Get this stuff out of my head.

Preparing for UKGovCamp 2013

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It’s that time of year again, when I get all excited about the wonderful things that will be happening. No, I’m not blogging a few days too late, I’m excited about UKGovCamp 2013.  I start to anticipate all of the fantastic gifts (of shared knowledge and experience) that I’m about to receive and the people that I’ll be able to catch up with, to find out what they’ve been doing for the past year (if Twitter hasn’t already told me) and what they’ve got planned for the coming year.

But just like Christmas, I also start to try and think about what I can give this year.  What is it that I’ve done that I can share, how I can help others.

There has been a bit of chatter about whether we have reached peak BarCamp, whether these sort of gatherings are all that they used to be.  Certainly the mainstream acceptance of the format of these events and particularly the part that UKGovCamp had in the creation of the Government Digital Service has meant that it’s no longer quite the furtive, underground, disruptive movement it once was.  However, Steph, Dave and the other UKGovCamp organisers have made wise choices and have managed to preserve the core principles, values and value of UKGovCamp.

UKGovCamp is still a place where the people who are actively engaged in bringing digital technology to government bodies and public service organisations can get together to share, to catch-up and to support each other’s efforts.  At UKGovCamp people who might be working in environments where the ideas they espoused are misunderstood, ignored or outright resisted can be re-invigorated and encouraged to carry on regardless.  It’s a place where ideas are tested, plans hatched and forces are mobilised.  And yes, it is also a talking shop, a place to shoot the breeze, chat and gossip.

The people who turn up there every year come from many backgrounds; central government departments, local government, comms, PR, emergency services.  There are social media gurus, policy wonks, open data evangelists, service managers, designers and devs.  People who care about politics, democracy, society, public services, and value for money, but mostly people who care about people.

It strikes me that this gathering of passionate, engaged and participatory people is a huge opportunity to do something very useful.  I think that there is an opportunity to get 20 or so of these people in a room for 45 minutes to:

  • understand what the most important problems are, which might include:
    • lack of understanding at the senior manager level
    • not enough established/shared business cases 
    • lack of appetite for risk 
    • restrictive IT practices
    • access to specialist skills, tools or data
    • lack of vision beyond ‘Channel Shift’ of transactions (my particular favourite)
  • devise ways in which those issues can be tackled collaboratively
  • identify the tools needed
  • encourage others to develop the solutions further

I’m sure that in 45 minutes we won’t be able to do anymore than start the conversation, gather some ideas on how to tackle them and (hopefully) get some volunteers to mobilise others around the issues.

What I would really like to see happen is communities of people who are tackling similar underlying issues develop. Not just those that tackle the day-to-day issues of using the technology (these already exist), but the underlying problems taking digital technology into an organisation.

If enough people feel that a session like this would be useful, then I will seek some advice on how to structure a session to get the best out of people and propose it on the day.  Your comments would be most welcome.