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Knowledge Hacks are from an upcoming book. 
Moral and Reproduction Rights are Reserved to
Maya Tse-Cotton and
Ayden Corporate Development Group

Knowledge Hack #1 - Types of Research and Why You Need All Three for Good Policy-making

End-user Research (Customers, clients, consumers and constituents)
- Answers questions like: What are your needs, wants, fears? Opinions? Sometimes, ideas?

- This is Joe on the street

Industry and Systems Research (industries, governments, media, transportation, higher education systems etc.)

- Answers questions like: How do things work? Why do they work that way? How do you work within the system? How can you affect change?

- This tends to be experts in a field (domain)

Trends Research (This can be end-user or industry/systems trends and experts)

- Answers questions like: Given how things worked before, how are they changing? Why are they changing? How can you plan for or respond to that change? Can you direct that change?


So What? You need all three to do Strategic Planning and Policy Development. The North Saanich draft OCP, so far, IS LARGELY MISSING TWO ENTIRE TYPES. That's why there's a lot more diligent work to do. This is also why this draft is not fully actionable in its current state. Without industry and systems research, and trends research, you can not design, model and forecast the potential impact of your policies, nor can you plan how to implement them. This is a pretty big gap!

  • Most of the research that MODUS did is end-user opinion polling asking what you think? need? fear?  General residents can tell you what types of housing they want, but it's unlikely they can tell you HOW to make housing more affordable. For that, you need industry/systems research.

  • Example: Industry Research on Affordable Housing Asks these questions that are not fully answered yet:

    • What is affordable housing? a) Affordable rent? b) Affordable to buy? c) Affordable to build?

    • How did housing become unaffordable? a) Financialization as an investment asset b) People don't want to co-habitate any more so they buy their own places so very few people share c) Demographics - baby boomer bump

    • How can a municipality increase affordable housing? According to UCBM report, conclusion was that municipalities have few tools to affect affordability other than just permitting/zoning. The federal government can use monetary and fiscal policy, tax policy, transfer programs etc. etc. We need the skills to access sustainable housing development from all sources. This is hard work. We also need so consider socio-cultural shifts. The means that we have to change this within our communities is often overlooked. (see Innovative Policies Tab for quick analysis of affordable housing)

Knowledge Hack #2 -  Successful Collaboration in Modern Multi-stakeholder Environments

The following Knowledge Hack is probably one of the most important hacks in your arsenal because this is about transparency. This is the "Stakeholder Analysis Hack". This will help in a whole host of situations. The two most common are. 1) When starting a new collaboration. In these situations, a clear understanding IN ADVANCE of new partnerships formed raises the probability of success. 2) In political multi-stakeholder environments that already exist, this analysis will highlight where there is a lack of transparency and where the political landmines are. This hack is simple, yet so powerful. Go through and profile each stakeholder along these dimensions: "The Will, The Skill, The Means & The Methods". Note: This analysis applies to both organizations and individuals. Use with caution and political discretion. 

"The Will"

Without the will, almost nothing else matters. Everyone comes to the table for a reason, and there are many kinds of reasons. How strong is the motivation? What are pros and cons that make starting and sustaining a collaboration to completion, worth it...particularly when the going gets tough?

  • ​Examples of agenda: they want to learn more, they want to make some money, they want to help save the world

  • Examples of incentives: A lot of money, a great opportunity, a new product, a solution to a wicked problem. 

  • Examples of risks of attrition: Risk is more than the reward, the time is not worth the effort identifies level of commitment

"The Skill"

What personal and professional skills and perspectives does each stakeholder bring to the table? This is where "systems of how things work" and personal skills and beliefs come together through people; personal and collective perceptions meet real world problem solving.  How does each collaborator see the world? What skills and perspectives do they bring to the collaboration? Do they align? This impacts successful collaboration in a number of ways. 

  • Level setting - Being able to be on the same page, work at the same level and see the problem through a common lens (this is often more problematic than you think. This is where egos and misunderstandings often derail a collaboration. This is also where beliefs, norms and culture cause political polarization.)

  • Communications and handoffs - In collaborations where there is a process with complex elements. These need to be very clear in advance and during a process. This is also where solid leadership is required. We have always looked to leaders, full stop. They influence others to maintain coordinated effort toward a common mission or vision. What mission or vision that leadership takes us toward, determines the path.

  • Tasking - The actual task at hand. Each stakeholder must contribute. Where this gets tricky is where there is an imbalance, poor coordination, and specifically in situations where the context/environmental factors change. This is the difference between static policy and responsive strategic planning. 

