We had a fantastic London LocalGovCamp yesterday. LocalGovCamp is really a series of events across the country - local government unconferences focusing on the use of social media and collaboration in local government (and it's not all techy - lots of it is about rethinking the way local government works and radical efficiency).
For the past year or so we've seen a lot of the same faces at social media- web events. Which is great, it means we're building a fantastic network of idea exchange and support. But at the same time, it can all be a bit insular and sometimes a bit self-congratulatory.
Not so at yesterday's LocalGovCamp - there was a good mix of the usual suspects (who are usual suspects because they are usually bringing something new and good to the table) and some entirely new faces. Tons of great council representation from across the country. There was an absolutely fantastic energy level and a real buzz about using social media as one of the tools across a range of methods to engage with citizens, communicate and support networks of citizens doing it for themselves.
Normally these things are held at the weekend, which can make them feel a bit fringe and a bit stealth. Anke Holst (the main organiser) and I were determined to bring the same feel of these GovCamp conferences to a weekday. First of all, weekend events can exclude many officers with parenting or caring responsibilities and weekend conferences, too can exclude those whose bosses think it's all a bit of lark and won't fund travel to the (free) event. Must be a lark, if you're giving up a Saturday right. And also I wanted to bring a sense that this isn't playtime - this is real work and some of the tools and more importantly the collaborative approaches and the culture of social media - will be what we need as we face some tricky social problems within the context of the tightest fiscal constraints we've seen in a long time. (On the other hand - weekday conferences exclude many councillors - so the next LocalGovCamp in York on 12 June is on a Saturday)
Not that we didn't have fun, too. (See photos here)
As the IDeA's Knowledge Hub team we were very proud to sponsor this event. We think the Knowledge Hub embraces the spirit of what local government is trying to do. The Knowledge Hub is focused on bringing the same spirit of collaboration and the better use of data and information to support improvement. The same skills and approaches that can be used with citizens and local networks are the same ones that local government can use to support sector-driven improvement. Just as councils are facing the squeeze on delivering public services - we'll all be feeling the squeeze in terms of professional and practice development. That's why we're bringing the Knowledge Hub about - to make sure we're able to use information, conversation and collaboration to support improvement in local government.