How to: Connect with the Government UX Community

Graphic depicting several people in interconnected bubbles

Every week or so, I get a connection request on LinkedIn, a cold intro (BTW those are so uncool), or an email from someone asking some form of the following: 
  • I would love to have a coffee chat and find out more about doing UX in government. 
  • Can you answer my/their questions about getting into UX in government? 
  • Can you help me find talented UXers? 
  • Wondering if there are opportunities in the UX space and if we can chat. 
  • Can you connect me with someone that might be hiring UXers? 
  • I'm new to (city/gov) and would like to meet people doing UX. Can you introduce me? 
  • And so many more.
So, I thought I would put together a list of resources I share. Here is my cheat sheet for connecting with the user experience design community in and around the Government of Canada. Even if you're not in Canada, these tips can help you find where your Gov community is congregating and join them.

Let me tell you: once you find your community, it's like coming home. 

Where are all the government UXers?

The UX community is incredibly valuable for networking and learning; and they're pretty cool if you like UX nerds. 😉 There's Design Twitter, tons of international and national government Slack channels, meetups, conferences, blogs... you just need to find the scent with some quick searching and you'll be dealing with an onslaught of information and options in no time.

Find out how they congregate, where discussions are happening online, find local and national events, learn to tell the difference between community contributors and "thought leaders". This is how you can stay in the know on trends, emerging tools and methods, and find support for your journey. 

Government UX Slack channels

There are lots of Slack channels for design or government, but only two international channels that are exclusively focused on UX, both managed by the UK Government Digital Service:
Registration may require a government email addresse. Use the "more info" links for instructions on how to join if your email domain is not accepted.

Government UX communities

Every major city seems to have some network for UXers and if they are government towns, many of them may include large numbers of government UXers. 

In Ottawa, communities like CAPCHI and IxDA have good government design representation, given that Ottawa is the seat of the federal government. In provincial capitals, local design groups similarly have provincial and municipal UX representation.

Back in 2018, the GC UX Network kicked off as a series of networking events for UXers in and around government. This network was established directly as a result of all the people looking for UXers, for UX work, and for assistance bringing UX into their organizations. Rather than answer all of their questions, my co-host Sage Cram and I decided to create networking events to help UXers find and help each other. Normally, these free meetups are held in person quarterly and attract about 70 participants. With the pandemic, we're moving online and expanding invitations internationally. Our first Discord event on Feb. 10 will welcome 200 people registered from across North America and Europe. 

UX events and conferences

At UX events and conferences, you can often find government-related topics and speakers. Here in Ottawa, there's CanUX (disclaimer: I'm the co-chair). Nationally, there are plenty of other communities and events to choose from to learn and meet UXers. Internationally, well, there are incredible events all over the world. 

But I still have questions...

Now, if you're still not sure where to start and are thinking of reaching out to someone who is well connected in the UX community for some advice, please consider the following: be careful of your demands for labour. Many requests I receive include assertive language like, "I would like to book some time with you" or "Who can you recommend to me". While I realize that this type of language is encouraged in networking circles, it does not acknowledge that folks with large networks can be bombarded with requests and even just receiving an email and having to respond is a demand for labour. 

I have anxiety and when I am overwhelmed, I simply delete these types of requests because they assume my labour without any consideration about my circumstances. 

If you are thinking of reaching out to someone to ask for their time and effort, consider the following: 
  • Is the answer widely available? Some of these questions about the UX community, for example, could be started with a quick search. Then, instead of asking for a list of resources. If you still want to make a request, you could send what you've found and ask for a personal recommendation on the best groups to join. This shows initiative and is more respectful of the receiver's time. 
  • When you're picking who contact with your question, consider whether they might have shared this information before. In my case, I use my blog and Twitter to answer in a general forum questions that I receive personally. I feel that this approach has the ability to help more people than if I just respond to the requester. 
  • Don't send them their own article/ information and say: "I saw this, what more do you have?" If I had more, I would have shared it.
If you want some ideas about building your own network or getting started in gov UX, here are a couple of articles to get you started:
I hope this helped answer your questions! If you found this useful, let me know on Twitter @spydergrrl