Reflections on #localgovcamp 2016

As I have now come to expect, this year’s LocalGovCamp was brim full of opportunities to learn and share. Here are a few of my reflections after the event.

I decided not to pitch a session this time. I have led sessions at the past few unconferences I’ve been to, but this time I wanted the flexibility that comes with not being committed to any particular room at a particular time. Plus Commscamp is just a month away and I can pitch my session ideas there.

Data maturity models

The first session I went to was Ben Proctor’s session on data maturity models. I went to this one because:

  1. I didn’t know what Ben meant by data maturity models
  2. I felt I should know what Ben meant by data maturity models

We were a small group in this session, but I felt it was productive. I learnt a lot from Ben, Esko Reinikainen and Lucy Knight, who summarised the session in a Google Doc.

I knew what data was but, as I admitted in the session, I didn’t fully understand how, when and why the word should be used.

It sometimes feels to me that data is the longest short word in the English language. A writer or speaker can convey an impression of authority simply by using the word data instead of softer words like information or statistics.

What I now understand is that data, in its truest form, is real, valid and of sound quality, and is used as evidence to inform reasoned decisions. Why has nobody told me that before? Perhaps because I hadn’t felt comfortable enough to ask what might be perceived as a naive question.

And with data maturity comes an understanding of how valuable data is, how it should be used, and how it can be presented.

For example, data presented in the form of a dial on a live dashboard is more useful than data sitting in a spreadsheet. And data sets that are linked and analysed together can be more valuable than a dataset analysed in isolation.

There is more to it than that (see the above Google doc) but they were my key learning points. From a personal perspective, my objective in attending that session was well and truly met.

Satori – personal reflection

Esko’s ‘satori’ session took me on a journey I wasn’t anticipating at the start of the day. Satori, we learnt, is a Japanese word meaning the moment at which you see your true nature. I knew I was in the right session as soon as Esko said that.

Esko began with the diagram you can see at the top of this post. The purpose of this was to illustrate that our personal potential is often stifled by our job description and the organisation we work for.

Inspired by Da Vinci’s 100 questions technique, Esko asked us to write down a short list of questions that were meaningful and pertinent to both ourselves and our working lives.

There then followed a discussion in which those of us willing to do so opened up some of our questions to the group. I won’t share what we talked about here, but it was amazingly refreshing how honest people were with their questions and also how we all responded to each other.

Sessions I missed

It is inevitable at an uconference that there will be sessions I wished I had been able to attend. This time, I would have liked to be at the session is about making local elections better, underused public space, the death of the Council newsletter, the waste standards, “dark value”, and the session on localism / increasing the talent pool. Thankfully, there are Google Docs summaries for some of these to catch up with.

The non-session bits

As ever, some of the most productive conversations to place in the courtyard between sessions. My one regret is not saying hello to more people, but that is mostly because I was already having so many useful conversations. Not a bad problem to have. Thanks to Esko, Lizzie Standing, Sharon Dale, Phil Rumens, Dyfrig Williams, Alison Hook, Ian Graham and several others for some good chats.

The next steps

So that the experience of the 2016 LocalGovCamp is not lost once I have remembered just how much I have to do at work when I get back there tomorrow, here are several things I promise myself I will do:

  1. Think more about data I have access to and how we can benefit from it
  2. Write more self reflection questions, think about them and discuss them
  3. Read blog posts and session notes from sessions I didn’t attend
  4. Share the above with colleagues
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Vine and Instagram videos in local government

I had wanted to experiment with Vine and Instagram videos for a while. I wanted to see if they could be an effective way of engaging people with local government and promoting council services. The need to promote the Bradford Council app was an ideal time to try.

I chose to highlight just one feature of the app – the alert which reminds people of their bin collections. It only takes a few seconds to say how the app can help people remember their bin day, so short form videos seemed a good option. Here are our two creations, first on Instagram and then on Vine:

Never forget your bin day – download the Bradford Council app. #localgov #app

A post shared by Bradford Council (@bradfordmdc) on

Although Bradford Council doesn’t currently have many followers on Vine or Instagram, my hope is that people will appreciate these videos and will share them via Twitter and Facebook respectively, where we have a greater chance of reaching our customers. Continue reading Vine and Instagram videos in local government

Videos to help with Council benefits

Customers who receive Bradford Council benefits often contact us with questions about notification letters. As well as FAQs (which included both text and images), this year we have also made two videos.

These videos replicate, as far as possible, the experience of a customer service advisor talking through a benefit notification.

I wrote the scripts together with face-to-face staff, who knew the types of queries they got and how best to answer them. While writing the scripts, a colleague showed me an online video bill for her digital TV subscription. This both confirmed that we were onto a good idea, and also amazed me.

Continue reading Videos to help with Council benefits