The highlights have been framed around six of the key challenges and imperatives the CSP was designed to respond to and continue to exist.
City Council identified a number of significant trends, challenges and opportunities that were supported by evidence provided in workshops. Topics included pressures from growth, environmental changes, the speed and influence of technology, changing demographics, greater public expectations of their government, and global economic unrest.
These issues impact on the policies, public services, operations and programs offered directly by the City of Guelph but are not fully within City Council’s control. Council called for a series of strategically focused actions to be taken that would adapt how “City Hall” worked internally to meet key external challenges while continuing to steadily deliver on its mission of providing ‘outstanding service and value’.
Shifting demographics and diversity
Guelph’s population continues to grow and change. This continuous shift presents both opportunities and challenges that our city and organization must adapt to. The benefits of adapting to our changing demographics are far reaching in terms of current and future economic growth and increased quality of life. The City has been working in collaboration with its partners and citizens to make progress on several foundational areas including:
- The Official Plan Update was adopted by Council in 2012. This plan frames the future of our city, stating community goals and objectives for quality of life and brings forward a strong basis for zoning bylaws and land use control.
- Building an age-friendly community with social and physical environments that enable older people to live active, safe and meaningful lives while contributing to the broader Guelph community. The City has successfully developed an Older Adult Strategy. Implementation is underway and successes have already been achieved in this multi-year initiative.
- Continuing to collaborate with partners and the community to continue the critical work of the Local Immigration Partnership. The current focus of this work is attracting, welcoming and settling immigrants and newcomers through service system integration, increasing economic opportunities and social participation.
- Supporting youth to participate socially, keep healthy and active, have a voice in local decision making and receive employment support that enables them to succeed in their career development. The City has developed a Youth Strategy through extensive engagement with young people that is currently being implemented.
Transparency, accountability and engagement
Guelph, along with other communities around the world, has experienced diminishing levels of trust in government accountability. Over the past three years, the City has focused on actions to tackle this trend and has increased accountability mechanisms to make local democracy and the work of the City more open, transparent, easier to understand and collaborative. These efforts ensure that the City can better serve the community and that stakeholders can participate actively in decision making, service design and delivery to add value and ensure effectiveness. They include:
- The City’s Community Engagement Framework has been adopted and the roll out of the framework has resulted in the improvement of quality and focus of our engagement activity. These standards support meaningful and genuine opportunities for citizens, businesses and partners to get involved in decisions that impact their city and the services they receive. Engaging stakeholders helps the City harness valuable skills, diverse perspectives to make decisions in a transparent, accountable and sustainable way. The City’s work in this field is trail blazing. The City’s expertise is regularly sought through municipal networks, has been cited in professional facilitation guide, and our employees support the learning of both graduate and undergraduate University of Guelph
- Canada’s first User Guide to Local Government was launched. It provides online reference material for citizens, employees and councillors to better understand the complex nature and workings of municipal government.
- The City has created and is implementing its Open Government Action Plan that sets out an ambitious service modernization agenda. As part of this, the City has launched its Open Data Catalogue. Open data is about proactively releasing City data that community and stakeholders want and can use in ways that enhance their lives. The data released has also been utilized by entrepreneurs to create apps that make data more relevant and accessible to local residents.
Strategic partnerships, alliances and networks
The complexity of current local and global challenges means that the City’s role has to be agile and alternate between direct service provider, advocate, partner and enabler. The Corporation must build new and leverage existing partnerships, alliances and networks to be successful. System-wide thinking is necessary to pinpoint root causes and identify opportunities for improvements that benefit our community and the services it needs. Key areas of focus have been intergovernmental relations, local system-wide agency partnerships, business community networks, the local community benefit sector and educational institutions. Highlights include:
- The City has made significant progress in developing Intergovernmental Relations through its Intergovernmental Strategy. This has improved working relationships with municipal, county, provincial and federal levels of government. It has also strengthened relationships with partner organizations and stakeholders through work with the Association of Municipalities Ontario, Rural Ontario Ministries Association and others. This has resulted in significant progress against a number of important local agendas such as Two Way Go, Blue Dot and the Guelph Innovation District.
- Council approved the new Community Investment Strategy and the development of new investment mechanisms including the Wellbeing Grant program, community benefit agreements and the innovation fund which is currently administered through The Elevator Project, an initiative co-founded by the City, Innovation Guelph, 10 Carden and the Guelph Community Health Centre. The strategy improved the way the City partners with local organizations, making the approach more responsive and supportive of local needs, in a manner that is consistent and clear. This strategy also supports thousands of citizens each year to access an array of health, social, economic, learning and arts and cultural programs/services that all support Guelph in improving the quadruple bottom line.
- The City has worked in partnership with others to deliver a number of important local economic and urban design summits. These significantly informed the urban design work program and enable the City to adjust and build upon its economic development strategies and action. Other important collaborations have included the Community Energy Initiative and ongoing work with partners to improve local social and health planning and service integration through examples such as Toward Common Ground, Healthy Kids Challenge, Growing Great Generations and the Guelph Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, to name a few.
