Thinking about using the social web to do democratic things…..

Epic Localgovcamp

I drove up to Birmingham on a very wet Friday night with the feeling I usually have before an unconference – a mix of pleasant anticipation and mild resentment for giving up my weekend.  As ever I left feeling stimulated, challenged and warmed by the people I spent Saturday with.  Thank you all – and especial thanks to @siwhitehouse and @davebriggs for all the work on organising it. I have already written up the session on identity here and will also write up the agile session when I have time – this post is really some more general observations…so here we go…

  • We need to be mindful that we need to make these events work for both the first timers and for the people who have attended many.  I don’t think this is difficult – but perhaps a bit more prep / continuity from those of us that attend frequently would give us the sense of building something bigger rather than having the same, albeit valuable, conversations again and again
  • There is something to be said for reaffirming your energy and engaging with other innovators -but we also need to take responsibility for building the evidence base for our beliefs collectively if we are going to be anything other than positively disruptive outsiders
  • So much comes down to culture change within organisations – which is where I am trying to focus my efforts now.  Thankfully we seem to have moved past the ‘tools are cool’ stage to talk about real change.
In addition to the two sessions I ran I also went to a few others. Hopefully someone else will write up the session on innovation games – and hopefully they will focus on the ideas around gamification that we talked about rather than the slightly duller stuff around games as facilitation tools. Also hope they focus on some of the co-productive opportunities here.
@TomSprints session on Yammer was good – and also pointed me back to think about culture change and I enjoyed digging more deeply into a subject – hopefully he will write up some thoughts on this.
The other session I went to was on emergency communications which after a slow start was interesting. Best summary of the main learning from this was from @Nickkeane with the advice to ‘practice in peacetime not in war’ and make sure that you have a trusted online presence BEFORE a crisis. I was also appalled to hear how few organisations seem to have social media in their emergency plan – sort that out people.
Thanks all for your thoughts and ideas – when can we do it again?
PS  I have no idea what has happened on the font in the second half of this post as there is nothing in the HTML to explain it – oh well



7 Responses to “Epic Localgovcamp”

  1. David White says:

    Hi,

    This was my second time camping, the first was at CityCampBrighton earlier this year.

    I enjoyed the event and found it very useful. It was also a wonderful surprise to see my friends from the Home Office and National Police Improvement Agency coming along and entering into the world of the unconference.

    I thought I’d use Catherine’s blog to give a bit of feedback of my own which I hope will compliment Catherine’s comments and will come across as supportive and perhaps constructively critical.

    I found it difficult to locate basic details about the camp both before and afterwards. I’m still trying to find blogs, audio, video etc. but this is the first site I found after quite a lot of searching. There is http://www.localgovcamp.com which seems to be the right place but doesn’t mention Birmingham 2011 and was last updated in 2010.

    On arrival, we were asked to make labels with our names and twitter names. I was with a few people who are not on twitter and although I offered to help signed them up on the day, I got the impression they felt a little bit sidelined and not part of the ‘in-crowd’. Perhaps there could have been some ‘pre-read’ information about the use of Twitter at the unconference and the suggestion to consider signing up ahead of the day to get familiar with Twitter. Alternatively, a volunteer could have been on hand to help anyone to sign-up on the day and to help add apps to smaprtphones or tablets. Even if this wasn’t possible, a large screen to display the hashtag could have helped everyone but especially those without Twitter.

    Name labels were great but I found it quite tricky to read off the twitter names and fiddle around setting up the all important follow on my phone. All the people I followed were either on the way up on the train, on the way home on the train and during the conference by following the hashtag. I didn’t get the chance to follow anyone by using their name badge. My suggestion to fix this is to get people to submit their twitter names on registration so that name labels can be created with a QR Code. Not only would this make it much easier to follow people, it gives everyone their own QR code to take away and the effectiveness of the use of the codes can be measured. Goo.gl quick links automatically include a QR Code and the metrics which Google provides could easily show if the practice is useful of not.

    Power and connectivity always seems to be important at these events. I noticed a few ‘seasoned’ campers came equipped with their own 4-way extension leads but it would have been easy to acquire several of these, set them up in a suitable location with tables so that everyone could ‘plug-in’ easily.

    Connectivity was available via WiFi but again, a bit of information ahead of the day and at reception could have had everyone hooked up immediately.

