LocalGovCamp is back for 2014


LocalGovCamp – Flickr by #ashroplad – https://www.flickr.com/photos/47624301@N06/

Just a quick post to highlight that LocalGovCamp will be back this year and will be organised by LocalGov Digital.

LocalGovCamp will take place in Birmingham on Saturday 21 June 2014.

The camp will be part of a two day event run by the LocalGov Digital network, with Friday (20 June 2014) activities focused on the network’s work streams including a LocalGov Digital Makers event.

More information will be released shortly – follow the LocalGovCamp Twitter account for the latest updates.

If you are interested in sponsoring or helping out then get in touch on Twitter via @localgovcamp or @localgovdigital, or contact Sarah Lay, as work stream lead organising the event.

The Local GDS question – again…


Last Friday evening conversation started on twitter about a local GDS, the why, what, how, who, where etc.

Now I didn’t have too much time to get involved in the conversation on twitter, although I did post a comment on Ben Proctors blog post on Friday evening – I would have contributed more but was actually at karate with my son and then had quite a busy weekend which included a 1 day kayaking course (which I can highly recommend).   The one thing I did tweet was that I’d be better off writing a blog post about this as it will certainly take more than 140 characters.

When I previously wrote about over on the GDS blog back in March this year I started the post with this statement:

Does local government need a local government digital service? - The easy answer to the title question would be No…but I don’t like easy answers and I believe that No is fundamentally the wrong answer.

I mentioned the types of things that I felt were and still are needed to help move this forward e.g.

  • Leadership and vision
  • Skills development
  • Connecting
  • Standards / toolkits / frameworks
  • Setting the bar high
  • Greater engagement and collaboration between local and central

Also things we should avoid doing

  • measuring / monitoring from a central place
  • force it
  • focus on technology
  • create and acknowledge artificial barriers

I’d recommend reading the post for the comments alone which were really fascinating as are the comments on Ben’s blog

I think I need to clarify things before we can move forward.

First: saying we need a local GDS does not mean that it is a physical team based anywhere in the UK and has paid staff < I’m sure many people would jump at the chance at this kind of thing but in my personal view it isn’t sustainable.

Second: saying that we need a local GDS does not mean that it is restricted to just local government people / staff < events and movements like govcamp demonstrate that a collection of people passionate about solving problems is all you need to make wonderful things happen.

Third: lets not forget that 400(ish) local councils are not easy to co-ordinate and are very different in terms of politics, but that shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything.

Fourth:  there is no silver bullet to what people may perceive to be a local GDS.

Local GDS already exists…so lets move on…

Can we just all accept that Local GDS is already here and has been for years, we just simply haven’t called it that.  I’d say that localgovcamp is probably the best physical manifestation of what this looks like and it meets outside of London.

If I go back to what a Local GDS should do and ask myself has localgovcamp done this then this is what you get….

  • Leadership and vision  < YES
  • Skills development < YES
  • Connecting < YES
  • Standards / toolkits / frameworks < YES
  • Setting the bar high < YES
  • Greater engagement and collaboration between local and central < YES

plus the things it shouldn’t do…

  • measuring / monitoring from a central place < AGAIN YES
  • force it < AGAIN YES
  • focus on technology < AGAIN YES
  • create and acknowledge artificial barriers < AGAIN YES

So if we can accept this, then how do we make it better, scale it, get more recognition and also make the sharing of outputs easier regardless of the local council environment < YES this means we have to accept that some councils work on old systems and we have a responsibility to help those just as much as we have a responsibility to innovate for the rest.

The main issue is that there are a large number of councils who have still had no contact or even heard of  localgovcamp which does concern me as the whole sector needs to transform not just those who are connected.

I personally believe that those people who really want to move this forward should all work together on working out how we achieve the following:

  • better co-ordination and information sharing across all local councils including town and parish
  • a bit of consolidation and rationalisation on the many standards and frameworks which are out there some of which conflict and are legacy from eGovernment days.

There are more things but solving these two would go a long way to making things better.

Just so people are aware, I’ve already spoken with the LGA and a group of people are talking towards the end of September early October on how to move some of this forward.

It isn’t an exclusive group of people and I’m not concerned or precious about this and if other people want to move this forward in different directions then please do – however I want to make a plea that whatever happens – it needs to be practical, thought through and realistic as well as inclusive for all councils to engage with. That will mean kicking some up the backside in order to get them engaged of course.

I am keen on seeing this get resolved as I’m looking to the future of the sector and I’m worried that we will simply disappear and I’d at least want the knowledge to be available to those who needed it.






Introducing South West LocalGovCamp #swlocalgc


Right, no date or venue confirmed yet but South West LocalGovCamp is on the cards and is now entering the planning stage for an Autumn date (likely to be early October).

There has been a little bit of talk about organising this on a Friday instead of a Saturday (which presents additional challenges and opportunities) but I have no preference as long as it works.

So can you let me know via the poll below which option works best for you.

Now there is plenty to get arranged and organised before then, so I’ve also created a group on the UKGovCamp network site, so please register and get involved where you can.

