What pleased me most about #LocalGovCamp 2015

The thing about the 2015 LocalGovCamp that most pleased me is not something I did, or learnt, while I was there. What I’m most pleased about is who else I got to go along from Bradford.

I was enthused after the 2014 LocalGovCamp in Birmingham. Yet I also knew that as far as Bradford Council was concerned, there were services other than my own that would benefit from being involved with the excellent LocalGov Digital network. There were so many useful conversations to have at LocalGovCamp, and I couldn’t take part in them all alone.

So, when I learnt that this year’s LocalGovCamp would be held in Yorkshire, I was doubly chuffed. Not only would it mean less travelling for me, but I also felt confident I would be able to persuade more people from Bradford to go too.

And they did go. There were seven or eight of us from Bradford Council over the two days, including the fringe event and the main unconference. As well as myself from communications and marketing, staff from electronic services, customer services and revenues and benefits also went.

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Once back at work the following week, I sent an email round the others who had gone from Bradford Council, saying I was planning to blog about it, and asking if they would like to contribute.  This is what three of my colleagues had to say after attending LocalGovCamp:

Helen, from IT services:

It’s good to meet up with people from other organisations who are working in the same area and facing the same challenges. This helps you to bounce ideas off someone else/realise you aren’t alone/possibly not waste time reinventing the wheel. It’s good to look outside our council, to what other people are doing.

I think we owe it to our citizens to make sure we keep up with innovation and changes within the sector and that we don’t get left behind.

It’s difficult to keep the enthusiasm and momentum going though, when you get back to your desk and you have the same old urgent issues to deal with. We need more culture change, and I’m not sure how we effect that.

Keith, from IT services:

First define the business problem not the solution. Are we asking the right question?
Find out more re James Naismith
Promoting the agile approach to service design.
Collaboration and sharing are key to making the change happen.

Tony, from customer services:

In hindsight I would have liked to attend the whole weekend, I picked up a few of the tweets from later on and it looked really interesting, so my appetite has been wetted for future events!

From the actual session I attended I enjoyed the focus on the service users’ experiences and it struck me how we are still bemoaning the ‘silo mentality’ in local authorities after so many years listening to so many CEO’s promising its demise. The same issue was highlighted again when we were tasked with turning a problem around and looking at how we would promote our message to the public, through a hypothetical exercise in public health, looking at the promotion of breast feeding we managed to crash into and be confronted by the absurdity of a great many of the old standbys of public communication. The ‘setting up a website’ approach got shot to pieces, as did some basic assumptions that ‘we’ know what the public want and need. How do we know? Have we really asked people through the communication channels they use or have we set up a ‘focus’ group’ and decided what we are going to do on the basis of six people’s opinions?

It wasn’t just the presence at LocalGovCamp of other staff from Bradford Council that pleased me. There are a number of local people who have valuable skills and ideas to contribute to our digital future. One of those, Simon Wilson, came to both the fringe event and the unconference.  Our session at the democracy makers fringe event, designing something for digestible democracy, wouldn’t have turned out how it did without Simon’s input, and indeed his willingness to lead the session.

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As for my own contribution to the LocalGovCamp 2015 unconference, well I had been tempted to pitch a similar session as I pitched at Commscamp back in July, about the growing potential for video. But I didn’t, and almost decided not to pitch a session at all this time. However, in response to SharePoint being the butt of a joke during the introduction to the day, I decided to pitch a session provocatively titled “What’s wrong with SharePoint?”

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It was a genuine question. Bradford Council’s new intranet runs on SharePoint, so I was interested to know why some people hold it in such low regard. No SharePoint haters dared to come and answer the question at my session, however those of us that were there had a really productive chat about intranets.

And that link brings me round to something else I realised at LocalGovCamp – just how useful Google Docs can be. Each session had a collaborative Google Doc that delegates could contribute to in real time. So simple, yet so effective.

I’m now looking forward to the next #NotWestminster event, in Huddersfield in February 2016, working on ways to make democracy work better for all.  I’m hoping that, once again, several people from Bradford will be interested in attending, including some of Bradford Council’s elected members.

As a final thought, I had often looked up at the Riverside West building from the train line in Leeds. But I had never realised what a great view existed looking back down the other way.

All photos in this blog post were taken by Nigel Bishop.

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albfreeman

I am a digital communications and marketing officer for Bradford Council and a musician.

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