I Went To GovCamp Cymru And..

… All I Got Was This Awesome T-Shirt, A Brain Full Of Ideas And A Bunch Of New Contacts.

This was the first GovCamp Cymru for me, despite following along from afar previously.

For those who don’t know what a GovCamp is, it’s an event also known as an unconference. The focus is on innovating in and thinking differently about public services. Attendees lead the programme — there’s no agenda until the start of the day when people make suggestions for what they’d like to talk about. You can read more about it here.

Here are some quick thoughts from the day.

  1. Definitely no shortage of interesting pitches. Felt genuinely torn on which sessions to attend at times. Major FOMO.
  2. It makes an awful lot of sense for organisations to start publishing Open Data — but there’s a lot of fear about what it could possibly ‘expose’ or how people might use it for dubious means. So perhaps we need to publish the really boring innocuous stuff first. The dullest most mundane data we’ve got to build the capability and prove the world won’t implode. Never mind #OpenData, Viva #DullData! (all credit to @TaffTails who coined the term)
  3. The Well-Being And Future Generations Act popped up.. a lot. Definitely something on the collective consciousness of many. Opinion seemed divided on whether it’s a groundbreaking forward thinking piece of legislation or a stick to beat people with. Maybe it’s both! 🙂
  4. No matter what the department or sector, most people are battling the same things. Restrictive working practices, big expensive inflexible IT, silos, duplication of effort, inertia, fear of failure, allergy to even very minor risk, lack of experimentation.. the list goes on. The good news is, there’s lots of scope for improvement that’s applicable everyone.
  5. The people who show up to these events in their own time are generally A) passionate about making things better and B) delighted to talk and share experiences.
  6. Most of the sessions I went to were proposing quite broad conceptual ideas which uncovered further questions , but didn’t provide any immediate answers. Proof (I think) that the smaller more regular Bara Brith Camps are super useful for people who are interested in developing the tools to discover those answers and do something with them.
  7. User Centered Service Design & User Needs seem to be more widely understood concepts. Now, how do we actually start using them? Whispers of a Welsh Government Digital Service continue.
  8. Spotted a broad trend for putting humanity back into systems and processes.
  9. Getting to talk in person with someone you’ve been conversing on Twitter with for ages is brilliant. A bit like catching up with an old friend. I also left with some interesting new people to follow.
  10. As Mark Braggins pointed out — events like these are invaluable if you feel like you are the lone insurgent in your organisation. Building networks of fellow change makers can help develop the tools to affect change in your own backyard.
  11. It strikes me that being an innovator is a bit of a balancing act. Be a maverick, but not so much you alienate yourself. Work with the system to change it, but not so much you become a part of it.
  12. Some ideas (and possibly the people driving them) need to be distinctly apolitical to gain wider support.
  13. Digital is the answer to many current & future challenges, but the thing we urgently need to start hacking are the ways in which we choose to organise ourselves. We need more transparency, more autonomy, less silos and less egos to really and truly set digital free.
  14. Distinct lack of big wigs and decision makers. This feels like a missed opportunity. If you want to speak to people who are passionate about improving public services in Wales and have a unique insight into how that could happen, you should be here.
  15. The challenge for GovCamp Cymru (and all unconferences generally) — How can we demonstrate that things have changed due to discussions initially sparked in the Pier Head building on the 24th of September?

HUGE thanks to the organisers, volunteers and sponsors. Without which FREE inclusive unconferences like this couldn’t happen.


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