I am going to try and make this short as it will be cross-posted to the Public-i blog and that means the talented Mr Brightwell will edit it down anyway….

I wanted to talk about the Open Spaces South West  and also a bit of a comment on Carl Haggerty’s post here.

I have am a huge fan of Open Spaces in their many forms. I am a regular at UK Govcamp and LocalGovCamp and also a co-producer of CityCamp Brighton. I have also part of some explorations about what these kind of open spaces approaches might mean for community engagement with CRIF and also We Live Here. I repeatedly see people being inspired, excited and engergised by events which enable the participants to take responsibility for their own experience and learn from this and from each other – and its fun – I always enjoy myself and I see other people do as well. Whoever said that important stuff had to be dull?

But I do think we need to see if we can make this kind of event work a bit harder and accomodate not just the new people who get so much from being exposed to a different way of working but also to create the space for longer standing ideas and projects to be worked on and extended. I also think we need to try and ensure that we expose more senior decision makers to this kind of event. The need for social innovation in the public sector is huge – and we have to start working together more effectively acrosss sectors and across organisations if we are going to start putting together some of the bigger projects that we will need to make signifincant change happen. So, Open Spaces South West will happen on a Friday because we think this should be part of your day job and not an added extra, we have some pre-programmed speakers to stimulate debate (as we do with CityCamp) and we are making active efforts to invite decision makers and non-usual suspects to this kind of event. We’ll keep you posted.

This question of working across boundaries is something which I think is critical to creating change and to the way in which we start to develop new kinds of relationships between citizens and state. I think this blurring of boundaries is a defintive element of the network society. At Public-i we talk about this as open practice and as part of this we are ‘sharing’ Carl with Devon County Council. Now – anyone who knows Carl will know he’s brilliant and you would have to be an idiot not to want to work with him – plus there is a hhuge amount of shared learning from this kind of thing – so thats one reason for the arrangement from our point of view. However the wider point about the blurring of boundaries I think is really important as Carl expresses here:

“In a number of ways and this also makes me think that actually this whole opportunity should be more widely available to other public sector folk…what i mean from this is that I think people and organisations on both sides would benefit if those people who wished to seek new challenges and experiences were allowed to temporarily take development opportunities with a private sector organisations. You see and read all too often now that there is a massive brain drain happening within the sector and all the best people are leaving…yes some great people are leaving, but lets not forget and lets not underestimate the huge amount of latent talent that remains, waiting to be unlocked and let free…this is where events like open space south west come in for me, opening up new connections and opportunities for new people to be the leaders.”

Events like Open Spaces South West should help to break down boundaries and create spaces for people to lead. I was inspired by hearing Jim Diers speak last week (blogged about it here) and I was hugely struck by his incitment to build networks and relationships rather than structures – I really hope Open Spaces South West can instigate some new network and as Carl says provide opportunities for new people to be the leaders. On a slightly less lofty note – I really hope its fun.

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