches from wellbeing, health, design, youth development, systems and evaluation disciplines. Penny is currently the Director Tangata Tiriti of The Auckland Co-design Lab, co-leading the Labs work on design for equity and intergenerational wellbeing. She sits on the MSD Ethics Committee, on the Independent Panel for the Understanding Police Delivery Programme and is Ngā Aho Kaupapa Whānau.


Penny has a PhD in participatory design and is a presenter and reviewer in academic and public sector forums, writing and speaking about systems approaches to wellbeing, systems learning, ethics and evaluative practices for systems and social innovation. She is a keen advocate for growing participatory and social design practices that are of Aotearoa, co-leading events and forums to develop and strengthen local practice and networks.

Francisca Rojas

Ph.D. - Cycle Co-Lead, topic TBC

Francisca is the Academic Director for the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation at Johns Hopkins where she leverages nearly 20 years of experience to connect cutting edge research with city hall practice and help leaders create better results for communities. Previously the Lead Housing and Urban Development Specialist in Colombia and Argentina for the Inter-American Development Bank, Francisca’s career in urban planning, finance, and analytics have supported work impacting quality of life for residents in over 100 cities in Latin America. Prior to her role at IDB, Francisca served as research director for the Harvard University Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s Transparency Policy Project and a program manager for the American Institute of Architects. As a project planner for the District of Columbia Office of Planning, she collaborated on award-winning redevelopment plans for the Anacostia River Waterfront, which have generated over US$3 billion of public and private investment.


Francisca is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she received her Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning and Master of City Planning, and the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Science. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Stéphane Vincent

La 27e Région

Theories of Change for Transformative PSI Cycle Lead

Je suis le cofondateur de la 27e Région, un "action-tank" dont l'objectif est de transformer la culture de gestion en vigueur dans les collectivités locales. Nous prônons une nouvelle culture davantage inspirée par la conception créative, le design, l'ethnographie, la théorie de l’enquête du philosophe John Dewey ou encore les cultures "makers". Nous conduisons des programmes de recherche-action en partenariat avec des collectivités locales et des administrations. Nous jouons également un rôle de centre-ressource et nous faisons partie des principaux initiateurs des Halles Civiques, deux tiers-lieux exclusivement consacrés à la transformation publique et démocratique, l’un situé dans le 11e arrondissement de Paris et qui a inspiré en 2016 la Ville de San Francisco, et l’autre dans le 20e arrondissement de Paris. Je participe également à plusieurs réseaux d'échanges internationaux dans ce domaine, tel que States of Change. Je suis l'auteur ou le co-auteur de nombreux ouvrages, et je participe régulièrement à des événements, publications et rapports dans ce domaine. Je suis membre du comité d’orientation de la revue Horizons Publics.


I have launched "la 27e Région", a laboratory whose goal is to "change the change" in the 26 french regional governments and in the public sector. We help ministries, governmental organisations, and regional/local authorities to develop social innovation in their policies, to promote service design and user-driven approach, to use the internet and new media as a means to improve their efficiency, in the benefit of citizens. We help them to develop and design innovative services. I am a former manager at “Internet Next Generation Foundation”. I often collaborate on white papers, books and national reports. 


Lily Raphael

City of Vancouver Solutions Lab

Connecting Inner- and Outer Transformation Cycle Co-Lead

Lily is the Solutions Lab Manager with the City of Vancouver, where she is currently focused on projects related to the implementation of the Climate Justice Charter for Vancouver. Lily is guided by the question, who + what do we as individuals, relationships, communities, organizations and systems need to become in order to cultivate well-being, joy and liberation for current and future generations of all beings? Drawing on her personal creative practices and her background in action research, design, transformative innovation and community development in the public/non-profit/academic sectors, her work focuses on designing spaces of dialogue, learning, and co-creation to navigate our communities' pressing complex challenges and imagine possible futures beyond them. She was most recently the design + innovation lead for the Circular Food Innovation Lab, and co-authored Step into the River: a Framework for Economic Reconciliation with her dear friend and colleague Sxwpilemaát Siyám, also known as Chief Leanne Joe, of Squamish Nation.

James Oriel

States of Change

Community Curation and Storytelling

James is currently the Content Lead with States of Change. James shares what we learn so others can learn too. He researches complex topics and cares about making them accessible in creative ways to others. He's driven by a fierce curiosity to understand how things work and why people behave the way they do. Before States of Change, James made documentaries that took him across the globe for the BBC and Channel 4 and has an MA in Cities and Society from Goldsmiths University, London.


