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Becoming a Smart Community: How the City of Fort St. John is unlocking innovation through structural and cultural change

May 10, 2021

Becoming a Smart Community: How the City of Fort St. John is unlocking innovation through structural and cultural change

Synopsis
4 Minute Read

A series of changes enabled Fort St. John to create a path to new, innovative solutions.

Provincial Leader (BC) – Public Sector

Innovation is a key attribute that local governments are looking to integrate into their organization. But it’s easier said than done. To be truly innovative requires a long-term commitment across all facets of the organization – a tall order for local governments given such a wide range of responsibilities.

When Milo MacDonald started his position at the City of Fort St. John as Chief Administration Officer in August 2020, fostering an innovative culture and building a smart community was top of mind.

“My council was looking for solutions to address high turnover in management, poor outcomes on safety, and issues relating to organizational culture.  They wanted to start my tenure by supporting the creation of a modern organizational structure to address these concerns,” MacDonald explains.

Local governments can often see silos develop, where departments function independent of one another when, in practice, they have considerable interdependencies that require constant collaboration and communication.  

The City made changes to take down the barriers between departments. For example, information technology and information management are handled now through a cross city committee, and this allows for greater knowledge sharing.  In fact, most areas where there is overlap in responsibility or service delivery have collaborative meetings.

MacDonald also wanted to push the culture forward. The goal is to encourage staff to feel comfortable bringing new ideas forward and see themselves as people who can help create positive benefits for the entire city.

“We created a Chief Human Resources Officer position to ensure that human values such as learning and development, labor relations, and safety took equal priority and had C-level influence in corporate decision making,” MacDonald said.

These initiatives align well with MNP’s whitepaper, “Becoming a Smart Community Through Innovation”. The whitepaper was created by MNP’s Public Sector team and features an innovation maturity model and a four-step roadmap to becoming a smart community.

From looking at the whitepaper, MacDonald learned the city was further along in than their journey than anticipated and gained insight on where to focus future efforts.

“My predecessor had prepared the organization well for the future by fostering a climate of innovation and leaving the organization in a financial position to take advantage of technological opportunities for innovation,” MacDonald explains.

The organization continues to make progress, but they have larger goals ahead too. MacDonald highlights how these aims center on enhancing the quality of life for citizens, and to be successful there is a need is for regional relationships to increase the efficiency and reach of services.  Added to this is a focus on building, fostering, and maintaining relationships with nearby communities including local First Nations.

Becoming a smart community is a long process. To understand how your organization can evolve, you need to understand where you currently stand.

To learn more about becoming a smart community and how MNP’s Public Sector team can support your efforts, visit MNP.ca/en/public-sector/smart-communities

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