I was very privileged this weekend to be part of the team organising LocalGovCamp Yorkshire & Humber. I’m not in a hurry to claim too much credit. A simple idea over twitter and a few drinks, a list of venues a friend sourced for me and a few emails was pretty much my input, with Ken Eastwood very ably assisted my Melanie Reed doing most of the creative thinking and donkey work to get the event off the ground.
Me and Ken were certain from the start that we wanted certain things from this event. We chose a Saturday so that people who can’t blag innovation through their job role could come. We wanted the involvement of senior management and frontline staff. We wanted involvement from elected members. Sadly, we failed a little on point 2 (more on that later). However, the Saturday worked wonders and we had just under 80 people meet at York’s National Railway Museum, including a number of elected members who attended a parallel session facilitated by Cllr Tim Cheetham (Barnsley) and Cllr Simon Cooke (Bradford). I certainly felt that the attendence of so many elected members really enriched the debate and the audience. It was nice to break away from a techie/comms event and get more input.
This event’s timing was crucial. The first LocalGovCamp since the election, we knew about the cuts and efficiency drives that lie ahead. Innovation isn’t just something that will happen now. It’s something that has to happen.
I’m not going to try and summarise everything that happened on the day. There’s plenty about it on the website and we’ll be adding a lot more very soon. You can also check out Dave Briggs summary here. I think I’ll keep this blog the way I like it and make it all about me.
I ran two sessions on the day. The first, run with Al Smith and Ben Proctor, looked at emergency planning and the role of social media in this. Ben has some background in the emergency planning process and Al led a similar workshop at UKGovCamp, so we were off to a good start. We didn’t just talk about social media – we spoke about the role innovation could have in mapping resources, mapping crisis points and giving staff the opportunity to work from home. The conclusions were that emergency planning chiefs really need to take the role of social media more seriously – a hard challenge when so many heads of communications and chief executives seem to ignore it, or treat it as a novelty comms issue.
I thought this workshop would be the bright one of the day. However, I never expected my session on “Just a game? Do social and geo-dependant games have an impact in local authorities” I based it on my recent blog post and the response I’d received from it. The workshop was very popular and the discussions from it spilled over into the after event drinks and then into the twittersphere. It’s clear that this is a can of worms that’s been opened and that gaming can, and is, having an impact on local authority activity. Additionally, there was talk of developing gaming content for local government engagement processes. However, progress was hampered. Firstly, there were concerns expressed about security in some games and, more importantly, the perceived security risks that many council gatekeepers might have in allowing their implementation. The final point was asking how we could expect council chiefs to take games seriously when they don’t even really take social media seriously.
See the theme here? I was disappointed that we hadn’t managed to get the chief execs and directors we hoped for along – it’s their drives that shape the organisation. I was also disappointed that we didn’t have many frontline workers there – the people who can tell you what works and what doesn’t on the ground. Social media, social gaming, innovation, mobile devices, mobile working and new models of communication simply have to be taken more seriously, not just be enthusiasts, but by the people that really matter.
We’re already looking at how we can put our heads together to plan the next move. Its clear that, in Yorkshire & Humber and beyond, there are real issues and that the debate is starting to move forward. However, as the situation becomes urgent, the debate needs to reach the senior areas of local authorities.
I’d be interested to know ideas people might have of how we move this forward – post them here, on the LGCYH website or in any other place you think people look. The key message for me is this: Look what we can achieve working together. Now let’s widen that net so that everyone can get involved.