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 ūüôā

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 РFriday 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 (¬£800) 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.

Reflecting on my first month at Public-i

At the start of March this year, I began my part-time employment with Public-i, the details of which I shared here.

So over a month later…what are my thoughts!

First and foremost the Public-i I team are a great bunch of people, they are all passionate about what they do and are very focused. They are all easy to get along with and all have very interesting things to say on a variety of topics. Even if I wasn’t working for them the people are the type of people I’d want to connect with. So if nothing else I’ve made some great contacts and had some great conversations which will no doubt continue in various places.

It wasn’t the major culture shock I perhaps had anticipated but it was still a pretty in-depth learning curve, which has made the first month a very tiring but fulfilling experience. ¬†I think I underestimated how tired it would make me feel, but a good tired. I’ve had a lot to think about and if it wasn’t for the four plus hour train journeys to Brighton and back I’d wonder how I’d find the time to process all of the information, although I’m spending more time reading and checking things via my iPad and laptop then I previously did as I also have a number of voluntary positions that I still need to maintain on top of these paid positions.

So my role at Public-i is Product Manager for the Citizenscape product and this entails championing the product, defining the purpose, signing off development, designs and being clear about the overall vision and direction.

If I’m honest, I probably only do about a fraction of that at the moment and my initial focus has been on being clear in my mind as to what the purpose, proposition and vision is for the Citizenscape product. I’m not 100% there on that either yet as my thoughts are evolving the more I get into deeper conversations with people but I am becoming clear on what I think are the key underlying features of the product (more on this at a later stage).

In my previous post I referred to the issue around whether some of the free tools that exist to help aggregate content are in direct competition with the Citizenscape product. Well I think I can answer that question now…No they aren’t…So my personal opinion is that if a council wants a “free” tool to simply listen to some social media channels then do it, use those products, in fact I think they are very good at that and I’d certainly recommend addictomatic as a really usable platform. ¬†This level (listening) is really quite a simple step, although finding and knowing your social media landscape is another matter and one which is likely to involve a social media audit of some kind.

The Citizenscape product isn’t really about listening, although it does do it, it is about a wider set of features (travelling content, interaction, participation, statistics and connecting people and networks) which in my opinion set it aside from the free tools. The challenge of course is in making sure the design, interaction and usability all come together to provide a product people will buy.

Aside from the Product Manager position it has been great learning more about what Public-i do and how they approach things. I perhaps didn’t appreciate the importance of the Public-i User Group¬†in shaping developments, not just technical developments but also developments within the sector itself.

What I’ve learnt about myself

I need to give myself more time overall to reflect on things that are happening around me. In a work context I need to give myself time to think and make sure that what i am doing is right, fits with a vision and makes progress.

I need to be more organised, I’m trying to work out how I can manage my calendars for all the things I do without them all being loaded with the same information…It simply isn’t appropriate…I’m trying some things out, and only time will tell.

I should have more awareness of the skills and value I can bring to situations. I really need to complete the Business Model for myself to help me with this.

I really love what I’m doing but maybe I need to focus on one thing and do it really well instead of spreading myself so thinly…Sometimes I think I am actually being counter productive by only dedicating a proportion of my time.

I do actually trust those people around me to help fill the gaps, although I need to be more explicit with people in relation to the help I actually need. (I’m unaware that mind reading is a universal skill yet).

I actually set very high expectations of myself and I get frustrated when I’m not meeting them, this is an internal process but is something that I need to work through

I could work at a higher level than I am now if I simply believed in myself more.

I’m was never fond of train journeys but they do create time for thinking, especially if you have music or audio books to help you gather your thoughts.

Clarity of vision and pragmatic in delivery is a very useful tactic.

What hasn’t worked so well.

I’ve not been very good at reducing my work load at the council so the first month has a been a challenge, this is more my fault and my responsibility – it isn’t possible to try to fit 5 days work into 3 days (obviously), so I actually have to stop doing some things and hand them over to my team.

Managing my time has been a struggle…I’ve now started booking time in my calendar simply to get work done as my diary fills up very quickly now that I’m 3 days a week. However I also need to question whether my attendance at meetings is actually required and whether I would actually add value to the discussion.

Both jobs are very interesting but I don’t know if splitting my time is going to be practical long-term, this also includes some of the voluntary work I’m doing…I think i need to rethink my use of time and ensure that I maintain a healthy balance…but it is early days and I need to make adjustments which may well resolve some of these early challenges.


I don’t regret taking this opportunity, it is already proving valuable to me in a variety of ways. I need to give the whole thing more time to settle down.

Working with @curiousc and Co @Public_i

I’m very excited to announce that from the end of this month (w/b 27th February 2012) I will be working 2 days a week for a fixed period of 6 months with the lovely folks at Public i as the Citizenscape product manager.

