We do it this way because it works and because we’ve seen the alternative really fail big time again and again. Because it’s unusual for most of us and outside of our everyday experience, it’s tempting to make two mistakes. One is to think that because it’s the first time we’re doing it, that this is the first time it’s being done – nope – it’s a well-established technique that is probably used somewhere in the world every day to help large groups of people organise their own experience. Secondly it’s tempting to look back at bits of the day that didn’t work for us and think it didn’t work because we got the grid work wrong and therefore we should do it differently next time. This mostly comes up as a suggestion that “just a little bit more structure or pre-planning” is introduced. While I’m sure that we do get things wrong sometimes and there are ways that we can make the process serve us better, I don’t think that it’s a reason to introduce pre-planning. All that pre-planning does, in my experience is make people who are feeling anxious and don’t trust the process think that they will feel better. The answer is to trust the accumulated experience that the process works well – this will give you much more relief from anxiety and will truly make you feel better.
I had an exhausting time at GovCamp this weekend. We had lots of people. There were lots of discussions. There was much tweeting. Many photos were taken. Lots of blogging has happened.
Dan Slee had the fab idea of just posting 20 quick thoughts and take-aways. So let’s have a (somewhat delayed) go.
I don’t think the two day format worked, overall. I’m pleased we tried it, but it’s just too long and the second day didn’t feel sufficiently different to the first. Also, everyone who attended both days were totally exhausted by about lunchtime on the Saturday.
Steph Gray is not just brilliant at government webby stuff, I think he’s also one of the best human beings currently on the planet.
Some people have written of the need to further the range of people that attend. I’m a firm believer that the best people to attend are the people who want to, and don’t need to be convinced. It is, I assure you, entirely coincidental that this is also the path of least effort.
Another excellent post looked at the differences between the event this weekend and the original, in 2008. I agree: they’re very different. Some might prefer the way it was before, others prefer the way it is now. I think the event just reflects the environment in which we are all operating.
Maybe there’s space for a new event that’s more specifically geeky. I dunno.
The Government Digital Service has changed the nature of discussions and the whole government geek ecosystem, as others have mentioned. The responses to that from folks in central and local government are interesting, including in the way they differ.
Lloyd Davis is a legend, a master facilitator and the most calming influence ever.
Looking through all the photos from the event afterwards made me feel like there were about 6 different GovCamps happening, none of which I attended.
‘Keynotes’ at Govcamps make me feel funny. I personally don’t see why Friday’s closing session couldn’t have happened as a normal pitched session during the day which would have felt more a part of the community spirit of the event. It could have been sorted pretty easily. But still, I hope people found it useful.
Hadley Beeman is excellent at organising drinking sessions, amongst other things
The fantastic reading material following the event is a sign of just how vibrant and useful a medium blogging is for telling stories, sharing knowledge and learning
Someone on Twitter derided the event as a ‘talking shop’. I don’t see why that’s a bad thing. Where talking reinforces learning and allows for reflection and the teasing out of effective ways of doing things, it’s got to be good. I’m pleased GovCamp provides a framework for that to happen.
Even better, let’s run an event that’s even more informal than an unconference. Ditch the agenda entirely. Just have rooms in which people go in and talk about stuff. Use things like Twitter to let people share what’s being discussed in the rooms, so people can move around to the conversations that interest them. Chatcamp?
Thinking about all this, my interest in organisational learning and knowledge management is piqued once again. Can’t help but feel that very few organisations in the public (or indeed any) sector have this right. Too little learning from previous experience, too much hoarding of knowledge. The answer is only kind of digital, of course.
I do look back at 2008, with the smaller community, sitting around showing each other how to use Twitter, with quite a bit of nostalgia. Knowing where one fits in these days is tougher.
A few people have said what a good thing it is that GovCamp isn’t organised by government itself, which is interesting and perhaps indicative of something or other
They may not see it this way, but many of those I saw and chatted with last weekend weren’t colleagues, or customers, or whatever, but friends.
I suspect that if actual organisations were run like GovCamps, nothing would get done. But all those who attend could bring some of the spirit of the weekend to their work, encourage others to be thoughtful, and open. The result would be that small changes would happen around the edges, which might then lead to bigger and better things in the future.
The challenges government faces these days are much bigger and more difficult than in previous years. Digital is part of the solution but only a small part. The innovations that matter will be in the realm of policy and service design. Technology will play a vital role in making that happen but perhaps more as an enabler than a driver in itself.
As always seems to happen after GovCamp, I’m faced with the realisation that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
Remember – if you want to run a public service related ‘camp style event, you can. It’s dead easy. If you need money, Steph and I can help out with the fund contributed to by the lovely GovCamp sponsors. Just ask.
April may well be the cruellest month, but for me November was the busiest – and the illest (as in, I’ve been poorly. I’m not starting to talk “street”, you’ll be pleased to know*) as well.
Kind of Digital seems to have had time to get settled in now, and we’ve so much work on it’s meaning that I have no time for blogging or emailing any more, which is a real shame – even with the team growing all the time. I’m looking forward to some time over Christmas to get my thoughts together and start publishing here a bit more often.
Here’s a quick run through some of the stuff we’ve been doing this month:
I had a lovely trip to Oslo and met with representatives from all the ministries making up the central government there to talk about how we do digital in the UK and what the two sides could learn from each other. There’s a proper blog post brewing on this one.
UKGovCamp tickets were released and sold out in a matter of minutes. The two day format seems to have gone down well with most, and we should see some real outputs from the event this year. We still need sponsors, and if you are interested in being involved, do drop me a line.
We’ve been beavering away on a great project for Consumer Focus which will hopefully emerge soon. It’s an online database of digital engagement methods, which we will be developing to include case studies and links to examples. Searching will be done by choosing various variables from dropdowns and sliders, so you can choose the type of interaction you want, the demographics you want to reach and so on, and a list of the best methods for you will then be presented.
We’ve also been covering some events for the LGA as part of their healthy communities programme. This involved live blogging keynotes speakers, video interviews with various people involved, taking photos of the action and tweeting updates as well. All the content is presented on a microsite which we developed and hosted, and having done two events in Bristol and London, we’re next up at the late event in Leeds on 8th December. If you’d like to get your events documented in this way, you know where I am.
That’s probably about it. We’ve another couple of busy weeks in December coming up and then things wind down for the festive period. I’m looking forward to it!
Steph and I are already starting our planning for the next big UKGovCamp event, which will be held in January 2012 in London as per usual.
This time though we are hoping to do something slightly different, with the incorporation of an extra day into the proceedings.
We see this as being a ‘doing things’ day. Not explicitly a hack day, though, because we see that there’s a load of valuable activity that could be done that doesn’t involve building apps or websites.
So, a doing things day session might be some simple training on creating your own self hosted WordPress site; or maybe getting a bunch of people to collaborate on building a wiki of great case studies of social media use in the public sector.
It’s basically providing a more practical version of the talkie sessions that tend to happen at GovCamps normally.
So… the usual GovCamp unconference will happen on the weekend of Saturday 21st of January. What we need to know is what days people would prefer to do. Friday and Saturday? Saturday and Sunday? Sunday and Monday?
Let us know on this poll, or in the comments below!