We attended LocalGovCamp 2015 (LGC) last month. For those that don’t know, LGC is an annual self-organised unconference for those working in or for local government. The attendees are able to share knowledge and learn from each other's experiences, much like open source communities do. It followed the approach of Open Space Technology which resulted in a lot of varied topics being covered.
Day 1 - Maker’s Day
The event was split across two days. The first day was a “maker’s day” (a kind of hack day) to think about how we could improve local government. The aim wasn’t to explicitly implement an idea, but to explore and learn, hear what people were thinking about, and how they’d approach the problems raised. We could then take what we had learnt and develop it further either at other maker’s days, in our spare time, or as part of our jobs.
Guerrilla research to find what #voterinfo would help people make up their minds https://t.co/2MEdNAJBL6#LDMaker15pic.twitter.com/FtIDaYMRGv
— Matt Edgar (@mattedgar) September 11, 2015
The attendees split into several groups, discussing things from how to record the votes of local councillors to getting onto the streets to carry out some guerilla research by talking to citizens about their engagement with local politics.
I was involved in a group that was discussing how to organise hustings for local elections; hustings tend to be very common for national elections but not at all for local councillors. We discussed how a husting pack could be produced to allow people to self-organise a hustings as well as a directory site for users to find out about local hustings or register their own if one wasn’t being run. This could all happen during a national “Hustings Week”.
In the last few hours of the day we began building a clickable prototype, which was completed just in time for the final presentation (though it wasn’t too pretty).
Day 2 - Unconference Day
The second day was the main unconference day; attendees got to pitch to everyone about a session they wanted to run. It was great to hear so many people pitching workshops, discussion groups and a bit of fun too; there was a lot of passion in the room.
The day was a great learning experience, hearing about the challenges that councils have in serving their citizens as well as hearing some challenges to common misconceptions around digital implementations and usability.
Just drawn this pyramid of user need talking about digital by design #localgovcamp#servicedesignpic.twitter.com/DAd5Hde7gO
— sarahlay (@sarahlay) September 12, 2015
I heard from Sarah how online services should be used to serve universal needs and we need to provide human support for high needs; also how a replacing a paper form that is 10 pages with one that is 15 isn’t a bad thing if it means the old form now takes 1 hour to complete instead of 2.
As well as learning, we helped inform. We ran two of the sessions that day. The Dream Government Platform and an Open Source Lego Workshop.
The Dream Government Platform
Inspired by Scrum retrospective, we wanted attendees to identify what about current digital software in government makes them mad, sad and glad. We spoke about how we could solve the problems and reinforce the positives.
What was clear is that many of the challenges are shared across different organisations, agencies and boroughs but there just doesn’t seem to be enough collaboration, nor the share infrastructure to work with.
We introduced the concept of CWP, how this had solved many of the problems and allowed for ongoing cost savings as well as a focus on solving organisational needs, rather than solving the same shared needs repeatedly.
Open Source Lego
As the day came to a close, we pulled out our open source lego workshop to highlight the power of open source communities and knowledge sharing.
We split into 3 types of group: Community, Open and Silo. The community table represented the core contributors and community around the product, they know about how to build Lego cars and are experts at it. Open tables were organisations wanting to use the tools provided and were willing to engage with the Community to learn and share back knowledge. Silo tables were a bit reclusive, they wanted to use the tools supplied too, but they weren’t sharing their knowledge, nor were they interested in hearing what the Community had to offer.
Luckily for the Silo, they had the resident lego expert on their table and comfortably won! No problem here though, what we can learn is that the Silo table would provide excellent knowledge to the community and open tables, had they been engaging; they would improve the experience for everyone if they just took the time to participate in the community.
Not only can we learn great deals from the community, but by sharing your expertise and knowledge with them too. The impact can touch so many more people’s everyday lives.
Overall we had a fantastic time at LocalGovCamp. Thanks go to all the attendees as well as the event organisers who made us feel so welcome. If you’re interested in how SilverStripe can help local government organisations, visit our page all about public sector solutions.
Check out more of the blogs written by attendees.
Image credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wnbishop/
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