Thoughts on UKGovBarcamp09

On Saturday 31st January i attended the 2nd UKGovBarcamp in London and was quite simply blown away by the connections i made with the people and the ideas and thoughts.

My journey started on the Friday as traveling from Devon and staying overnight often makes for a fresher brain, however this was not the case this time round.

I had accommodation at the Civil Service Club, which was only arranged relatively last minute and through email and twitter via Jeremy Gould.

Jeremy was having his leaving do at the Civil Service Club and kindly allowed me to join him and his former team for a few beers and some conversation.  This proved to be a good decision and i managed to meet Jenny Brown, who is great, very refreshing to listen to and very knowledgeable about her stuff.  But to be honest and i know she will agree after a few beers the conversation become harder to remember although what i do remember was great stuff.  We did come to a conclusion i think?? that a key focus for 2009 around Social Media is in how we measure the value to organisations.

Then it went a bit blurring and fuzzy but here is a pictures of my room. I would recommend the Civil Service Club as a place to stay not just because of its convenient location and very affordable prices but it did have good English breakfast, although my only comment was it didn’t include baked beans….

For a selection of photos on this place check out their website

I do have a very short video clip on my phone of Jeremy Gould dancing and will be happy to post to you tube if enough people agree that it should be shared.

So on to the event itself. (you can trace the twitter conversations here Twitter #ukgc09)

This was my first ever barcamp event and I was grateful to be able to participate. The day is unlike any other event you’ll visit, the first main thing you noticed is the amount of PC’s, MAC’s and web books appearing and connecting to the wifi, which didn’t last long. I did take my laptop but decided to use my blackberry memo pad and the GPRS connection to twitter.


The agenda is built and decided by everyone attending and the rules are you if you attend you must be prepared to contribute. Good rules i think.

So essentially you get a post it note, right down a topic and then stick it on the wall, it gets moved to a room and time if people agree it is a good session to have. Simple but yet so effective.


I decided to try and see a variety of stuff during the day and started with a session on Directgov and Innovation

The following represent my notes and key points or questions i raised and do not necessarily reflect the session as a whole

Essentially i think Directgov are trying to provide leadership in a number of ways not just in central government but within the public sector as whole. They are suggesting that they move toward a beta programme and offer and develop API’s for others to use to make better use of information.

Paul Clarke from Directgov (strategy and Proposition) who was leading the session was keen to foster an environment and culture which saw failure as an asset and as a productive part of the innovation process.

They have created an innovate blog site to pull this together and i recommend checking it out

Since Saturday they have already responded to this and have developed agreat resource (beta) for school closures information. If this is the kind of thing that will happen then we  must all learn from this approach and look to move toward a public sector “beta” programme to gain greater customer insights and intelligence about what people really want.  I have much respect to the Innovation team in Directgov and we must support them doing this by promoting and geting involved where we can. We also need to encourage local councils and i will see what i can do here to adopt a similar approach. It is very transformational.

That was followed by a great demonstration and discussion about online media centres and how can they be created simply and cheap and yet be very effective. The majority of the challenges are with people and processes. In terms of my council greater awareness and promotion of what can be done is still required and i am going to see how that can happen through the social media forum

The rest of day was to be honest spent trying to connect with people and taking time out to reflect and think about how stuff can fit in my council.

Here are some more photos of the day



The only other session i want to comment on is “effective facilitation for online communities and groups” that myself, Steve Dale , Ingrid Koehler and Hadley Beeman (pulled together) at the end of the day.

I think for me this holds the key to how we can really move forward with these tools in areas of engagement and participation because we have to ensure we get the right people who have the right skills and qualities to be able to manage and facilitate in online spaces.

In my research for the session i found Steve’s powerpoint slides perfect but we were keen to try and get a discussion going to avoided using them.

The other aspect for me was to get to a where we can start to identify some of the key tips and methods facilitators use online to help nurture communities and reinvigorate existing ones.

Here are my top tips and i apologise to anyone who was in the session who had to listen to be ramble on about this.

  1. I believe that facilitators are facilitators, there are some skills you can learn but it is a unique skill to have and is often rare, so ask yourself “am i a facilitator?”
  2. as a facilitator you also need to take a “project management” approach, in that you need to be clear what the scope of the community is, what the purpose is and what outcomes it is expected to deliver.
  3. promote simple benefits back to the community to spark further engagement and ideas – e.g. someone connects with a colleague through the community and learns some best practice – PROMOTE THIS and encourage others to make similar connections.
  4. Check back with the community to ensure you are still in scope, if not then either change of create a separate community for additional outcomes.
  5. When the community has reached it’s objectives, check to see if further actions are required or you may need to kill the community.

On reflection the whole day was one big realisation.

  1. That there is a momentum and we must now harness this and take opportunities when they arise and create new opportunities
  2. People are the key in all of this, the technology is not important at all
  3. Keep plugging away and raising awareness of the possibility
  4. Things are not as bad as they seem.

A kind of final thought and one which i eluded to in my earlier summary post, the best aspect of the day was the people so on that note here are some people i met in person who i had been following who i would recommend as people who know their stuff and who want to enable change.

In no particular order

People who I missed but would also recommend

Also recognition should also go to the following for making it happen Dave Briggs – twitter @davebriggs and Jeremy Gould – twitter @jeremygould

I believe the true outcomes of the event will start to show in a few weeks time when the connections that were made during the day start to come to fruition. That is what i am looking forward to next.


One thought on “Thoughts on UKGovBarcamp09

  1. Glad you got so much out of it, especially when I read the list of people you *didn’t* manage to speak to.

    As for that video, god please no!

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