The hashtag for the event leading up to, during and after will be #swlocalgc, but people are also welcome to use the more traditional #localgovcamp if they wish to extend the reach of the conversation.

As a starting point we need to ensure we get a venue which is capable of holding 75+ people and provides excellent WiFi – here is a great blog post from Andy Mabbett on WiFi Checklist for Un-Conferences - The venue will then inform the date, so I’d like to hear people’s views on practical locations which are capable of meeting our needs…


These events obviously don’t happen by themselves so I’m keen to hear from people who are able to help organise things (on a practical basis) as well as from organisations local and from further afield who would be prepared to provide some level of financial sponsorship or even a venue which could hold around 75+ people…obviously don’t know the numbers yet but the more the merrier as they say :)

I think that is it for now…..



So that was #localgovcamp – now what?


There is apparently some small amount of evidence to show that I was in fact at LocalGovCamp on Saturday :)

I paid for the accommodation and train fare out of my own money, not because the council didn’t want to pay, but because I actually wanted to pay for it myself (maybe some people think this is sad)

It did re-energise me (although friday evening took some of my *spark*), it inspired me, not just by the conversations, but by the determination and passion people show, the fact that people give up their personal time to come together for a greater good and really are prepared to challenge your current thinking, there really is something special in that…

I also have to accept that if it weren’t for the friends and colleagues I’ve made on social networks and through events like LocalGovCamp and UKGovCamp, my life would be very different, I’m not sure what job I’d be in, or work I’d be doing, things have changed for me quite a bit over the last few years (for the better, I must add) and I’ll say this has a direct correlation to my involvement and participation with these networks and events. So before I carry on, I have to say Thank You to everyone who has attended a UKGovCamp, LocalGovCamp and to everyone who has challenged me via my blog, twitter and the Communities of Practice platform.

I didn’t tweet much into the stream on saturday and I personally don’t feel I contributed much in terms of discussion throughout the day but on the train home (this was one of the most peaceful moments of my weekend), I sat back at thought about what I need to do to transition from “all talk” into “practical action”. I created a mindmap with over 15 project ideas based on what I heard in sessions as well as stuff I picked up in general conversation, so something obviously went in…I also tweeted a few thoughts which I’d like to expand further on.

  • Thoughts on #localgovcamp – remains one of the few events that actually stimulates and inspires me, plus the people are bloody fantastic
  • Thoughts on #localgovcamp need to create a govcamp culture internally to stimulate innovation and change and involvement of wider audience
  • Thoughts on #localgovcamp – we are now shifting focus to behaviour change and away from the shiny tools – place for both of course ;)

I really want to start mainstreaming the outputs, conversations and the inspiration that all of this can provide to as many people as possible, this applies internally and externally across my region (Devon and the South West). One response to this is to push forward a South West LocalGovCamp Event for the Autumn. If you are interested then let me know.

However even though I value attending these events, even though I know the people who turn up will be bloody fantastic and even though I always come away with some plans – I believe that only a very small group of people would *ever* attend this kind of event…but more than happy to be proved wrong of course.

I had various conversations on Saturday with people about how we can get other people access to these kinds of conversations. It doesn’t have to be a localgovcamp event as such. Personally I think something more aligned to the CityCampBrighton Event (3 days) would attract more people from across the public sector here, but these are naturally focused on a geographic area. So would not be easy for something like Devon as a whole…However I think there is a middle ground…

I read with interest a post by Catherine Howe (@curiousc) this morning, where she talks about a similar challenge that is emerging within LocalGovCamp, she states:

  • 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
I don’t think it is a coincidence that Catherine attended the City Camp Brighton event and has expressed these points of view.
I’ve posted recently about one of the challenges I think as a collective group of people we have a duty to resolve and that is ensuring that people who are new to the conversation can enter at an appropriate level and those who need to be challenged more can do so.
I’d love to be able to be part of a South West Event which was held of two days. Day 1 being for inspiration and understanding and day 2 being about workshops and creating things.  I’m not an events person so would welcome any hints and tips on how this might be achievable and be offered for “free” to participants…So I guess sponsors would be required, welcome and encouraged :)
In terms of internal response, I want to reinvigorate, refocus and rename the Social Media Forum we had set up here. I’m now in a better position to do some good stuff with this internally, so watch this space on that over the coming weeks.
With regard to behaviour change, I’m really keen to involve our workforce development colleagues on how we can use the existing corporate training and development programmes to instil a new “thinking” around Digital. However we need to do this with regard to a Blended approach as per Tim Davies blog.
I plan to blog more on each of the project ideas in the coming weeks and months.
So again “THANK YOU” fellow localgovcampers, you are all amazing and quite frankly awesome.

Calling #localgov folk – It’s time for another #localgovcamp


Very brief, but as always conversations go into hyper drive  after #ukgc11 and it feels right in the current climate to bring back one of the best (for me) GovCamp experiences – #LocalGovCamp.

No details as of yet, but if you are interested and keen to get involved or know when and where it is happening then sign up to http://www.ukgovcamp.com and join the BigLocalGovCamp Group

UPDATE: The provisional Date is Saturday 25th June in Birmingham This is Glastonbury Weekend