Rounding up LocalGovCamp YH

LocalGovCamp Yorkshire and Humber was a great day, superbly organised by Ken Eastwood, Kevin Campbell-Wright, Melanie Reid and a host of helpers. It was by a mile the least involved I have ever been in one of these events and, to be honest, my enjoyment of it was considerably increased as a result – as was everyone else’s, I should think.

The photos can be found here – or within the whole localgovcamp stream here. I – and hopefully others! – will link to coverage in the group on UKGovCamp.

Partly this was because I could actually attend and take part in some sessions! My thoughts on them follow.

Ken Eastwood

Photo of Ken Eastwood by Kevin Campbell-Wright

1. Digital vision

This session was introduced by Martin Cantor of Barnsley Council, and was based around a paper circulated via the LocalGovCamp Huddle workspace (I’ve emailed Martin to ask if I can post it up here too). The vision starts with:

In a world where:

  • everyone knows what the internet has to offer
  • everyone is comfortable using the internet
  • the internet is easily available everywhere people go
  • the things people want are available online
  • online activity is simple

then we have a truly digital world.  In this world, the technology will be not just ubiquitous, but invisible and taken for granted, just as electricity now is.

In other words, we have to acknowledge that technology is changing the way we work, play, travel, shop, socialise and learn. A debate ensued about various aspects of this vision, including questions around what the role of government is with regard to overseeing and indeed implementing the vision.

2. Enterprise 2.0

The agenda

Photo of the agenda by Ingrid Koehler

A session I ran jointly with Ken Eastwood of Barnsley Council. I introduced the session and the concept of Enterprise 2.0 which effectively just means social software behind the firewall.The points I made to frame the session were that

  1. The interesting thing about this technology isn’t the technology but the cultural and organisational implications of using it
  2. How can organisations effectively engage with outside groups like citizens and stakeholders when the people inside that organisation don’t talk to each other?
  3. (Almost) all intranets are crap

Ken led us through Barnsley’s soon to be launched ‘Buzz’ platform, based on SocialText, where staff will be encouraged to connect with one another, discuss work and non-work related issues and generally break down silos. It looks great, and I’m looking forward to hearing the success stories to come from it.

Again, a discussion then took place, with loads of interesting insights shared and questions asked. One significant area of debate was around the role of IT in all this – interestingly Barnsley have gone with the hosted, SaaS version of SocialText as opposed to getting it installed on in-house IT infrastructure (this strikes me as sensible, and a more service-oriented approach to IT purchasing will be a key element of cost savings and generally doing this better in this area in the future).

The other interesting point was that although deploying enterprise 2.0 is a technology project, it shouldn’t be led by technologists. A successful implementation technologically speaking might mean that everything works, but not that people are actually using it. So, leave the plumbing to the techies, but keep the strategy and direction in the hands of those within the business.

3. Informal online engagement


Photo of me by Ingrid Koehler

A session led by me around Central Bedfordshire’s Let’s Talk Central project, which Learning Pool worked on. I did a brief – entirely unprepared – talk about the background to the project and giving my views on consultation activity before opening things up to questions and discussions.

Essentially my point was that a lot of local government engagement and consultation work is incredibly dull and not the sort of thing that would really encourage residents to take part. With Let’s Talk Central, the focus was always on keeping it high level, and just finding out how people feel about stuff. Obviously there is still a place for in depth research, surveys, focus groups and that sort of thing, but it doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all and councils shouldn’t be afraid of keeping things informal.

4. Get over yourself

This was an interesting session, led by Emma Langman of Progression Partnership. It was essentially a discussion session about leadership, where Emma posed some questions and things to think about to the group. Some robust discussion then took place and I think there may have been some confusion about the purpose of the session – Emma certainly didn’t claim to have any answers or solutions, which I think may have frustrated some of those who attended hoping for some revelations.