Maggie Low

Ph.D. - University of British Columbia

Action Research Lead

Maggie is the Chair of the Indigenous Community Planning (ICP) concentration at the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) at the University of British Columbia. Maggie is a community engaged scholar who seeks to advance the “work” of Indigenous sovereignty at the Nation and community level, and specifically through planning and negotiated agreements.  Her current research and teaching focus on Indigenous planning, Indigenous-state relations and decolonization and reconciliation efforts in Canadian cities. Maggie was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario and is of mixed ancestry including Italian, French, German, and she is a status member of Wikwemikoong Unceded Territory.

Peyvand Forouzandeh

Ph.D. (cand.) - University of British Columbia

Action Research Assistant

Action Research

This project is funded by the New Frontiers Research Fund, a program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. It is an action research project, meaning that the work we do together is meant to generate insights and resources that are useful for practice. We expect to generate and share resources in the following ways: recordings of the CoP sessions; writing blog posts; generating practitioner-oriented publications, tools, and presentations; and writing academic publications. When you sign up to join the CoP you will be asked to provide your consent to participate in this action research. You will have control over the level of anonymity of your participation when you are initially asked to provide your consent, as well as throughout the CoP. 


The research is guided by rigorous ethics approvals from the University of British Columbia Behavioural Ethics Review Board. The collective learning and experiences from Pushing the Boundaries of PSI will be shared so that other public sector innovators and researchers can benefit from our learning. So - you’ll need to be okay with this arrangement! If you have any questions or concerns about the research consent process, you can be directly in touch with

Frequently Asked Questions, and Answers

Q: Can you tell me more about the difference between joining as a Core or a Constellation member?


A: This idea is still taking some shape, and here is what we are currently thinking is the difference between the two. Please note that this distinction only matters for the three focused cycles; the foundation setting at the beginning and the learning festival at the end won’t have this distinction. 


Core members: currently working in or directly alongside the public sector, in a role that allows you to practice innovation in some way. Perhaps it’s a bit subversive, or perhaps your job title doesn’t include the word ‘innovation’, but you identify and describe yourself in this way. Core members will be able to attend all of the sessions of at least one of the cycles, and will actively engage in dialogue during the live discussions, as well as stay entangled with questions and experiments in your practice while the cycle is underway. Hopefully you might also be interested in engaging in the written blog space, or in some other sharing work during or after the CoP (this isn’t necessary though). 


Constellation members: maybe you are in an innovation role, but can’t/won’t commit to a full cycle so it will be better for you to drop in to discussions when you are able to. Maybe you are newer to the questions that we are exploring in this CoP and would rather have a more observational role in the process. Maybe you are not in an innovation role inside the public sector or maybe you don’t currently have an affiliation with a public sector organization but are interested in listening in on what is being discussed. 


Q: I’m not currently working in or directly alongside a public sector organization, can I still join?


A: In order to create a strong and focused (enough) container for this work, the public sector orientation needs to hold us together in our shared practice space and experience. That said, if you are not currently in this type of role but have been/may be in the future and are interested in joining us, please do! Joining as a Constellation member will be the best fit.


Q: I work in the public sector, but I’m not in an innovation role - can I still join?


A: Yes, please do, you are most warmly welcomed! The Constellation option may be better for you if you are not currently entangled with the questions that we are exploring.


Q: How long are each of the sessions?


A: We don’t know quite yet, and they might vary a little bit, but we are planning for them to be in between 1.5 - 2.5 hours each.


Q: What about time zones?


A: Isn’t doing international work delightful!? Here is our current plan, which may shift as we try things out. The first two “setting foundations” discussions will be held in two different times that will (hopefully) work reasonably well for everyone to join at least one of them. These two sessions have the same objective - to set the foundations and boundaries around how our co-hosts (and likely a few special guests) are currently thinking about what it means to push boundaries of public sector innovation right now. We’ll record these and plan to accompany the live sessions with some written blog posts as well, so that everyone can follow along and join in to setting the table for our shared work.


Each of the three focused cycles will be anchored in one time zone range, and here is what we are currently thinking based on the locations of the co-hosts. The first cycle, focused on theories of change, will be oriented to work for folks in the Central Europe (early evening) to Western Canada (early morning) range. The second cycle, focused on the inner and outer work of transformation, will be oriented to work for folks in New Zealand (mid-day) and Western Canada (early evening) range. We know that this will leave big parts of the world out of the live discussions - however, we will share the recordings, and write in the blog space as we go. The learning festival is still a loose idea at this point, inspired by previous States of Change events, and is envisioned as a multi-day, multi-time zone, and hopefully multilingual event.


Q: What about languages?


A: We will be using English as the main language for the sessions, and for other communications that come from the hosting team. We are excited to welcome writers into the shared project blog space who wish to write in the language of their choice. And if you have ideas, and also capacity, to support multilingual work in other creative ways we are very excited to hear from you.

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