Impact and Innovation Unit Blog

Before and Beyond Solutions: How Can Challenge Prizes Help Advance Broader Policy Objectives?

November 18, 2019 | Julie Greene, Lead, Capacity and Partnerships

In this guest blog for Nesta – a global innovation foundation, and a key partner for Impact Canada -  Partnership Lead Julie Greene reflects on how Challenge Prizes can help express and advance policy objectives, long before the Challenge Innovators actually start to generate solutions. 

Towards Impact: What’s Next for Outcomes-Based Approaches?

July 25, 2019 | Kristalyn Laryea, Senior Advisor, Partnerships and Programs and Sarah Vermaeten, Junior Analyst

On May 13th, 2019, the Privy Council Office’s Impact and Innovation Unit, in partnership with the Canada School of Public Service, organized a learning event which saw some of the members of the Impact Canada Advisory Committee speaking about the future of outcomes-based program approaches, innovating for public good, and how government can open the problem-solving process to non-traditional stakeholders and innovators, particularly where solutions to complex challenges have been difficult to find.

Introduction to the 2018-2019 IIU Annual Report

June 26, 2019 | Rodney Ghali, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Impact and Innovation Unit, Privy Council Office

Drawing of two people holding up a maple leaf with a construction crane and helicopter behind on a dark blue background.

In this blog, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Rodney Ghali introduces the 2018-2019 Impact and Innovation Unit Annual Report, highlighting achievements we have made with our federal and external partners to build the evidence-base around effective and efficient implementation of innovation methods that focus on achieving outcomes for Canadians.

Measuring impact by design: A guide to methods for impact measurement

April 24, 2019 | Craig Joyce, Senior Advisor, Methods

What does it take to measure our impact? As a concept, Impact Measurement is gaining traction, but not everyone understands exactly what it means. This blog (and accompanying guide) should help to demystify the process for all of our partners.

Behind the Brand: Impact Canada

February 05, 2019 | Chris Soueidan, Visual Designer

Impact Canada visual identifier centered in the foreground married to a repeating pattern of the word Impact on a navy blue background

In this blog post, IIU designer Chris Soueidan walks us through the design process of the new Impact Canada brand.

Video Blog: The Evolution of a Challenge

January 29, 2019 | Julie Greene, Lead, Capacity and Partnerships

Purple-red image of drug samples being analysed

How do we get from an idea to launching an Impact Canada challenge? This short video tells the story of one Challenge - the Drug Checking Technology Challenge - and how it evolved from a conversation into an idea into a $1.75M Challenge Prize, designed to help stop death by opioid overdose.

DM Taskforce on Public Sector Innovation: Taking Stock One Year into the Renewed Mandate

December 20, 2018 | Graham Flack, Deputy Minister, Employment and Social Development and Matthew Mendelsohn, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Results and Delivery

bonded hands

Graham Flack and Matthew Mendelsohn, co-chairs of the Deputy Ministers Task Force on Public Sector Innovation, take stock of the first year of the Task Force’s work and set the stage for efforts to mainstream innovation in our programs, policies and operations.

Impact Canada: one year in

December 13, 2018 | Rodney Ghali, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet of the Impact and Innovation Unit

Impact Canada launched a year ago. Rodney Ghali, Assistant Secretary to Cabinet, reflects on the achievements of the past year, and the ways in which we continue to transform government to help solve some of Canada’s biggest challenges. 

What Symphony Orchestra Auditions Tell Us About Designing People-Centred Policies

November 14, 2018 | Meera Paleja, Behavioural Insights Fellow

Behavioural science is a powerful approach to tackle complex policy problems. Learn about how we can make positive change by integrating evidence-based solutions to further efforts towards diversity and inclusion.

Understanding and Demonstrating Impact: An IIU Perspective

November 2, 2018 | Victoria Carlan, Lead, Impact Measurement

Making a lasting and positive impact in the lives of Canadians is the key aim of government. However, across government organizations and even other levels of governments, there is not yet an agreed upon definition of what we mean by impact and how best to measure it.  In this blog, we provide some clarity on what the IIU means by impact and its value to the federal government and our partners in measuring it.  

Health Canada’s Drug Checking Technology Challenge

October 24, 2018 | Julie Greene, Lead, Capacity and Partnerships

The Innovation@ECCC Team, August 2018 Team Retreat

Over the last year, a small group of public servants has been working to scope, define and launch the Drug Checking Technology Challenge. Dr. Michael Haber, a Health Canada scientist and Government of Canada Entrepreneur, is one of the key Challenge team members. Through his blog on Medium, Mike has very thoughtfully reflected on the how and why of planning and launching this Challenge.


Working in Two [Connected] Worlds: A BI Fellow at Environment and Climate Change Canada

October 3, 2018 | Maria Giammarco, Behavioural Insights Fellow

The Innovation@ECCC Team, August 2018 Team Retreat
As BI fellows, we are hired in to the IIU and assigned to a federal department or agency for 12 months to deliver on project outcomes by applying BI methods.

The Next Generation of Nudge: Lessons from Behavioural Exchange 2018

July 26, 2018 | Haris Khan, Advisor, Behavioural Insights

Elizabeth Hardy presenting at BX 2018

With the ten-year anniversary of the best-selling ‘Nudge’ by Cass Sunstein and newly minted Nobel laureate Richard Thaler and the proliferation of Behavioural Insights (BI) units across the world, these certainly are exciting times for the application of behavioural science to public policy. 

