As suggested by Dan Slee, here are twenty of the things I learned at UKGovCamp. (“We” here refers to GovCamp attenders and fellow-travellers rather than Demsoc).

1. GDS is getting big and getting mainstream. It feels like for the past couple of years we’ve been playing with a cute little puppy called “”, and all of a sudden we’ve noticed it’s got big. It’s still great, but now we’re hastily moving vases out of the way of its swishing tail, and hoping it won’t jump up and lick frail Auntie Joan’s face.

2. There’s more and wider appetite for engagement on open data than I thought there would be – Tim Davies ran a great session thinking about a charter.

3. It occasionally felt that we were shifting from edgy rebels to comfortable clique – maybe that’s a reflection of the fact that so many of us were repeat attenders.

4. We’re closer to getting it right on the infrastructure for democracy than we used to be, but there’s still a long way to go. (More on this later)

5. PCCs are the stealth reform – no-one seems to understand how close they are, and how much potential effect they’ll have. (More on this later, too)

6. I didn’t like the Mike Bracken keynote. Positionally, it felt like “a few words from the Minister”, for all Mike delivered it well and seemed like a nice guy.

7. Paul Clarke’s GP has a rubbish appointment-booking system.

8. I’m still not sure what success looks like for the attempt to get agile methods to replace waterfall in policy development. When will we know we can declare victory?

9. There are more of us, and that might be leading to more specialisation. The hack day didn’t build much – which was fine, there were some great discussions – and maybe there just weren’t as many coders as you’d need to do that.

10. I still think all conferences should be run this way, even though I now occasionally get paid for speaking at the old-fashioned sort.

11. We’ve still not quite worked out how to keep the conversation going between events.

12. I suspect that one of the more forward-thinking local government chief executives would really enjoy the event – and bring expertise into some of the conversations – a handful of targeted invitations next year perhaps?

13. Mark O’Neill and I share a love of Brussels (the city rather than the Daily Mail bogeyman or the vegetable).

14. Bin reminders are surprisingly popular. Don’t see the need for them myself.

15. We’ve still not understood how individual and community work together (from a service design perspective).

16. Nothing like this has ever happened in France, but @versac (whose colleague Claire was there) thought it would be a good idea if it did.

17. Birmingham has a nest of brilliant civic-minded activists, Nick Booth, Simon Whitehouse, Michael Grimes, and many others, who should be loved and cherished by the council much more than they seem to be.

18. Don’t pitch too much & leave yourself no time to participate.

19. You can prepare a presentation with pretty pictures in the time it takes to introduce 230 people to each other.

20. Only one councillor there. A great shame – if we are going to get localism and community action right we need to put the future councillor role at the centre of it (much more on this at some future date).

Thanks again, Dave and Steph, for a great weekend. Thanks too to the people who came along to my sessions and made them such interesting and challenging discussions.

Finally, for people who want that GovCamp buzz and can’t wait till next January, exactly what you’re looking for is right here on the South Coast at CityCamp Brighton, 2-4 March. More details here.


Written by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Simon Whitehouse

    Hi Anthony

    A good set of points and observations. And thank you for 17, that’s very nice of you.

    We have managed to “bag” a chief exec in the West Midlands – Jan Britton from Sandwell has come to a few of our events, including the HyperWM unconference, and was the most prolific social reporter at the Innovation and Efficiency West Midlands conference where Ken Eastwood and Peter Jackson convinced the organisers to throw open the afternoon to an unconference.

    One of the things he brings is the sort of challenge that many of us have been saying we could do with to break down that “comfortable clique” feel.

    As for 11, I think that smaller Teacamps, Brewcamps and the like do go a little way towards maintaining the discussion in between bar camps. Apart from that, well a lot of people spend that time trying to sneak this stuff into their day jobs, I suppose ;0)

    Thanks for the interesting post