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And we’re off!

We’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to get ready to get our first officially funded project off the ground and we wanted to adopt the practice of doing so openly and transparently. Inspired by the Working In The Open bi-weekly blogs of Code for Canada and the Weeknotes weekly blogs by Helsinki Design Labs, we are launching our #thisisimaginationatwork monthly blog series as a way to share what’s going on within the Department of Imaginary Affairs.

For the most part, I, Jenn, the Director of Programming will be the ones writing these blogs. I will be inviting others into the practice for a few reasons:

  1. I go on mat leave at the end of September; and
  2. Because we truly want our team to be transparent and reflective in our learning.

The goal of this series is to showcase the work we do, how we do it, and what we are learning along the way. It is not our goal to only celebrate our successes and make this look easy, it is also to be emotional, raw and even sometimes cynical of the process. We are designers after all. We are here to witness improvements in the way our projects effect the environment around us and that isn’t going to happen if we gloss over the nitty gritty, the failures, and challenges we face along the way. In this post I am sharing a bit of the history and background of how we got here, but will also focus on what is moving us forward.

Blair and Jenn celebrate receiving funding from the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

In May of this year we received confirmation that an application we had submitted for The Stories of Us (formerly The Story Stitching Project) was approved for 3 years of funding by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada through a new fund called Service Delivery Improvements! The fund is specifically designed for “service delivery improvements to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Settlement Program, informed by user-centred design principles and approaches”. This fund is an experiment of the federal government and we are so happy to be a part of the experiment. We are one of 99 projects that got funded across Canada. We also started this great tradition of celebrating funding approvals with ice cream!

Since receiving the news of our application approval we participated in a conference call along with the other recipients to learn more about the roll-out as well as a face-to-face meeting with our program officers. Not surprisingly there is a bit of red tape to get through to actually get the funds, so we are currently working through the negotiation process to have our budget and program outline approved – a process that is new to us (and brought us a tad bit of anxiety for newbies like us). However, our program officers are friendly, helpful and we can tell they want to help us succeed.

We welcome 4 Centennial grads into the DIA for the next 14 weeks.

As the summer moves along we are eager to get started. Though we hope to have the paperwork finalized soon, we have gone ahead and posted a job listing for a Program Manager who will take on the day-to-day responsibilities of running the project. We are excitedly waiting for some stellar applications to come our way so we can get them up and running by mid to late August.

In the mean time, last week we welcomed a team of 4 recent graduates from Centennial College to help us with everything from translation, event logistics, building a database of contacts, and review of our IP protocols and templates. They bring a level of excitement that is palpable and infectious. We are looking forward to the next 14 weeks with them!

Next steps for us:

  • Hire a Program Manager
  • Iron out the negotiation details
  • Share The Stories of Us with key partners and at events

Next steps for me:

  • Onboard the Centennial team
  • Plan for Mat Leave
  • Make sure the next instalment of #thisisimaginationatwork has more images

Till next time,

Jenn found herself in the nonprofit sector 15 years and has spent her professional and personal life since then guiding conversations through questions and yearning for imagination. Jenn identifies as second-generation Chinese-Canadian, a Mama to two kiddos, a passionately struggling idealist, a recovering perfectionist (aka Super Virgo) and navigating pandemic-induced anxiety. Jenn exists professionally as a designer, researcher and facilitator. In her (limited) spare time, she can be found crafting, eating junk food, cuddling with kiddos and floating in water.

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