Affordability and improvement
Municipalities are experiencing increasing responsibilities alongside increasing citizen and stakeholder expectations; however, resources remain fairly static. The City must respond to compounding persistent local challenges such as aging infrastructure, affordable housing shortages and stressed local social service systems. In response to this, the City has identified and acted upon the need for new funding sources, leveraging assets and partnership models.
- Guelph Municipal Holding Inc. was established to manage city owned assets more strategically, to maximize the value of those assets and to achieve greater alignment with the city’s priorities across a ‘family of companies’. The City of Guelph is GMHI’s sole shareholder. Incorporated in 2011, the Board of GMHI began developing its governance of GMHI in 2012. This continued up to Q3-2014 when it amalgamated with the independent Board of Guelph Hydro Inc. Up until Q3 -2014, Guelph Hydro Inc. oversaw its subsidiaries, namely the regulated utility Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. (GHESI), and the unregulated company Envita Community Energy Inc. who had their own boards. The amalgamation of GMHI-GHI was approved by the Shareholder to gain greater alignment and agility by having its Boards, staffing and operations streamlined and flatter. Also in 2014, it acquired a new real estate based development corporation (DevCo) to manage select city assets and operations such as downtown land parcels and parking. In 2015, City Council shifted its control over Guelph Junction Railway (GJR). GMHI planned to acquire GJR and potentially establish a Thermal Utility in future years. In 2016, Council has shifted GMHI’s governance structure for more direct oversight and control during a transitional period of further development.
- Innovation Pilot Project Teams are working on a range of innovation-focused improvements such as Innovation Fund, Business Process Improvement, and solution-based Round Tables to create efficiencies, improve business processes and deliver services better.
- Made progress unlocking and leveraging the value of our assets and development of brownfield lands and downtown. The City has undertaken a Downtown Strategic Assessment to create a framework to evaluate the best use of Baker Street (2013/14).
- Council adopted the Parking Master Plan providing a business plan for long-term investments and financial modelling of a downtown parking system (2015).
- Established an Internal Audit function that developed the City’s comprehensive audit program, enterprise risk evaluation system and a prioritization of audit reviews. Several significant audits and management reviews have been undertaken resulting in recommendations that have resulted in process improvement and improvements to policy across the organization.
Our people and leadership
An important focus for the organization has been to invest in organizational excellence and develop City employees to their full potential for the benefit of improved service provision. In concrete terms the City has:
- Completed employee engagement surveys in 2012 and 2014. Over this period progress has been made in 19 of 21 engagement drivers. To support improvement in engagement, departmental and corporate action plans have been created to act on opportunities.
- Work has been ongoing to implement changes and embed the employees own Leadership Charter in City systems and processes.
- To make the City more streamlined and agile the Corporation undertook organizational structure realignments. This reduced the number of service areas to three and introduced round tables to the corporate structure. It has re-set the role of the Executive Team and built a Corporate Management Team (CMT) model to address corporate wide management decision making. It has also created a Corporate Round Table (CRT) that brings a range of city staff together to address key outstanding issues requiring resolution or new solutions.
- Councillor orientation and leadership development has been improved resulting in a comprehensive and integrated program for orientation and leadership development.
Innovation and technology
Citizen expectations are changing and the current structure of the Corporation, the systems, processes, etc., is not equipped to meet them. The organization is not yet fully able to provide the right tools that suit the busy lives of our constituents and is adapting to what it truly means to be ‘open by default.’ Progress is being made. There are many gains to be found in modernizing services. In order to maximize those benefits a Corporation-wide strategic approach has been set.
- In 2014, the first Open Government Action Plan (OGAP) was approved unanimously by Council, outlining the principles and best practices for open government in Guelph. This was based on an early understanding that open government could provide the unifying framework for transforming the organization to ensure citizens come first in our work and how we’re positioning the City for the future.
- The OGAP resulted in the creation of a dedicated resource to provide leadership, strategic oversight and to bring cohesiveness to the City’s efforts to modernize services and create a great experience for citizens. In June of 2015, the position of the Open Government Program Manager began as a corporate support to departments across the organization.
- Harnessed new technology and processes creating new internal efficiencies and cost savings that change how the City works for the better rather than adding extra work on top of current jobs, such as the Bylaw department’s adoption of the 311GIS issue reporting tool. This tool not only simplifies the public’s experience and allows them to track progress on their issue, but also enables the Bylaw department to allocate their officers more efficiently throughout the day.
- Adoption and implementation of the City’s IT Strategic Plan has resulted in improved IT governance, the implementation of 311GIS, the upgrades of foundational systems such as JDE and the GIS Strategy and implementation plan.
- Work is ongoing to create myGuelph, a ‘digital one-stop-shop’ for citizens and the development of a supporting Citizen Relationship Management (CRM). Combined, myGuelph and CRM will lead to a corporate-wide customer service and technology project to modernize, simplify, and structure how we deliver City services to citizens. This project is currently in the assessment phase.
- Records and Information Management (RIM) working group has been set up to implement the new RIM strategy, which supports policy, systems and tools for greater alignment of knowledge and information.
- The organizational cultural changes required supporting this new openness and willingness to change has been significant and largely noted internally.