My reflections on #OpenSSW

Open Space South West
So last Friday was #OpenSSW which was held at County Hall in Exeter.

In the now normal feedback approach here are my highlights as a set of bullet points

  • Different people came and participated – one of the great things for me was that the audience list wasn’t filled with the “govcamp and localgovcamp” crew, not that it would have been a bad thing, but one aim was to reach and empower a bunch of new people.
  • The quality of speakers was fantastic – i’m lucky enough to know them all and feel honoured that they gave their time so easily and it makes a huge difference to the following conversations when people have been inspired and challenged by those speakers – although a change in format slightly in the future to better harness those conversations would be required. Perhaps related unconference sessions after a couple of speakers to keep it moving and inclusive
  • Events are hard work – Organising events is not a profession I’d like full time, but I’m so passionate about making this an annual event and supporting the network to grow and mature
  • We still need to pitch to senior mgrs – I still need to work on encouraging a greater attendance from service heads and councillors as the diversity in conversation needs those views.
  • Support for challenge – Thinking differently isn’t easy for some people and we probably need some kind of informal mentor / coaching network to help connect those people with others who can help and guide – this should be across different organisations so those mentoring can also learn about new situations and environments
  • Ask real people – Simon Gough and Phillippa Rose kept it local by actually videoing real people on the street in advance of what they thought localgov could do better and what digital local government should look like, the fact that not many people knew was also very interesting – a huge challenge ahead for all localgov if we wish to shift and transform the relationship with citizens
  • IT came up trumps – Council wifi can work if you find the people in IT who think outside the box – a massive thanks to them as I didn’t have an complaints about wifi all day…
  • It felt local #properjob – Keeping the event local helps to keep the conversations whilst generic focused on issues which people in the region can identify with more quickly
  • I need to learn so much – Andrea Siodmok is such a wonderful and clever person and I’d love to find out more about how her brain works and how she approaches issues and problems
  • Two days could work – Next time we should actually look at making it a two day event with actual camping
  • So many ideas – Carrie Bishop has a wonderful mind and I could listen to hear all day, although the way she waves her arms about it maybe better to dance with her 🙂
  • You don’t always need tech – Catherine Howe is awesome and her presentation (without slides) was very thought provoking and the issues of disintermediation is something which is really fascinating right now
  • Open by default, digital by design – this should be our core values and when you unpick it it can change the way we think about everything we do
  • Localgov is awesome – Justin Griggs is a great advocate of the real local government and we need to work out ways in which we can collaborate, cooperate and network better
  • Maintaining humour keeps things real – Only Dave Briggs can use the word foreskin and make it relevant to social without it being inappropriate – well that depends on your view of course
  • Know your audience – George Julian really understood the audience, mentioning a mass of stats based on the data collected on eventbrite…now she really is a geeky researcher and she is also a very nice person who I have great respect for
  • Photos are essential – I’d like to thank my colleague Sam Freeman for taking photos which you can access here
  • Localgov innovation doesn’t just happen in London – My final point and most important one is that the South West is doing amazing things as are all the other regions – London isn’t the centre of the innovation universe and we should promote the work happening at a local level more often. I’m obviously keen on helping in the south west
  • Open Space South West

    Overall I really enjoyed the event and I want to thank everyone who helped, contributed, challenged, shared, inspired, empowered, tweeted and gave up a Friday.


    Public Sector Meet-Up – The story of the Public Sector, Social Reporting + Gov2Radio

    I was contacted by Allison Hornery from Gov20 radio recently which led to me giving a short overview of what Devon has been doing around thinking and doing digital – the result of which will be available shortly on the Gov20 radio website as a podcast.

    However in conversation with Allison she mentioned that she is coming to the UK shortly and wondered whether anyone in Devon or the south west would be interested in an informal meet-up to chat about how we can tell the story of the Public Sector, social reporting and opportunities around Gov2Radio.

    We also spoke about Open Space South West and how this will hopefully encourage greater conversation across the region, therefore it might be nice to see this meet-up as a small lead up event to the main Open Space Event in September…well maybe not 🙂

    Allison is available week beginning 2nd July and we are suggesting a couple of hours say 3pm – 5pm in Exeter.