"The Means"

  • This category includes resources that they bring to the table like money, labour, facilities, equipment etc. 

  • But it also includes what position stakeholder holds in power systems. This is essentially access to power. and the ability to make decisions, allocate resources etc. this can be formal or informal. For example, what personal networks a stakeholder has, what authority can they access.  

"The Methods"

  • These are the methods a stakeholder will use to advance their goals. This can be through many means that are strategic or tactical. These can be collaborative or competitive. When discourse and negotiation gets contentious, the methods and tactics become more extreme and sometimes, desperate. For instance, this is what often drives citizens to become radical. When they feel they have no means and access to power, they will resort to protest.


So What? If we are to become the next council for North Saanich 2022 to 2026, we will make the transition from citizen-on-the-sidelines to decision-maker on the council. This transition to, now, having some decision-making power ("the means") has been known to change a citizen from "justice warrior" to "bureaucrat who does not listen to the people". This is 100% a socio-cultural phenomenon. Now you are in a different in-group and in a different role. The the third leg of the stool, that of empowering the citizenry, needs to improve. We experienced, first-hand the several dozen barriers that exist to good representation at a municipal level. It is one thing to be allowed to make a comment, it is another to be counted, and another still to have deeper dialogue that is considered "admissible" on the official record. Our future research will examine best practices in other municipal systems in other communities and in other countries.

Knowledge Hack #4 -  The Path to Reparations - Understanding, then Love, then Peace

This slogan from the sixties seems trite, but reverse the words and we get to our next powerful Knowledge Hack that can start us along a path to reparations after relationships and dynamics have become strained. There are, of course, situations where interpersonal or inter-group dynamics erode to a point of no return. Here's why it often happens and if and how we can fix them. 

  • Understanding. Acknowledging the validity of all counterparty perspectives...and following through with open discussion and sincere intentions to make it work. Understanding here refers to acknowledging your counter-parties will and skill. Wisdom is about collective decision-making that accounts for multiple perspectives and how each player is situated in that context. When things go wrong, the starting point to reparations is always acknowledging your opponents' concerns. 

  • Love. Turning your opponents back into partners by reaffirming common interests. The next simple step is recognizing common interests and coming to a compromise.... or not. 

  • Peace. There will always be a power imbalance. How bad is it? Can we literally live with it? This is where there is true collaboration without conflict and we settle into stable systems. What sustains peace is when the power dynamic is balanced in a political system. This is not to say that power dynamics are equal. Power dynamics will always be unequal in any human context, that's just how our social systems work. It is when the power dynamic is highly imbalanced, when the "means" are abused and paired with more extreme "methods" an entity or person uses to impose their will on others, this is what causes systems to reach their breaking point. 

So What? This election cycle is our best chance to change the dynamics to a more constructive path. If not, we will have to wait another four years which is an age to wait given how fast our world is changing. This is not something that any individual can do alone. It is about repairing the all the dynamics and elements (relationships within council, relationship of council to staff, relationship of both staff and council to the needs of our citizens). In my view, this will be heavily influenced by which MAYOR we choose. This is a long-term project that will take time to reform and re-establish where all actors are acting on behalf of the whole community. 

Knowledge Hack #5 -  Benchmarking Everything - No Need to Reinvent the Wheel?

According to the World Population Clock, as of today, the global population is 7.98 Billion people. 99.99% of the time, the feelings you are feeling, the things you are doing and the ideas that you have, someone else has already felt, done and had the same problems and ideas at you. Today, it has never been easier to jump on the Internet and find out, just that; that the brilliant business idea that you have, someone has already done, that the problem you are trying to solve, someone has already solved. Benchmarking is another Knowledge Hacker's best tool. 

  • So What?

  • We have major gaps in capability and best practice at North Saanich. This is expected as, objectively speaking, our team is quite new and have had to focus on operating priorities with limited resources. However, we haven't had to look far to benchmark excellent practices as we see examples right next door to in Central Saanich and Sidney. (Watch for our benchmark analysis of OCP drafts, policies and strategic planning processes, coming soon). 

  • Benchmarking across to all 13 municipalities on the south island, we also see that the problems and conflicts that the OCP process has triggered have some systemic root causes. However, though macro-dynamics may be common, specific solutions must be localized. (Watch for our benchmark analysis of OCP drafts, policies and strategic planning processes, across all 13 municipalities, coming soon). 

Knowledge Hack #6 -  Innovation and Reinventing the Wheel? (coming soon)

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