GovCamp Cymru 14

The first GovCamp Cymru took place this weekend in Cardiff. Rose and I went along to see what public sector challenges face our neighbours to the West. There were a few familiar faces but for the majority of attendees this was their first unconference. It was a varied group encompassing everyone from citizens to civil servants and local councillors to MPs.

For those not familiar with unconferences, the idea is that you gather together a group of people with some shared interest. Everyone at the event has the opportunity to pitch a topic which they would like to discuss. Attendees are then free to chose which discussions to take part in throughout the day.

The topics pitched ranged from management-speak to public toilets, social care to social media. It was great to see that it seems digital is no longer a ‘thing’ that needs defining. During many of the sessions digital solutions were kicked around and nary a pitch-fork was raised.

The sessions I attended were, “Digital skills of public service workers”, “Responsive government, what would it look like?” and “Does Wales need a GDS?”.

The question of how we train public servants to use and understand digital with shrinking teams and budgets is clearly a thorny one. There was discussion around Open Badges as a way of rewarding and tracking digital skills in the workplace. Dai related this to GDS giving stickers to the teams involved at the end of each project. Initially they were seen as a thing for the “geeks” but now they have become badges of honour.

Esko’s session on responsive government introduced me and others to the notion of liquid democracy. There were lots of questions raised around the process and the technology involved. Fortunately the session stopped just short of a cry for bloody revolution.

The discussion about whether Wales needs a GDS was beautifully summed up by Adam in the first five minutes: “Can anyone think of a reason not to have one?”. The remainder of the session was partly a history lesson on how the stars had aligned to allow GDS to come to be and how to go about building Wales’ own.

It was an energising and enthusing event. The Satori Lab did a great job of bringing everyone together and providing the space for the attendees to explore the issues they cared about. I’m looking forward to seeing what projects grow out of the day’s discussions.