    So – can you let me know whether you are interested in a meet-up to talk about the public sector narrative, social reporting and opportunities and lessons from gov2radio – which days are good for you by completing the poll below – I’ll be going with the most popular day.

    Some more information about Gov 20 Radio as taken directly from the website…

    For more than three years, Gov 2.0 Radio has been where thought leaders and decision-makers, practitioners and civic innovators have come to tune in to important trends.

    Voices for proactive innovation and change

    We’re emerging as not just a podcast but a place where people can learn to find their voice on “connected government” in all its forms… e-gov, gov 2.0, open gov and more… as well as on shaping positive change through innovation in the public sphere.

    We aspire to challenge thinking that’s become too stale and – while we aren’t a solutions provider – to provide signposts to where sustainable solutions may lie.

    Our vision is that by being an effective, useful and respected channel, we can play a small role in accelerating positive change where it’s most needed.

    Tech enabling cultural shifts

    It’s no news that connective tech is one of the most powerful enablers within every public jurisdiction – both within the community of government as well as between government and its publics.

    But the technology is only an enabler and, for us, Gov 2.0 and open gov are important cultural shifts in the way we all – that’s all of us – do government.

    The vision of sound

    We aim to broaden the podcast distribution as widely and equitably as possible. Video is funky, but we like audio because it’s easier, cheaper and faster to capture and showcase candid, emerging practice. Audio is also low bandwidth and has a lower barrier to entry for many people. This is key to making more Gov 2.0 Radio content more accessible – not only in those agencies with limited net access but, importantly, to practitioners in emerging economies as well.

    We’re about amplifying the voices of connected government & public innovation.

    In 2012 and onwards, our goal for the rebooted
    Gov 2.0 Radio is to help a much wider community inside and outside government to “find their voice” around their passions and concerns for connected government.

    Behind the scenes of Open Space South West #OpenSSW

    With the Open Space South West website going live earlier this week, I thought I’d share some thoughts about how Open Space South West came about, who is involved, as well as share some personal thoughts about what I’d like to see happen and what I hope will be achieved (managing my own expectations).

    The first thing to say is that Open Space South West is a real collaborative effort between Public-i and Devon County Council – helped by the multiple other organisations and people who are contributing time and money.  In fact all CityCamp, GovCamp and similar events are collaborative efforts and that in itself is a great testament to people’s individual passion as well the passion and commitment of private sector organisations to help support the public sector around innovation and service design.

    I’d like to acknowledge the work being done by Public-i colleagues (primarily Tanya Harris) in helping to organise the event as I’m not really a detail person and Tanya has had experience of this through helping to organise the first City Camp Brighton Event as well as various other events and activities. As well as my team in Devon who built the website as I don’t have those types of skills 🙂

    You can read more about the event and the programme on the website

    What are you personal expectations?

    At  basic level I simply hope that the event is a success, in that people come, participate, feel inspired, are challenged and go away thinking about new opportunities and a new network of people who can help or share their learning. Not much to ask I know 🙂

    I’m actually nervous about the event and I feel anxious about it. I’ve organised a couple of internal social media forums and they went well, so I don’t really know why I feel that way…I guess it might be because this is bigger, has a wider audience, is more public and will be compared in some ways to other similar events…But I need not fear as there is the added bonus of actually working with Public-i who have experience with these kinds of events

    What is it like collaborating with Public-i?

    To be honest this is the easy part, It does help that I’m actually employed by them for 2 days a week, but even without that advantage it would be the same. I’ve known the folks at Public-i for quite a while and I really like the way they work, how they think and most of all they are all great people. So working with them collaboratively has been easy.

    How do you manage working for both private and public sector organisations? 

    I’m not sure I do to be perfectly honest, I’m actually pretty hard on myself, so I actually currently believe that I’m not doing very well for either public-i or the council (i know that it isn’t actually true) but i do push myself to do better all the time.

    Actually it is managing my time that I find the hardest, as it requires me to be far more organised than I’m used to as well as comfortable with if I’m honest. But that also involves my voluntary work as well as my family, both of which have suffered a little and my outlook is that i work to live, not live to work.

    The contract was only for six months and there will be decisions to be made about what happens next (but that is another blog post for another day).

    What does Public-i gain from you working with them?

