I accept that it would have been useful to have written these the day after UKGovCamp, which was held this year at City Hall on 25 January. However, with a hangover of camping proportions and a house full of children to look after it had to wait a little, which also gave me the opportunity to reflect somewhat on what can only be described as an awesome event.
So, with no further ado here are a few of my UKGovCamp14 take-aways.
Blogging is dead.
Okay, well not dead of course, but it certainly seems to no longer be the cool, new hotness that it once was. After UKGovCamp last year there was a flurry of blog posts within hours of it finishing, with people taking up the challenge of sharing five things they took away from the event. This year however it’s been a bit more sparse, and the style of the blogging discussions has changed somewhat.
Is this because we’ve all moved on to something new? Is it because we are working more closed off than we were? Is it because people simply got out of the habit of writing things down? I don’t know, but it saddens me a bit as I was a keen devourer of all related written words and long for the days of the past when there were more quality local government related blogs than I could shake a committee report at.
If only there was an established blog which was open to guest posts and which would be happy to host any and all related discussions…
Many minds make interesting work
I pitched a session to discuss something I’m interested in thinking through a little and feared I’d be sitting in a room with one or two others for twenty minutes before deciding to use the rule of two feet and find somewhere more productive to be. Instead, dozens of people came along at various points and both gave me the chance to share some of my thinking to check it as well as putting a load of new considerations up for discussion.
I also received offers of support from participants, links to others working on similar issues and pointed in the direction of some really useful resources. And that was just one session.
Too often in our day jobs we work in the same small teams with the same people and miss out on the opportunity to bounce ideas off others in a larger group setting. I will certainly be going back to the office and seeing about finding some innovative, creative individuals who wouldn’t mind a regular catch-up to do just this on an informal basis.
The business card is not disappearing entirely
There was a quite nice split between people walking around with some form of electrical device and those who stuck to the mark-one pen-and-paper approach. The former tended to finish conversations with a swapping of twitter handles and a quick tweet to each other to make sure the connection online was made, while to latter swapped business cards with promises to follow up in the near future.
Besides the fact I didn’t take a pen so couldn’t write on the handful of cards I received in order to remind me why I had it, I found no problem or criticism dealing with either of these approaches. Everyone simply took it all in their strides and focussed on making sure that lasting connections were made one way or another; truly, technology (whether electronic or traditional) was subservient to the purpose for which it was used.
Why can’t we all be camper?
Let me preface this by saying I really enjoy working with my colleagues and this in no way aims to put them down at all.
That being said, I want to propose that everyone who attended UKGovCamp ups sticks and starts up an uber-company of innovative, inspiring, creative and passionate individuals as I want to be surrounded by these people every day. It shocks me how much better you feel being surrounded by people who care as much as these campers did; they don’t just want to be the least worst out there, they want their work to matter and be something they can be proud of.
As there inevitably is in any large organisation, local government has its fair share of those who turn up to do their job; no more, no less. These are valued colleagues, but when you see those who aspire to more than that it lifts you to want to be better than you already are and live up to the group’s expectations.
FutureGov were giving out badges on the day, and my 9 year old daughter wore one to school today as she liked it so much. It read simply “Life is too short not to make something that’s awesome.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Beercamp is just as big a part as the formal event
Not for everyone perhaps, but for me one of the most enjoyable and useful parts of the event were the conversations held after it had finished, when a number of participants invaded a small local pub and got to work reducing the bar tab so generously provided by the awesome event sponsors.
It was in this environment, with fewer time pressures in terms of getting to sessions or finding certain people to say hi to that initial encounters and brief salutations turned into more detailed discussions and started to build even stronger relationships. In the pub I was able to speak with several private sector campers who will be helping me out over the coming weeks and months, some very interesting public sector colleagues who I will be following in future as well as catching up with many I’d not seen in a long time.
The social environment is an often ignored part of working with others, and in my experience is not actively encouraged in local government. There are exceptions of course, but not often enough are staff encouraged to spend time together outside of the more formal workplace. It might not be for everyone, but spending some time just talking has sparked just as many ideas as sitting round a table, if not more.
In the past it was sometimes seen that the private sector is only interested in profits, that the public sector is only interested in process and the voluntary sector can be single tracked in their focus.
Well, these lines are not only blurred but now feel as if they’ve been smudged out of all recognition. I saw private sector colleagues with a clear objective of existing to do something simply because that was the good and right thing to do, saw public sector colleagues who were finding ways of working which were more agile and quick to get things done rather than fill in forms and have meetings, and saw voluntary sector colleagues using their expertise and knowledge to comment on a huge range of interrelated issues with a clarity and focus which was incredible to behold.
I very deliberately used the word ‘colleagues’ to define each of these groups as that was genuinely what it felt like. It didn’t matter who paid your wages, or even whether you were paid at all, just that we were all together and all trying to make things better in whatever little ways we could.
And that feels good.
So, those are some of my initial take-homes from possibly my favourite Camp so far, I now can’t wait until LocalGovCamp takes place later in the year and hope to feel the same sense of joy after that as I do now.