Impact Canada Initiative: Answering Your Questions About Challenges

July 5, 2018 | Kristalyn Laryea, Senior Advisor, Partnerships and Programs

Challenges can help federal departments in many ways

Challenges can help federal departments to build partnerships, attract new problem solvers, identify great ideas, amplify an issue, and pay for outcomes. 

Video Blog: Policy Specialists Versus Policy Generalists

June 20, 2018 | Neil Bouwer, Assistant Secretary for the Horizontal Innovation and Clean Technology Review, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Assistant Secretary Neil Bouwer sitting at a table

Assistant Secretary Neil Bouwer from the Horizontal Innovation and Clean Technology Review presents at the IIU.  

A Strong Challenge Statement Brings Innovators to Your Prize/Challenge

June 14, 2018 | Kristalyn Laryea, Senior Advisor, Partnerships and Programs & Alana Couvrette, Policy Advisor

Person holding pen and writing checklist

In less than two sentences, a challenge statement has the potential to make - or break - a prize/challenge. Read on to learn more about these small, but mighty, elements of prize/challenge design.

Reimagining the Government’s Role as a Partner: Improving the Practice of Co-Creation

May 29, 2018 | Julie Greene, Lead, Capacity and Partnerships

Julie sitting beside window

Hello! My name is Julie Greene and I have the great pleasure of leading our partnership work in the Impact and Innovation Unit, at the Privy Council Office.

In my last position at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), I had the chance to be part of a team that imagined and executed a new approach to multi-sectoral partnerships chronic disease prevention, centred around the tenets of shared value… 

Start Your Prize/Challenge Design by Defining the Problem

May 15, 2018 | Kristalyn Laryea, Senior Advisor, Partnerships and Programs and Alana Couvrette, Policy Advisor

Man standing beside question mark

Albert Einstein once said that if given one hour to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes defining it. Whether it takes more than an hour or less, when designing an outcomes-based prize/challenge, follow Einstein’s example and prioritize problem definition - It’s a lot harder than it sounds! This blog looks at why it is important and provides some points to consider if you are on the fence about doing it…

Video Blog: Innovation and Experimentation in Government

May 9, 2018 | Matthew Mendelsohn, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Results and Delivery 

Audience looking at presenter

Deputy Secretary Matthew Mendelsohn presenting at the BI in Canada Conference 2018.

Introducing the IIU’s Theory of Change

May 3, 2018 | Victoria Carlan, Lead, Impact Measurement

Puzzle pieces coming together

My name is Victoria Carlan and I lead the Impact and Innovation Unit (IIU)’s Impact Measurement group. Our group helps ensure that Impact Canada Initiative projects have a rigorous measurement framework in place to evaluate the impact of the new approaches we are testing.

One of the first tasks I led upon joining the IIU was to develop our Theory of Change. Together, staff and management...

Disrupting Government from Within: The Canadian Chapter of States of Change

April 24, 2018 | Jesper Christiansen, Head of Strategy and Development, Nesta 

Jesper looking at camera

Late last year, alongside a global community of innovation experts and practitioners, Nesta launched States of Change - a new global collective set up to develop and support innovation learning for creating public impact. Central to the mission is helping governments to build their capability and culture to practically deal with the complex problems they face...

Working with the Canadian Government on Challenge Prizes

March 19, 2018 | Tris Dyson, Executive Director, Centre for Challenge Prizes, Nesta

Tris looking at camera

Finding innovative solutions to today's complex environmental and social challenges requires diverse skills and creative thinking. Gone are the days of the lone inventor hitting on a solution – today’s challenges require collaboration, bringing together people with different skills to try and solve problems in different ways. And often, the usual suspects aren’t the only ones with good ideas...

Dave speaking at the OECD

I was fortunate to participate in a recent conference put on by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (better known as the OECD) on innovation in government. The theme of the conference was innovation as being the “new normal” within the public sector – moving towards the idea of mainstreaming and away from the idea of public sector innovation as “niche” or “boutique”...

Innovative Staffing Approaches: Getting to the “Right” Trifecta - People, Place and Time

January 17, 2018 | Julie Greene, Lead, Capacity and Partnerships and Rodney Ghali, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet

People, place, time

Here in the Impact and Innovation Unit at PCO, our mission is to drive a shift in the way the Government uses new tools to help address complex public policy challenges – and our focus is on the “how”. But as the new Centre of Expertise that supports the Impact Canada Initiative – a whole-of-government effort to help departments accelerate the adoption of outcomes-based funding approaches – we know that the “who” matters just as much. Our team has…

We Need to Care About the “How” of Government

December 19, 2017 | Rodney Ghali, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet

People are thinking

As a public service we are very good at developing policy options. Rightly so, policy-makers are held in high regard for the artful way competing ideas and interests are balanced. However, as policy is being developed, are we paying enough attention to how we need to implement it? Are we ensuring that policy makers and policy implementers are talking to each other so that on the ground success factors are being considered? 

Announcing the Impact and Innovation Unit and the Launch of the Impact Canada Initiative

November 24, 2017 | Matthew Mendelsohn, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Results and Delivery

Canadian flag in the wind

Today I announced the renaming of the Innovation Hub at the Privy Council Office to the Impact and Innovation Unit (IIU). The name change reflects the unit’s evolving mandate as part of the upcoming launch of the Impact Canada Initiative, first announced in Budget 2017 and now housed in the IIU. The IIU will act as a Centre of Expertise to support departments’ use of outcomes-based funding mechanisms like challenges, new partnership models… 

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