On Saturday 27th of September 2014 Cardiff played host to the first ever GovCamp in Wales.
Govcamp, already a regular event in other parts of the UK, is an ‘unconference’ where participants set the agenda, host discussions, share their expertise and work on identifying and solving problems in Government.
The predominant, but not single, focus of GovCamp Cymru was about how to bridge the gap between Government and citizens. There were additional conversations about specific ways to improve current practises, most notably ‘How do we stop March Madness?’ and ‘Should there be a Welsh version of GDS?’ – it is a testament to the success of the event that these questions were not only discussed but solutions agreed upon. Answers: forward planning and yes.
I pitched ‘open policymaking in public services’ using the project NHS Citizen (which you can read more about here), which Demsoc works on alongside Involve, Public-i, and the Tavistock Institute, as an example, asking participants what their knowledge and experience of open policymaking has been, how it can be done better, where they would like to see it adopted and what are some of the major risks.
We discussed the seeding of positive deviants throughout the civil service, finding those individuals who see the benefit of full citizen participation in the creation of policy and helping to spread that culture change throughout reticent institutions. Politicians are often much more worried about a perceived relinquishing of control to the public than those civil servants who are currently trying to make policies that are unsuitable to, or disliked by, the public work in practice.
We also discussed some of the current examples of open policymaking across the world that are having success, particularly focusing on Scandinavian nations, which seem to participants to be well ahead of the UK on this. A discussion then emerged about whether suitability for open policymaking is due to a nation’s size and if this were true then Wales is in a great position to start moving forward with projects – like current discussions around creating an Icelandic style crowd-sourced constitution – and developments on open policymaking at Local Government level, such as Monmouthshire county Council.
The event was fantastically put together and a total success for Satori Lab, as well as to every person who pitched an idea, got involved in the discussions and was generally brilliant, enthusiastic and energetic about changing Government.
As ever, the conversations didn’t stop at the event and some of the most interesting discussions and ideas were happening over the top of pint glasses.
For my part I floated an idea we have been talking over at Demsoc for a few weeks, of creating a Democracy festival, part Hay Festival and part Almedalen Week, where we can ‘take over’ a town or village and build on the nation-wide energy and democratic excitement that has bubbled up during the Scottish Independent Referendum. I’m glad to say that the reaction was incredibly encouraging and I am looking forward to picking up those conversations in the coming weeks to see what’s possible.
We’ll be keeping you updated on the blog as we work towards creating something tangible, but please get in touch if you, or the organisation you work for, would be interested in being part of that conversation.