I really had an excellent day at UKGovCamp yesterday (for other blogs and tweets have a look here) and before I go into the detail of it I want to take a moment to pause and thank Dave Briggs and Steph Gray for an outstanding organising job. Or as may be more accurate thank Steph for the organising and Dave for providing such energy, focus and dynamism to the event – he is a great deal more than a provincial Dom Campbell though we did appreciate the line.  Also thanks to Lloyd for herding cats so successfully and facilitating so well. Lots of other peoples deserve credit as well – for example I did spy @Nickkeane and the groceries so thanks to all of you as well. As we start to organise CityCamp Brighton I am more aware of these details and one of the first things I will make sure we do is get a few people together who are just going to get on an do stuff that makes these things really fly on the day. That and buying a really loud whistle…..

I always travel to these weekend things feeling slightly grumpy about losing the time at home and feeling its an imposition and then get home absolutely buzzing about the people and the conversations in the day. The fact that its a weekend does bring something to the atmosphere and I wouldn’t change it – so this is a note to self to remember this before the next event! This is really a quick round up of the sessions I went to and general impressions – my main write up is here as I wanted to kick off something bigger around agile policy making.

Nice catch up with @Tomsprints first thing – and the chance to have a quick plot about his conference on the 25/2

Session wise I started the day talking AVDebate with a few people (@demsoc, @shane_dillon, @myddeltonand @Shanemcc).  Over at the Democratic Society we are keen to set up a site that will help people understand the facts around AV so that people can make a more informed choice when they have to vote in a referendum. Why? Because this is the first opportunity that we have had to turn the key in the very rusty lock of democratic reform and we want to make sure that as many people as possible have had chance to think about it. The session did exactly what these things should – showed us where we were going wrong with our thinking. As a result we think we have simplified our plans into something more achievable and have a plan for moving things forward as well as a few more volunteers to help which is excellent. We will be hunting around for a data person to help with the some data visualisations and Will is going to help us look at whether we could do a simple game to show people how AV works. The latter is rather urgently needed as we singularly failed to be able to explain the concept to each other let alone the general public so wish us luck and please shout if you can help.

In doing this I missed Chris Chant’s session which was very popular – and hats off for him for attending and listening – will be interesting to see what he makes of it and whether we see any of the ideas that were talked about starting to filter through.

I briefly popped on the @the_anke’s session about unlibraries as well as the localism session. The latter made me regret not having pitched something a bit more specialised around hyperlocal websites – perhaps some the civic space stuff I have been working on – as the group was large and I think ready to spilt into more specialist interests within the topic. Hopefully next year.

Lunch was chance to catch up with a few people – Simon Grice, Michelle Ide Smith, And Hugh from Networked Neighbourhoods (with whom I now need a longer conversation to debate the terminology of hyperlocal vs neighbourhood – lots to ponder on there). I also managed brief but lovely chats with @ingridk, @sharonodea and @Loulouk. Also got to meet Andy Mabbet quickly and tell him how much I enjoy his tweets. These social bits are the chance to add on offline element to your online relationships and turn them into something just slightly stronger as a result – invaluable.

After lunch I spent then next two sessions talking Agile – while regrettably missing the #police session from Nick Keane – though I hope Nick and I and some others manage to get plotting on a #copcamp event as there is such a lot of interest and energy coming through from the Police at the moment that it may be time for a more specific event – we shall see.  I’ve spilt the Agile stuff off into a separate post as I want to go somewhere different with that – but would like to thank both Michelle and Stefan for their work on these sessions – I think it worked really well to run them back to back in order to build a slightly bigger discussion than we might have managed if we had not connected them.

I missed the last sessions in order to catch up with John Bevan from Rewired State as he had some invaluable advice with respect to CityCamp Brighton. And finally – lovely chance to catch up with Nick Booth and do a little plotting before I had to run off home.

As I write this I realise how different other people’s days must have been – for example a whole heap of people will have been following the data theme as there were a number of sessions on this which I would have enjoyed. The sheer variety of the people and ideas at UKGovCamp was immense – and this is what makes it. You can see ideas and connections being made across disciplines, experience and functions and this is what is powerful – if we can find a way to take them back to our day jobs.

These kinds of days really build people’s resolve and resilience to keep pushing what is in many cases a radical change agenda within their organisations but I wonder if its enough to be feeding people’s enthusiasm or if we also need to be providing them with the tools that they need to take the argument back home with them – do we need to dig a little deeper?

In which case what does that mean? The nature of these events is an informality and accessibility which means that the outputs are not easily expressed to a more formal audience but perhaps we need to start considering how to do this – or perhaps I am just too structured a person and it needs to just flow like this – I’m not sure. Maybe its enough that every time a new person attends they get initiated into a community of like minded people but I can’t help but feel that we could do more.

In the same way as I want to figure out how to take informal civic conversations and make them accessible and unavoidable for our formal decision making processes I also want to take the energy and inventiveness of a day like UKGovCamp and make sure that it has the best chance of shaping the organisations and processes of government. There is a pressure from social change on all of our institutions but in the shape of UKGovCamp and the like it is potentially a constructive and positive pressure – are we currently making the most of that? This is a huge challenge – we all know that government does not change easily. Luckily the folks I spent yesterday with are definitely up for a challenge.

PS I really must do something about the fact that even a short post turns into over 1000 words – sorry about that and thanks for managing to get to this point!!

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