I do think that this is a subject that needs discussing though. The challenges faced in the public sector will necessitate a change in organisational culture and that has to be set from those at the top, which will mean a shift from traditional command and control style leadership to a more flexible open approach, such as that described by Charlene Li in her recent book. Indeed this is the type of leadership already being demonstrated by Mark Lloyd at Cambridgeshire County Council and others.

How this behaviour and attitude can be spread throughout the sector, and encouraged in places where it isn’t already happening, I’m really not sure – which may be why most people left this session with more questions than answers in their heads.

Emma Langman

Photo of Emma Langman by Kevin Campbell-Wright

How to run a GovCamp

With the excitement building up to LocalGovCamp Yorkshire and the Humber on Saturday, I thought I might share this piece, which I wrote for the UKGovCamp hub site a little while ago.

It’s a ten point plan to organising your own GovCamp type event – and it really is quite easy!

1. Have an idea

It doesn’t really even need to be a good one, though that sometimes helps. GovCamps take two main forms: being about a location, or an issue. So, would gathering people to talk about lots of issues about a specific place be useful? Or maybe getting people from lots of different places to talk about one similar topic would work better.

2. Float your idea

Join the Nou Camps group on UKGovCamp, and just chuck your idea out there. Mention it on Twitter, on your blog if you have one, and other online networks. How do people react? If they don’t at all, then it’s probably a non-starter. If they do, but don’t offer to help organise, then it’s worth doing, but expect to be busy!

3. Create a group

Next, if people seem interested, create a group on UKGovCamp and invite people to join it. Ask people for ideas on venues, sponsors, things to talk about and that sort of thing. Also ask for volunteers, but don’t be upset or indeed deterred if there aren’t many. Often it’s easier to get things done yourself.

4. Decide on a date, and find a venue.

First of all: weekday or weekend? All depends on your audience. If it’s a very worky-type event, do it on a weekday. If it’s a bit more socially-inclined, then a weekend is perfect. Here’s an example – Jon’s localgovcamp about project management was planned for a Saturday, but not many people fancied it. He changed it to a weekday, and was oversubscribed!

Next, fix a date. Don’t ask loads of people because a) they’ll give you a different response; and b) you’re giving them an excuse not to come if you don’t choose their preferred date. Instead, pick a couple of weeks where it could happen, and then…

Get a venue. What does it need? One big room for congregating in. Several breakout rooms – the numbers depend on how many attendees you have. Lots of coffee is a must! Wifi is also quite important, but not a deal breaker.

If you can, get someone to let you have the venue for free – it’s your biggest cost by a mile if you can’t. Approach companies in the area you want to host it in to see if they’ll put you up – they often will if it is a weekend and they get some good press out of it.

The venue will generally detemined the exact day you run your GovCamp on.

5. Organise, and find someone to pay for, the food and drink

Having a decent venue is important, but having decent – and sufficient – food and drink is vital. Arrange to have very regular deliveries of tea and coffee, and make sure that pastries, biscuits, muffins and that sort of thing are turning up all the time too. If you can arrange for a sponsor to bring a supermarket trolley full of Mars bars, apple pies and cans of coke, all the better!

Lunch is important too. Always order more than you need – never underestimate the appetites of public servants out on a junket.

6. A note on sponsors

I have mentioned sponsors – or at least, getting people to pay for stuff – a couple of times now. Here’s my advice on this – identify things that need paying for, and then get someone to pay for it. Don’t whatever you do either pay yourself, then find a sponsor to pay you back, or just take cash from a sponsor. Connect the sponsor to the supplier, and let them get on with it. Two reasons for this: you’ve got other things to be thinking and stressing about, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably cock it up.

7. Pimp your ‘camp

Keep banging on about your event, on Twitter, blogs, forums, social networks, phone calls, emails, conversations with strangers. It’s a good idea to set up a site for your GovCamp so people have an easy place to link to – a simple WordPress blog will do.

Use something like Eventbrite to handle ticketing, it makes life a lot easier. Release tickets in batches to create a false sense of excitement. Always hold a few back for good people you’d like to attend but who weren’t quick enough originally.

