Digital dreaming in a virtual yurt

Last Wednesday, my chum Nick Hill and I ran a rather silly virtual event – the ‘digital dream yurt’. It’s an informal get together where people involve in digital and change in public service can get together on a Zoom call and share ideas and experiences around a particular topic with the inside of a yurt as their virtual background.

Annie Heath shared this screenshot of the yurt on Twitter

It’s a mixture of silliness as well as useful content, and the irreverence adds something I think that is often missing from more – dare I say it? – professionally run webinars. In a way, it harks back to the early days of govcamps and unconferences – random people getting together to find common ground, and to provide fresh perspectives, and to disappear down the occasional rabbit hole.

On this one, we focused on managing the often large portfolios of work that digital teams have on their plates. Richard Clarke, from my team in Croydon, was on the call and produced this amazing sketch of the discussions.

The wonderful sketchnote produced by the lovely Rich Clarke

We are doing it again on Wednesday 4th November, and you can find out more about that and sign up here. Over 40 people already have, so word is spreading.

The Social Media Exchange is coming up!


I’m really pleased to be helping out my good fried Jude Habib with the Social Media Exchange event, which is coming up early in February. There are still a few places available, so I thought I would let folk know about it here.

Here’s the skinny:

The Social Media Exchange (#SMEX15) takes place on Monday 9th February 2015 in London. #SMEX15 celebrates the power of digital storytelling and the impact it has to change the world around us. This event, from digital media trainers sounddelivery, is a series of bitesized interactive masterclasses, practical creative surgeries and networking opportunities to help charities navigate the changing media landscape and exploit the opportunities available to tell your stories. With 20+ sessions available you’ll be able to create your own training plan. Sessions will be led by staff from BBC News, YouTube, Save the Children, MNDA, JustGiving, Mind and many more.

Whether you want to learn about online petitions, viral campaigning, understanding how to work with your case studies, gain valuable insight into working with TV production companies, learn how to be creative with visual content or sound, improve your blogging or social media skills, or simply take away top practical tips from our interactive surgeries. There is something for everyone.

This day is for people working in the charity sector or for the charity sector with an interest in the power of storytelling and the impact it can have – to raise awareness, change perceptions, inspire action, recruit volunteers, engage supporters and generate funds.

Find out more and book tickets now – I look forward to seeing you there!

Announcing #virtualgovcamp’s first sponsor – Jadu’s Spacecraft design agency

I’m delighted to say we have our first sponsor on board the good ship VirtualGovCamp, and it’s our friends at Jadu, who are promoting their Spacecraft design agency!


Our approach to design is well considered and successful. One size fits all isn’t the way we work and we recognise every project is different. We start with a blank piece of paper and embark on a journey of discovery and work on the basis of being one team, focused on, and committed to collaborative success.

We are experts in understanding your organisation and your audience, helping you realise your desired outcomes. That’s our commitment, our passion.

Check out what Jadu have to offer on their website, or go straight to finding out everything about Spacecraft!

Achieving digital transformation workshop

This workshop will equip anyone involved in digital transformation and channel shift projects with the skills and tools they need to deliver fantastic results.

Book your place now!

The workshop will be led by the needs of those attending, focusing in on those areas of strategy, leadership, delivery and capability that have been identified as of key importance.

Things that will be covered include:

  • How to design and deliver an effective digital strategy for your organisation
  • How to design online services people actually want to use
  • How to manage technology projects in an agile fashion to reduce risk and increase user satisfaction
  • How to design capability programmes to provide people with the digital skills and confidence they need

Book your place now!

Who should attend this workshop?

  • People leading change programmes within their organisations
  • Folk who are working on digital capability programmes to improve their colleague’s confidence is using technology effectively
  • People delivering channel shift to encourage services users to switch to more efficient ways of delivery
  • Those wanting to understand better the role senior people can play in digital and transformation

Much of the background thinking that informs this workshop can be found in the 10 ‘Think Digital’ principles I developed, and which you can find out more about on my website.

Book your place now!

For a sneak peak, the video below is a recording of a webinar I gave in September 2014 discussing digital strategy, leadership and capability:

Book your place now!

What will a VirtualGovCamp session look like?

We’re probably due an update, not least because people keep asking me about VirtualGovCamp – and one of main topics people are querying is how on earth this thing is going to work.

To reiterate some of the things I have previously written about this, VirtualGovCamp will live and die by its asynchronicity. That is, nobody will have to be in the same place at the same time to take part. People can access the content and the discussion at any time they want.