Why am I doing this?

Well that is a good question, I didn’t need to look for additional work, nor was I actively seeking to leave the council, in fact I’m very happy working at the council and we have lots of work to do and push forward as well as some of the additional things that I’m trying to push forward with Sarah Lay like the new Content Strategy Community, all of that will still happen as I’m not working alone and have lots of amazing people to work with to help make these things happen.

But I see this as an opportunity to experience a different culture, different ethos and working with people who are trying to solve a problem I care deeply about – the impact and opportunity of social technologies on democracy.

I’m already doing lots of things in my spare time so volunteering wasn’t ever an option here and I do love working on a variety of topics which are actually at their core linked around a set of common issues: ¬†empowerment, engagement, social capital, participation and of course “digitalness”.

What will I be doing?

First and foremost I’ll be working with the development team and the rest of the good folk at Public I on helping them improve the overall user experience and focus of the Citizenscape product.

I’ll be providing constructive disruption and challenge and hopefully help make it a solution which helps the democratic process evolve. ¬†Obviously 2 days a week is limiting so it will be a challenge but one that will also be a great learning curve for me as well.

The CitizenScape pages  state a set of assumptions which I feel are a good starting point to focus my thinking around the product Рare these assumptions still correct for example.

The assumptions behind Citizenscape are simple:

Council’s should not be building social networking sites themselves – there is already a lot of activity online. Local Authorities need to connect to that rather than starting from scratch

You need tools that reach out and exist on the sites that people are already visiting – not waste your time trying to get them to visit you

The social web encourages co-creation and participation – this makes it the right place to start to engage people in democratic debate

On the whole they are still valid..but how does this actually translate into real life…

It is important for me to state up front that the product doesn’t quite work yet, I mean it does work technically, but in terms of the real opportunities I think it has some way to go.

The current version does make me think whether or not I could achieve perhaps 70-80% of the output within some free products like pageflakes or netvibes…that isn’t to say the¬†existing¬†product is poorly made or¬†developed¬†because¬†it isn’t but the challenge is trying to build or create something that is actually still hard to articulate and explain even with the assumptions listed above.

In addition to that another challenge will be to either accept that aspects can be replicated on free platforms and move onto understanding the real value of the remaining 20-30% or increasing the¬†opportunity¬†of the whole product. ¬†I’m not sure what the answer is yet but that is something I’m looking forward to working on over the coming months – whatever the answer, it has to be sustainable.

Will I succeed?

Who knows, I’m lucky to have such an opportunity and to be able to explore this in such a “low risk” environment…I won’t know until I try, It may not work out, or it may work really well…

I want to thank Catherine Howe for allowing me this opportunity to start with and for believing in me enough to allow me to temporarily adopt one of her projects and help steer it forward…that in itself is an honour and a privilege.

All I know is that along the way I’ll be learning, sharing my thoughts and thinking here on my blog.

Its always been about collaboration

A collection of thoughts went through my mind when I scanned this presentation on slideshare…

My first set of thoughts focused on a set of products and or tools, two  in particular popped into my mind:

NB: There are other tools and products available, but these were two which were on my mind at the time of thinking.

Both tools clearly have a primary focus, but in the context of progressing towards Collaborative Enterprises, which is moving beyond Social Business. They have a common purpose – provide tools which equip the organisation with components to progress towards being a Collaborative Enterprise.

My second set of thoughts were about how the skills of collaboration are fostered in society.  My children who are aged 6 and 4 and both in school are always talking about how they worked with their friends or other classes (or even other schools) to deliver a class project.

So collaboration is an essential part of education and learning – that isn’t really news, but it is interesting because when you arrive in work, in most cases, your collaboration opportunities are reduced and you are restricted to poor channels of collaboration and are even forced into particular processes which do not resemble anything you have previously encountered.

My third set of thoughts were about how the progress made on all things social is merely a short-term distraction on our way toward Collaborative Enterprises.

In my experience within Local Government, the word “Social” is often counter productive and I have always preferred the term Business networking instead of social networking – semantics, I know, but it is important. However what we really need to get right is how the collaborative processes of the organisation are either supporting of hindering progress with social tools, that will be the best place to start if you wish to change your organisation.

The word “social” is over used in a lot of terms now and I’m not personally convinced that everyone using it, understands what the implications and impact is – it is also complicated by terms like social business, as this could sound similar to social enterprise, in terms of meaning but this is a completely different context.

My final set of thoughts were about how the presentation misses one key component that I believe any collaborative enterprise will possess and understand and that is Gamification. There are huge opportunities to bring together the skills and approaches of games into the design and architectures of organisations to create truly Collaborative Enterprises.  This is still a new area of thinking for me, but it is something I want to explore more of in the coming months and years.