Think of some mad stuff to do at your GovCamp. If you fancy having some musical accompaniment – why not get a DJ to come along? It’ll be fun! Tell everyone about it – they’ll think you’re an idiot, but it turns out that everyone LOVES idiots.

Basically though, never, ever, stop talking about your event.

8. Get some tat to give away

The thing with sponsors and GovCamps is that there isn’t that much to pay for. Once the venue is sorted, and the lunch and refreshments, that’s all the important stuff done. So you’re likely to have to invent things you ‘need’ to satisfy the need of companies to be seen to be involved with your awesome event. So, get people to pay for things like:

  • T-shirts
  • Pens
  • Mugs
  • USB sticks
  • Stickers
  • Badges
  • …and anything else you can think of

9. Get people ready to present

The one big worry about a GovCamp is that nobody is going to want to talk about anything. Usually you’re safe because there will be one or two happy campers who know the drill. To be sure though, get people to talk about issues they’d like discussed before the event, online. Encourage people to join together to present sessions together if they have similar interests. Talk to people offline to make sure they will be up for stepping forward to suggest something they’d like to talk about.

As a back-up, have a couple of your ideas up your sleeve yourself – you almost certainly won’t need them, but just in case…

10. Get the agenda sorted – and then relax

The last stressy thing to get done is first thing, on the day – and that’s the agenda. Find someone skilled with a magic marker and get them to draw a grid on a sheet or two of flipchart paper. Then, gather everyone around and get them to introduce themselves – a good way is for everybody to say their name, organisation and then two or three words that describe why they are there.

Next, call people forward to suggest sessions. In a break from true Barcamp style tradition, it’s often useful to get people to tell the group what they are planning on talking about, so everyone gets an idea of what is on the agenda. They then write them down on a post it, and add it to the agenda grid.

Once this process has begun, you’re done. Relax in the marvellousness you have created.

Looking forward to LocalGovCamp Yorkshire and Humber

LocalGovCampThis Saturday sees the latest LocalGovCamp, in York. It’s going to be a great day. Learning Pool are pleased to be helping out with a bit of sponsorship, and Breda and I will be in attendance.

It’s funny to think it’s only a year since the first LocalGovCamp, in Birmingham. I’ve such fond memories of that day – the sun was shining, Stuart was a hit on the decks, and Mrs Briggs and the boy even turned up and joined in.

For a trip through memory lane, the Flickr tag page provides a great visual time machine. I’ve just spent far too long looking through the photos from Birmingham (June ’09), Lincoln (Oct ’09), London (Jan ’10) and Cheltenham (March ’10).


I’m quite excited about this LocalGovCamp, because in the spirit of these events, the format has been messed with slightly, with a parallel track for councillors to talk digital engagement. Should be fun and I’m hoping to get involved in that at some point with some exciting plans for Learning Pool’s Modern Councillor service.

The regular track has already had a wide range of suggestions put forward for sessions on the day, so we should be short of a few things to talk about:

  1. How efficient is social media? or, How the internet can teach you how to save money
  2. Our digital future – what does it look like?
  3. Getting offliners online – digital mentors – who where when how?
  4. Libraries and Social Media
  5. The mixtape as social media
  6. Web & online content strategy for local government. An informal discussion about who’s got one, why / why not?
  7. Connecting, public culture & cuts – how the social web can help public cultural institutions to connect with the public, and consider new patrons and forms of patronage
  8. Stuff you can do with Flickr
  9. New ways of working – a solution to local government’s crisis?
  10. Enterprise 2.0 – deploying social technologies within our organisations to improve comms
  11. Selling open data in local government – what steps do we need to take as sector to get us sharing our data
  12. Election wash-up – why wasn’t this the first Internet election?
  13. Co-designing the Knowledge Hub – developing an open process of development
  14. Using ‘Free’ and ‘Good Enough’ technologies – the next stage of digital services development?
  15. Smart Cities & Internet of Things – What could the future hold?
  16. Social Media Surgeries – Lesson, Practice, and Applicability to other contexts
  17. Engaging less able people by the use of virtual walks/events in their area or field of interest.
  18. Front- line social media: Engagement, Consultation & Learning
  19. Just games? Does the growth in social and geo-sensative gaming have any meaning for local government?
  20. Crisis, what crisis?  Innovative responses to emergencies

I expect it isn’t too late to get in, if you want to. Come – it’ll be fun!

