ukgovcamp: lessons for comms and why we are sponsoring

It's UK Govcamp this week and we're helping to sponsor. Here's why.

by Dan Slee

It's the week of UK Govcamp a glorious kind of Glastonbury for government geeks.

It's what?

A couple of hundred people give up their own time and head to London to debate, discuss and share ideas.

It was founded in 2007 by a handful of central government people hamstrung by old ways of working.

They'll tell you the aim is to see how technology can be used to innovate in the public sector.

They're wrong.

That's not the aim at all.

What actually happens is that you end up talking and hearing ideas from coders, geeks, policy people, comms people, open data enthusiasts, civil servants, NHS people and local government people. It's also a self-help group for those ploughing a lone furrow in their own organisation.

Your horizons expand and you can become a bit tipsy on the possibilities.

How does it do this?

It's run on open space unconference principles. You leave your job title at the door. The agenda gets decided on the day by those who attend. It's gloriously liberating chipping into a discussion on equal terms with everyone else in the room.

However, there should be a health warning attached to events like these. When you go your horizons expand putting up with 9 to 5 silliness gets harder.

A third of the 28 local government people who attended localgovcamp in 2009 are now running their own businesses their horizons expanded beyond the day job.

Looking back, it was unconferences that fired the starting pistol on what me and my colleague Darren do now.

Everything that we do indirectly comes from that green light we took away from unconferences.

That's why we're really pleased to be one of the sponsors of UK Govcamp this year.

Credit to the organising team who have picked up the baton from the early pioneers Jeremy Gould, Steph Gray and Dave Briggs.

If you have a ticket, well done.

If you haven't follow the #ukgc15 stream on Saturday January 24.

If there was a wish for the 2015 UKGovcamp it is for central government people to not think digital innovation was for GDS to do, for GDS not to think that digital innovation was just for them and for local government people to carry on swimming against the tide no matter how hard it is.

So what has this got to do with comms? Because doing better things on the internet is comms. And ideas and inspiration should be soaked up from everywhere. You'd be amazed what you'll learn.

Central government has done some great things with communications and PR in recent years. But this has been done by tapping into the expertise of people on the ground. That's brilliant to see. But it's no excuse for sitting back and letting others do it.

I've never been more convinced that a fleet-footed ability to learn is vital to be a comms person no matter where you work.

Dan Slee is co-creator of comms2point0.