UKGovWeb barcamp event roundup.

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There’s probably not a lot more I can say about the excellent UKGovWeb barcamp event that took place at the Google offices on Saturday 26th January that hasn’t already been said by the raft of energetic bloggers that made up the majority of the delegates (or at least that was my impression). You can see a round-up of the day’s events at the Pageflakes site, catch up on the pre-and-post conversations at the Google Group, or check out the following blogs (with apologies to all I have missed out….can’t quite keep up with the blog-rate!). See Dave Briggs, Simon Dickson, David Wilcox, LLoyd Davis, Jeremy Gould, Tim Davies and Nick Booth, with photos on Flickr, websites tagged here and videos here.

It’s not really surprising that this one event has generated so much multimedia exposure, given the assembly of so many ‘Web 2.0 activists’, and I hope this will ensure some continued momentum for this particular self-organising group. I think Jeremy Gould summed this up quite well on his blog:

"We need to find ways to make partnership between those inside and those
around government easier – and promote it as as an alternative method
to trying to do everything ourselves. We don’t know all the answers
individually, but as a collective we can get closer to the ideal
solutions.

If we in government want to innovate more, we should also behave
more like innovators. The format and style of the barcamp was great and
encouraged collaboration and thinking differently.
"

Best keep an eye on Pageflakes for future developments!

   

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UKGovWeb barcamp event

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I’m looking forward to attending the UKGovWeb barcamp this coming Saturday 26th January – though  not quite sure what to expect, this being my first barcamp event. However, I’m encouraged by the fact that  the organisers (and primarily Jeremy Gould) have done this sort of thing before and have avoided getting bogged down with over-prescriptive planning at the expense of delivery. Judging from the list of  presenters and topics noted on the barcamp wiki and the very active forum discussions in the Google Group,  there is enough creative energy to carry the day and make it a worthwhile learning and sharing experience for everyone.

Time and scheduling permitting, I will be presenting and discussing the work I’ve been doing these past two years in introducing social networking and Web 2.0 technologies into local government in order to  improve inter-authority collaboration and provide learning and sharing opportunities. The ultimate objective being to improve council services through smarter ways of working. The following is a brief synopsis of what I will cover:

"Social tools and technologies are changing the
KM landscape, making it far easier to connect with peers and experts,
and facilitating far more effective knowledge sharing and
collaboration. We are moving beyond the factory model of ICT, which
focussed on centralisation, standardisation and storage to a more
diverse and less regulated environment.

For some, this provides the opportunity to break out of the silo
working practices so prevalent across the public sector, and encourages
a more productive and collaborative approach to online knowledge
sharing. Others see this as undermining the integrity and quality of
established (and centralised) knowledge repositories and best practice
procedures, and equate social networking with purely leisure and
entertainment activities.

Early in 2006 I set about persuading the Improvement and Development  Agency (www.idea.gov.uk) to develop a  social networking/social media platform for local government. This was eventually launched (www.communities.idea.gov.uk)in
September 2006. The underlying purpose was to see if Web 2.0
technologies and social media applications would encourage staff
working in local authorities to share ideas, best practice and policy
initiatives across the sector, without being inhibited or constrained
by geographical location or boundaries (e.g. the local council’s
boundary). Given that most councils were being squeezed by lower
budgets on the one side, and pressure to improve services on the other,
the only way many of them could drive through any further efficiencies
was through smarter ways of working – which is how this overall
initiative was promoted.

Despite some resistance from the more senior tiers in local
government, who are still wedded to the traditional ‘command and
control’ methods for managing staff and services, the overall strategy
has been remarkably successful. The platform was launched in September
2006, and membership has grown from nothing to over 7000
registered members – and still growing. There are over 200 active
communities on the platform (which is free to join for public sector
employees) with representation from nearly all the 400+ councils in
England and Wales.

The key challenges in developing the strategy (and still to be entirely overcome)  were:

1. moving from a culture of knowledge repositories
(people-to-information) to one of knowledge collaboration
(people-to-people),

2. introducing a sceptical and mature staff demographic to the
concept of virtual collaboration using social computing/Web 2.0
facilities and

3. creating, developing and growing effective communities of
practice in local government, where command and control systems are
prevalent." 

I would be interested in hearing from anyone at the barcamp who has tried a
similar approach for encouraging shared learning, or is considering
doing so in the environment they work in. I’m happy to share the
lessons I’ve learnt, and anxious to pick up any hints and tips from
those who have already trodden this rocky path.

I’m particularly interested in any anecdotes from delegates on how they have addressed the three points mentioned above.

I’m also interested in hearing views about how important the
technology is in encouraging communities of practice or interest to
develop.

You can follow the planning for this event (and presumably the outputs from the day) on the aggregated Pageflakes page that Dave Briggs – "the Web 2.0 dynamo" – has set up.

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