Especially when you’re hungrily sat work at 9 o’clock at night and could really murder a slice of Victoria sponge.
Last night I followed Brewcamp’s first outing to Coventry, this time organised by Kate Sahota and Karen Ramsey-Smith.
It’s a few like minded local government people in the West Midlands who want to innovate, share ideas and learn things. We speak nicely to a cafe or bar owner who has wifi to set aside some space for free, set a date, set-up an eventbrite for tickets and then come up with a few topics people want to talk about.
Looking down the list of attendees for the Coventry event the name of Sandwell Council chief executive Jan Britton stood out.
Jan has already carved something of a reputation with his blog. It’s accessible to members of the public as well as staff. It’s a great thing and you can see it here.
Unconferences like Brewcamp are great for sharing ideas and learning things. They’re informal and, heck, they make work fun. You don’t have to be an expert. You just need to turn up.
A running undercurrent debate at them is often that ‘this is great but how do we get the suits here?’
In other words, how do you get senior management?
Three things have made me think this brilliant approach is dangerously close towards making a breakthrough to the mainstream.
First, to have a first local government chief executive like Jan Britton to attend one of them is actually pretty significant. Let’s stop and think. He’s a talented man. He’s also busy. By actually coming to an unconference he’s opened up the door for others in his organisation.
And in other people’s organisations.
Second reason? The media are starting to take notice. Sarah Hartley at The Guardian ran an excellent piece on her time at localgovcamp in Birmingham. The LGC ran a two page spread on what makes things like localgovcamp work. They put some of it up online to non-subscribers. Hats off to it for covering it.
As Ken Eastwood, an assistant executive director at Barnsley, wrote of those who attended:
“In many cases they are frustrated by their lack of influence and by local government’s resistance to change and bottom up innovation. It seems clear to me that this needs to change. We need to be more agile, more adaptive and better able to encourage and nurture grass-roots, low cost creativity.”
A third reason? It’s clear also that the traditional events sector has woken up to the creative side of unconferences too. The PSCF event in Glasgow will have an informal side to it in the afternoon with masterclasses.
The SOLACE conference in October, for senior officers, will also incorporate an element of unconference creativity too.
In local government in 2011 it’s clear we need to innovate and encourage new ideas. It’s not if but how.
As the excellent Nick Hill from PCSF says, mainstream is essential otherwise you basically remain like ‘Fight Club.’
Creative commons credits:
Paul Clarke UKGovcamp http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_clarke/5382076388/sizes/l/in/set-72157625889557000/