    Catherine Howe would be best to answer that, but from my point of view I’d like to think it was the way I look and think about things. I wouldn’t say I was especially different in skill sets, I mean probably worse off – I’m not that creative, I can’t code, I’m not a designer, I’m not especially good at sales, I’m not really an expert in any area – but it is in the “general” and the “overview” where i think my value comes from…connecting ideas, having ideas, pushing ideas forward, working with people to make things happen…I’m sure other people have various views on my skills and you are welcome to share them openly here if you wish…nothing like 360 feedback 🙂 or as Carrie Bishop called it 3D feedback

    Personally my view on myself is that I’m not a cog in a wheel, or a critical member of the team, but when I’m around different ideas are considered, perhaps new ideas, people feel challenged, maybe even inspired…I do believe however I can sell an idea.

    What does Devon gain from you working with Public-i?

    In a number of ways and this also makes me think that actually this whole opportunity should be more widely available to other public sector folk…what i mean from this is that I think people and organisations on both sides would benefit if those people who wished to seek new challenges and experiences were allowed to temporarily take development opportunities with a private sector organisations. You see and read all too often now that there is a massive brain drain happening within the sector and all the best people are leaving…yes some great people are leaving, but lets not forget and lets not underestimate the huge amount of latent talent that remains, waiting to be unlocked and let free…this is where events like open space south west come in for me, opening up new connections and opportunities for new people to be the leaders.

    In my situation, I believe the council gains from my personal learning and development as well as from the new experiences and different ways of working. It financial gains of course for a short period of time from my reduction in hours and lets not kid ourselves that these are really good motivations for allowing this in the current climate.

    It also benefits because it allows me personally to experience new opportunities, new challenges that I’d perhaps not get access to in my organisation. It can also benefit from my experience of new projects in advance of when the council may choose to move forward, so the organisational learning is reduced.  This was and still is the motivation behind my voluntary work and involvement, however voluntary work can be limited in terms of quite in-depth experience in some places.

    There are a wide range of benefits all round and if more people in the sector were given these short-term opportunities and then welcomed back into their councils, then local government would be better off for it.  After all the sector as a whole needs to think differently about how we manage people, how we retain quality people and inspire a new generation of local government and public sector workers.

    What are you looking forward to most?

    Listening to the speakers and being inspired, meeting new people and making new connections – after all It is people who really make the difference.

    Announcing Open Space South West #OpenSSW

    For those of you who have seen the UKGovCamp Grants website, you may have noticed that there was an event called Open Space South West that I put a bid in for and luckily I was one of the many events to get some financial support – So right up front I’d like to thank Steph and Dave and those organisations who helped create the pot of money in the first place.

    It was originally down as South West Local Gov Camp – but I wanted to do something a little different to try to reach a slightly different and more diverse audience.

    So it will be different to the usual govcamp events, therefore it is called Open Space South West instead – simple as that 🙂

    I’ve put in some basic details below, whilst I get a website sorted in the next couple of weeks which will have links to the tickets and speaker details (yes some speakers).

    Open Space South West – the hashtag = #OpenSSW

    Date – Friday 14th September

    How is it different to a GovCamp event?
    Some of the key differences are:

    • It is a Friday (yes a work day) – the 14th September to be precise – 9.30am – 5pm
    • It will be at Coaver Conference Centre, County Hall, Exeter.
    • It will have some speakers who will be providing a 15 minute inspiration/challenge
    • It will have a delegate contract

    Some more details on the delegate contract
    As a delegate my commitment is to turn up, listen, challenge, participate and take responsibility for my own personal learning and development outcomes and to share my learning openly via the event or other linked website(s).

    Partners / Supporters / Sponsors

    If you would like to provide support then get in touch via the comments – Specifically I’d welcome contributions towards getting additional wifi sorted (ÂŁ800) in return you get your logo on the wifi login screen and I’d also welcome some additional contributions towards lunch and refreshments.

    There isn’t as of yet any informal “night before” or” after event” activities planned, but again if anyone wishes to make some contributions towards those that would be very welcome – again get in touch via comments or direct message me on twitter.

    I’m not planning at this stage to have free gifts,  t-shirts or goodie bags but I’m open to offers if someone wishes to help with this?

    The following organisations are already providing support in various ways – so a BIG thank you to them.