Photo of Andrew Walkingshaw at LocalGovCamp Birmingham by Arun Marsh.

LocalGovCamp Yorkshire and Humber

All Aboard the Great Yorkshire & Humber LocalGovCamp Train!

Departing from: The National Railway Museum in York (only 2hrs from London)

Departure date: Saturday 12 June 2010

For tickets and more information:

This first LocalGovCamp under the new Coalition Government will undoubtedly see some big issues debated, not least the future of local government itself.

The landscape has changed considerably since Dave organised the first event in Birmingham last June and our focus is now firmly on achieving more with less, or even less with less. So what of technology, social media, co-design and citizen participation? What about new ways of working enabled by technology and what of our digital future and vision?

If these questions are of interest, or you have some of your own, hop on the train and join in the debate in beautiful York. Bring an open mind, some passion and some ideas to share and explore. Bring a sense of fun too, it is a Saturday after all.

LocalGovCamp Yorkshire & Humber will also feature short parallel work streams for elected members on the use of social media, sessions being led by colleagues from Kirklees with input from Cllr Tim Cheetham (Barnsley), Cllr Simon Cooke (Bradford) and Ingrid Koehler (IDeA & Connected Councillor Programme).

If you work in local government perhaps you can ensure your Democratic Services colleagues inform your elected members of this opportunity.

The event is FREE for all to attend and as a bonus we’ll be having a World Cup themed after party to celebrate (we hope) victory for England in their first match!

You can book your tickets now:

Twitter: @localgovcampYH and #LGCYH

UKGovCamp group:

See you in York – WooooOOOoooWooooOOOooo!

Local Gov is self organising

As much as I enjoyed being involved in organising LocalGovCamp, when emails started to be sent to the group asking when the next one was, I was quick to distance myself from it. These things can take up a lot of time, and the reward is rarely financial.

I’d mentioned at the event in Birmingham that one way forward might be for regional events to be run by groups of councils together. This idea has been taken up with some gusto by several local authorities and their friends, and some remarkable things are now starting to happen.

Stephen Hilton at Bristol was the first to step up and start getting an event going for that area, with the help of Shane McCracken at Gallomanor.

The second follow-up event to start being organised will be for London authorities, and there seems to be a real desire in the capital to run this sort of get together.

Second, Andrew Beekan at Lincoln City Council is working with the University in the city to host an event there.

Thirdly, Jon Hyde at Cheltenham Borough Council is organising an event in his neck of the woods, but with a particular focus, on project management within local authorities.

Last but not remotely least, last week Ken Eastwood at Barnsley announced an event for Yorkshire and the Humber, to be organised along with Kevin Campbell-Wright at JISC. This event will also have a subject focus, that being remote working and the issues around that – a vital topic in the current climate of reduced budgets for local government, as well as the need to reduce carbon footprints.

The are two really interesting things here I think.

  1. Firstly, the new tools are being used to bring people together around these events. Twitter, WordPress and Ning, as well as more traditional tech like Google Groups, are being used to make it easy for local gov folk to self organise. It’s Here Comes Everybody, innit.
  2. Also, there is a massive industry around providing events to local government. They are generally pretty pricey and need teams of events managers to get them going. Or do they? It’s now being shown that local government can organise its own events, on whatever subject matter they choose. There is the potential here for some real disruption in the industry of local gov events, and I would argue that anyone who makes a living out of this needs to pay attention to what is starting to happen.

So, if there is a LocalGovCamp event happening anywhere near you, make sure you get along. And if there isn’t, JFDI and organise it yourself. You simply don’t need to wait for anyone else anymore.