That means that there will be very limited use of live interactive stuff like webinars, hangouts and so on. They aren’t banned, necessarily, but they are not the basic, core way people will interact.

In terms of platform, it has to be WordPress I think. So, every ‘session’ will be a WordPress page. The person who suggested the session, who will be called a facilitator, will add content to that page to help inform that discussion.

That content could be made up of videos, text, images, audio, presentations and so on. It could be content that the facilitator has produced themselves, or bits and pieces they’ve found elsewhere on the web, or indeed a mixture of both of those things.

Then, conversation and stuff takes place in the comments. Simple as that.

Now, if a facilitator really wants to do something live, then that’s fine, but the output would need to be embedded in the page so that others can still comment afterwards.

More on how this will all be organised next.

Have you signed up to show your interest in VirtualGovCamp yet? Do so with the form on the homepage!

#VirtualGovCamp FAQ

I’ve started putting an FAQ together for #VirtualGovCamp. Here’s the first effort.

Any more questions? Ask in the comments…

What is VirtualGovCamp?

VirtualGovCamp is an event which will take place online for people with an interest in improving public services.

What makes it a GovCamp?

GovCamp is an unconference – which means an open space event with no set agenda and no keynotes, where delegates can talk to one another about the topics they are interested in, not those of an organising committee.

What makes it virtual?

VirtualGovCamp will take place online, on this website (or rather, at this domain). People will interact on “sessions” which will basically be pages with comments where a discussion can take place.

Does that mean webinars?

No. VirtualGovCamp will live or die by its asynchronicity – which means people can interact when they want to and won’t need to be online at a specific time.

People organising sessions can make a time limited webinar or webchat part of what they are doing, but afterwards they will have to provide a means for ongoing discussion – such as embedding a video of the webinar session and allowing comments on that.

So no face to face stuff at all?

Not organised by me, no. But… if you want to run a local VirtualGovCamp party where people get together to enjoy sessions and talk about them together, then go for it!

So what does a session look like?

This still needs properly working out, but I reckon something like this: the person who pitched the session gets to create a page of content about the topic. It might be a video of them talking about it, or maybe someone else talking about it. It could be some text and links, or a Slideshare or Prezi. Maybe even a Storify.

They then facilitate a conversation in the comments to that page about the topic, encouraging people to get involved, share their views and ask and answer questions.

My current thinking is that a session will last a week. That doesn’t mean the comments will necessarily be closed, just that the active facilitation will cease.

Who can attend VirtualGovCamp?

Anyone with an interest in improving public services. It doesn’t matter what sector you are in, you are welcome to take part.

How do I pitch a session?

We will have a dedicated site for pitching and voting on sessions, which will be running on FutureGov’s Simpl platform, which they have donated for free.

Session pitching will begin in January 2015.

Can I sponsor VirtualGovCamp?

Probably yes, in two ways. One is in kind, by donating some technology or something else useful, like FutureGov are with Simpl.

I will also be accepting cash sponsorships, which I want to use to pay some people to do some online community management and other bits of support which are probably beyond what I can ask people to do as a volunteer.

Why is #virtualgovcamp a good idea?

Quick update – there’s now a placeholder site for #virtualgovcamp live at (it currently forwards to a blog) and a Twitter account @virtualgovcamp. At some point I will get all the content from the blog posts here replicated on the VGC site.

So why do I think #virtualgovcamp is a good idea?

  1. Scale – we can get the message to a lot more people by not having to fit them all in a room on a particular day
  2. Scale – we can have a lot more discussions and a lot more varied discussions by not being limited by the size of a grid and the number of breakout rooms available
  3. Diversity – we ought to be able to attract a much more varied bunch of people by running the event online
  4. Travel – no need for people to travel longish distances to the event – they can access it from wherever they are. That might even mean people not in the UK! Wowza!
  5. Time – we won’t be asking people to give up a whole day, whether in the week or the weekend. They can dip in and out as they please
  6. Serendipity – the law of two feet exists, but not many exercise it. Much easier online, and the existence of search means people will be able to find something else to get involved in much more easily. Or they could just do some work instead.
  7. Anonymity – still not sure where I am on this one, but being online means that there is the potential for people to be involved anonymously, which they may be more comfortable with

Do these things mean that the traditional GovCamp model is dead? No! Its just different. Both are needed.

It’s just that this one means I don’t have to get out of bed.