UKGovCamp18 – You had me at un-conference!
Our Marketing Manager Emina reflects on her first ever UKGovCamp.
As someone who relishes in unruliness and is passionate about digital and public sector, UKGovCamp seemed a brilliant way of spending a Saturday! It didn’t disappoint!
Here are the four sessions I managed to attend and one I got to facilitate (hence the somewhat embarrassing pitch action pic above!) with a fellow UKGovCamper in need of a dose of positivity.
Action vs atmospherics: What makes change happen?’
Clare Moriarty really struck a chord with her session on “How to make change actually happen.”
I’ve been to numerous conferences and we always talk about change. Moving away from the low-hanging fruit of digital transformation…. lack of leadership… cultural change being a pre-requisite…. at every event, the narrative seems to be the same. We might be close to change, and we are certainly discussing it, but the change has not yet happened. Why?
The session sparked a discussion about how we can actually get things done, making government open by design and in operation. One of the main challenges is bringing the decision makers to events such as UKGovCamp. There were a lot of people there who felt they have the power to make change happen but not many of them were Civil Sector Leaders. The unconference model seems to still need a bit of buy-in from the top.
What intrigued me the most about Clare’s session was her novel approach to answering the question of change. Maybe for change to happen we need to move away from actionable – ticking of the list – exercises, we all tend to fall into. Maybe change is atmospheric. As someone who has worked around the Theory of Change model previously, this new idea was exciting. What if all that careful planning isn’t really what drives change? What if it’s something more nebulous? Something yet unknown?
As with any new model there was nothing really to be discovered online about it. My attempts to google ‘atmospheric change’ came up with mostly climate change results (not that this is not important!). Guess we will just need to wait and see how it develops. My hope is that the One Team Government initiative, which brings together people in policy and design, might come up with some answers.
Content quality on the Digital Marketplace
Unsurprisingly my second session of the day was procurement related. I was really hoping Harry Metcalfe, MD at dxw, would take the floor to discuss the findings of his recent Digital Outcomes and Specialists research – and he did! The audit showed that suppliers often fail to understand what is required from notices on the Digital Marketplace.
This is something we at Advice Cloud have heard before from our clients, and I was really glad to have some research to back it up. Harry kicked of the session with the findings and gave us some really good examples of where things went wrong. The aim here was not to bash the government! As Harry put it: let’s not make it a moan-fest about procurement. It was led as an honest discussion of the challenges buyers face when writing tenders and geared up towards finding solutions.
I was glad to see quite a few buyers present, all open to new ideas and very much aware of the need to make DOS work better for both them and suppliers. The three proposed solutions to making this happen were:
- Actively provide help to buying teams
- Review opportunities before publication
- Establish measures for opportunity, bid and outcome quality
The beauty of GovCamp is that the discussion and actions don’t end after the sessions. And, this is a prime example. I had a chat with Harry after the session and both dxw and Advice Cloud are very keen on tackling the issue. We are hoping to get something out jointly in the coming months!
Better Public Services using Open Data
Open data has been one of my passions for a long time. Back when I worked for Community Organisers and ran the Digital course it had a whole lesson of its own. I used to spend hours on end preaching the importance of open data in government – for innovation and change! The Better Public Services using Open Data session seemed an obvious choice.
The session was run by ODI Consultant Therese Karger-Lerchl and features a few inspiring examples of open data projects. Three of the ones I found interesting were:
- The Ordinance Survey – The oldie but goodie. The Survey has helped numerous public sector departments use geospatial data to inform their decision making as well as businesses gain competitive advantages.
- The Lidar Data – Now this is some complicated but useful stuff. Recently made public by the Environment Agency, Airborne LIDAR (light detection and ranging) uses a laser light from an aeroplane to measure the height of the ground, buildings and other features. This data can then be used for a range of public service improvement such as accessing flood risks, installing wireless broadband masts more efficiently and assessing the impact and suitability of landscape for construction.
- Open benches – my personal fav. This project is crowd sourcing data on memorial benches, designed by as he puts it “the digital troublemaker” and Open Standards Lead from GDS Terence Eden. Not only is this project a great example of successfully crowdsourcing data but also tugs at my heart strings. The project is making me think more about the memories the benches are trying to celebrate and it’s a reminder of the connectivity we all have to each other.
One of the questions that arose from the session was also “how do we make the case for open data?” Despite all the talk about the power of data, showing ROI in open data is still not easy. One of the learnings from this session was that open data advocates need to show how publishing data doesn’t need to mean additional costs in the short term and has the power to improve services in the long term. One of the solutions proposed is to simply share stories of where it worked and emphasises that cost of licencing will cover the cost of publishing.
How can we share the positive stories?
I couldn’t help myself: I pitched a session. You get carried away with the passion in that room! I wanted to know how we can help the public sector share the positive stories of digital transformation. I was paired with another UKGovCamp-er who had a similar idea and wanted to talk about framing the public sector in a positive light, in a time when, lets be honest, they get a lot of negative press and backlash.
This turned out to be one of my favourite sessions. Not because it was my pitch. Actually, we spent most of the time discussing very personal reflections brought in by the attendees. My aim was to talk specifically about digital transformation but the session, in true un-conference style, detoured to focus on the humanity of public sector. And, it was better for it!
What I got from it is a sense of understanding the public sector better, and a reminder that we are after all talking about people here. It is not easy to be a public servant these days. With Brexit around the corner and very strong political views being voiced, it is extremely hard to fulfil the role. Particularly when it comes to being apolitical and impartial. Sitting there listening to a group of passionate people talk about the challenges they face on a daily basis while having to explain themselves to others, made me feel humbled.
I wanted to get insight that would allow me to help our suppliers share the wonderful stories of public sector work. The more risk-averse public sector bodies often fear that case studies and stories might be taken as favouritism. If the positive stories are to come out, we all need to understand the environment these people are working in. Rather than huffing and puffing about the Communications Office’s reluctance to approve our case study, maybe the answer, as suggested at the session, is to work with them to write something that is a common narrative. We should certainly focus more on the outcome rather then the service and think about not naming the department. There is nothing wrong with just saying “a large government department,” as pointed out by one of the participants.
Coming back from UKGovCamp I tried to summarise my experience in a tweet. Seems appropriate to finish this blog with that.