    Introductions were great but could have been enhanced by providing that stuff ahead of the conference (especially photographs). Live introductions are really important but people could have been introduced by projecting their photo, name and Twitter name on the big screen. This would also ensure nobody is missed out. Afterwards, throughout the day, this information could rotate on another large screen and afterwards on a website. I’m great with faces but I can never remember names – I would find this resource especially useful.

    The whiteboard grid showing the various topics proposed was good but could have been made even better if an electronic version was being projected with the topics typed in by volunteers as they were proposed. I prefer to take a photo of the board so I can refer back to it between sessions. If this photo was done once and then distributed, it would save the large crowd trying to look at the board at the same time.

    Post-it notes are great but get someone who can write clearly to do the writing. I found it quite hard to interpret the sessions simply because I couldn’t read the handwriting on the Post-it notes. Translation to a projected version would solve this one.

    The idea of assigning numbers to the rooms for the benefit of tagging in Twitter was great but should have been agreed ahead of the day. The hashtag #localgovcamp was quite long and perhaps could have been #LGC or #LGCB (for Birmingham). The room numbers could have gone after these tags easily. To extend this excellent idea, these hashtags could have been printed up big and displayed on the walls of each room to remind everyone.

    Lunchtime was a great opportunity to catch up, talk, debate and discuss. I found that the music didn’t help this process and I had to move away to be able to continue my conversation. I seem to suffer these days from difficulty hearing conversation in crowded places and introducing more noise into the mix makes it worse. Perhaps if music is to be provided, it could be more as background rather than entertainment in its own right?

    I recall that there was a request at the beginning of the day to leave answers to 2 questions throughout the day. I quickly forgot about this and a reminder at lunchtime and after the event would have been useful. Even better would have been a form on a website where these answers could have been entered at any time, even on the way home for those travelling by train.

  2. lelil says:

    Catherine and David

    Some really useful stuff there – which I will bear in mind when organising ScotGovCamp 2011.

    Thanks!

    Lesley

  3. I think what we are all saying is that perhaps we should rethink and revise how this all works.

    Part of me thinks that we perhaps we would be more critical if we had actually paid an entrance fee….I do not however want to knock the huge amount of voluntary effort that was put in by a few great people to make that event happen….in fact without it we wouldn’t have an event…so i congratulate and admire those people.

    But i also think that perhaps collectively we need to evaluate the events more and look to drive improvements to deliver more value….if that means putting a small cost to entry to resolve some issues then so be it…

  4. I think what we are all saying is that perhaps we should rethink and revise how this all works.

    Part of me thinks that we perhaps we would be more critical if we had actually paid an entrance fee….I do not however want to knock the huge amount of voluntary effort that was put in by a few great people to make that event happen….in fact without it we wouldn’t have an event…so i congratulate and admire those people.

    But i also think that perhaps collectively we need to evaluate the events more and look to drive improvements to deliver more value….if that means putting a small cost to entry to resolve some issues then so be it…

  5. saulcozens says:

    Catherine,

    thanks again for running your sessions. I did find them very enjoyable. I also agree with your sentiments about how we should think about using unconferences like localgovcamp to move the discussion forward.
    I’ve written a post with a suggestion: http://saulcozens.co.uk/doing-homework-for-an-unconference

  6. Paul Evans says:

    You only get the perspectives from the sessions you actually go to, but I got the sense that it was more of a bunch of seminars and less action oriented than other events I’ve been to.

    All of that said, I totally buy the ‘it’s an unconference/volunteer-led/what you make of it yourself’ argument. But I think a v short homily at the start of the day saying that it’s a good idea to *see* if there can be any outcome beyond the end of the session would be useful.

  7. gavinstokes says:

    Social media is being used in a huge way in the states in relation to Emergency Planning and a great example of trial by fire was the application of “TISC” (the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation) in response to the Haiti disaster. Personally I feel at the moment in Ireland social media seems to be little more than digital megaphone for local authorities.

    http://stalledtime.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/us-military-leading-the-way-with-social-media-on-an-enterprise-level/

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Localgovcamp Jun 18 2011 « Paul Brewer's Blog - [...] think Catherine Howe has nailed the issue in her blog, and it is noted by Carrie Bishop in here .. …
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