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

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: Continue reading What pleased me most about #LocalGovCamp 2015

Yorkshire LocalGov Camp

I recently went to my first LocalGov Camp, and came away enthused. I had arrived enthused as well to be fair, but that’s not the point.  The point is that my enthusiasm has meant I have somehow talked myself into taking the lead on organising a regional event in Yorkshire – a local LocalGov Camp for local people.

The idea began during a Twitter conversation with Phil Rumens about how LocalGov Digital can reach out to councils who are working with beta websites.  One of Phil’s suggestions was to have a regional LocalGov Digital meet-up, something he is already planning in his own neck of the woods.  I particularly like this thought from Phil about the reasons for holding a localised event:

Are you local?

I already have enough people interested (after the above Twitter conversation) to feel sure that a Yorkshire LocalGov Camp is good idea, and we are probably looking at late autumn.   Because of the timing, one thing we might choose to discuss is winter weather.  Maybe we might want to work towards coordinated gritting communications, like they do with #wmgrit in the West Midlands.

I don’t want to plant too many ideas in your mind, as if you are interested in attending, I want your thoughts to be unhindered by my own suggestions – start with a blank canvas, and think about what you think we could achieve.

Continue reading Yorkshire LocalGov Camp