Government Service Design: Building Empathy for the User

People rely on digital services like online banking, healthcare information, and government programs on a daily basis. The internet creates opportunities for people to engage in online economies and communities, but those opportunities may be systematically skewed towards the already advantaged. A more holistic conception of communities, and the long list of use cases that are found in Canada’s diverse society, may shine light on how upper-middle-class- and Western-centric the existing slate of digital services may be.

This session examines how organizations gather both the hard data and the soft understanding of how their work impacts people and how people interact with them: touchpoints, relationship and community management, and user-facing services. How do organizations become ‘empathetic’ to the people who rely on them?

Lead Discussants:

  • Meghan Hellstern, Education and Community Program Manager at Code for Canada
  • Matthew Gray, Policy Adviser, Ontario Digital Service
  • Canadian Digital Service

Moderator: Kent Aitken, Prime Minister’s Fellow, Public Policy Forum


For the first half hour, 2-3 experts and session leads will outline key issues and knowledge gaps and identify a number of key issues to be discussed. Afterwards, the room will break into smaller groups for facilitated discussions about the various key issues before re-convening as a whole to exchange ideas.

Government Service Design

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This Canada 150: Conneted Canada conference was supported by a Canada 150 Connection Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada


Office of the Vice-President, Research
Centre for Law, Technology and Society
Faculty of Arts
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