#localgov Digital Disruption


To City Hall (CRIPES! etc) …early on Saturday morning for @ukgovcamp14.

Geeks, social engineers and a chamber stuffed full of shiny tech gadgets gathered in the centre of London democracy for the day to talk about… how to make local democracy more approachable.

At least that was one of the aims. It was certainly high up on my agenda of opportunities for the conversations throughout the day. This being an unconference enabled any attendees to pitch and then lead a session with a broad aim of collaboration in the online / offline #localgov space.


Un-enabling all of the un-conferencing was the as ever excellent @LloydDavis.

“Can you please filter down to the front”

…came the request as the #localgov collective from around the country took up the back row seats, rather than being front row swats.


Filtering down to the front soon became a theme for the sessions that I attended throughout the morning: how the chuffers do you help promote the idea that #localgov MATTERS, and that residents have a significant role to play?

Um, #lambethcoop, Comrades?

The petri dish experimentation around this particular hyperlocal patch was absent from the ACE ukgov Buzzword Bingo delivered by those nice folk @thedxw.

Before I even had the chance to connect my iPad to Boris’ BONKING WiFi, I had already ticked off Tech City, Content Strategy and Twitter is a Broadcast Medium.

I even tweeted about it.


The “logistical possibilities of taking coffee past City Hall security” resulted in possibly the only moan of the morning

…’cos it’s not as if More London has had a run on coffee beans.

@LloydDavis then did his splendid introduction thing. I then spectacularly messed up with first meet and greet in the chamber.

Apologies, Comrades.

“Meeting and building relationships, and building better digital services”

…was the broad aim in which we were asked to focus upon. The pairing together of the offline and the online was no coincidence. There’s no point in having an offline conversation if it doesn’t lead to an online solution. Ditto an online tool that has no impact offline.

Is this what is meant by the Third Way [URGH] nonsense all along?

Time to pitch and bitch.


Except the majority of the suggestions for the sessions throughout the day were incredibly well framed. Participation, Plugins and Add Ons got the thumbs up here.

What Does Digital by Default Mean When Government Goes WRONG was another ACE idea for a conversation.

Oh Shit, I’ve Been Hacked gave me a slight heart flutter.

A pitch on how to meet the online reach of your residents when Facebook is now the dominant platform was another cracking unconference idea.

Medium, message etc.

I settled for How to Make #localgov More Transparent for my first morning session. “A sense of dissatisfaction” was observed after a quick meet ‘n’ greet around the room answered the question as to why we had rolled up for this session.

To counter-balance the #localgov knockers were the #localgov enablers, all in the same room and all keen to collaborate. What is the fear from #localgov in sharing more data?

what will you do with it if we do open the data up came the response.

This is the true value of ukgovcamp. It connects users, enablers and those caught up somewhere in the middle with a view to positive digital disruption. For all the user testing that apparently goes into these BIG DATA projects, having a direct conversation between both sides is sometimes lost.

We shifted the conversation to try and come up with a wish list of demands that #localgov should be able to offer to residents. A RADICAL suggestion (not guilty, but I kinda liked it…) was that ALL localgov emails should be published as a matter of policy.

The reasoning is that this will then gives residents an understanding of how decisions are made. The downside is that blocking mechanisms will be put in place. Internal conversations will take place via a non-traceable platform, either online or offline.

I offered up the suggestion that by dumping ALL data online, you would then hopefully have no need for FOI’s and the associated costs. It all got a little comical when I told the BONKERS story of *ahem* how the previous Mayor of one local Town Council wanted it minuted that the servicing of FOI’s is not something that her arcane talking shop was use to.

Noted, Madam.

For now anyway.

Another observation was that all data that is needed is currently available – it’s just impossible to find it. I cited the example of a 150+ page doc [unmanageable PDF] supporting a public meeting. Who the chuffers is going to sit through and read either an electronic or hard copy?

Language is everything. Localgov needs to break out of the twaddle of civic speech and Tell It Like It Is.

A ‘just what you need’ approach to data was suggested. I’m sceptical. Who gets to be the gatekeeper and decide what I need? I want EVERYTHING to be made available, and preferably in an online format that works for residents, and not just those with the power.

@ggatlarge then spoke enthusiastically about the @lambeth_counicl tool that he is involved in building that will add a layer of embeddable data to any hyperlocal site or online source. This will appear in the form of a map that can be overlayed around your particular patch.

It sounds half-decent and is a definite solution to sharing mass chunks of data owned by a large borough, but then making it relevant to the end needs of the hyperlocal user.

But what if localgov doesn’t want to help?

This is a question raised (um, not guilty, blah blah blah) by anther unconference-er. We heard from a localgov officer how there was a policy of not releasing data as it was “not considered perfect.”

If that very same data was being used however to create reports and policy then it should be worthy of being released to residents.

The conversation then took something of holistic approach:

Are elections ever won or lost on transparency?

It’s all about the “free swimming for every resident,” Comrades.

Isn’t it?

We concluded by agreeing that publishing of data simply isn’t enough. You then need to take it offline and actually achieve something with it in the community. It’s a parallel relationship – if localgov can see that offline data can achieve solutions, then perhaps the paranoia to protect it might be take a weaker grip on the digital iron glove.

A brief break, and then a sizable catch-up with the good @memespring.

It’s been too long, my friend, too long. Code Clubs caught our attention, as well as the imminent roll out of, um, BIG DATA down the road.

And good luck with that one, Comrades.

I walked in halfway through my second session: Engaging Young People in Government and Government Decisions.

@Rhammified was leading on this one – and with some authority as well.

Themes covered included the idea that Citizenship [URGH] lessons don’t work, plus the twaddle that localgov doesn’t even appear as an afterthought on the A Level Politics syllabus.

Yer man @Rhammified told a great story of how letting young folk see how decisions are made is likely to make them feel less angry about the final outcome.

The red herring of online voting received some half-decent responses. You’ve got to give voters – ANY voters – a reason to vote for you. The means in which you access this is only a distraction.

We pondered how the only access that anyone under 18 has in showing political dissatisfaction is through a petition.

Or *possibly* a protest.

Whatever did happen to the student protest movement?

Essential listening.

My thought capacity had been sparked and I needed some More London coffee. Or even some pink ‘n’ blue liquid juice. A trip to Transpontine del Curva came-a-calling after lunch and so I had to skip the afternoon sessions.


People really do care about making change happen within localgov. There was a genuine passion at ukgovcamp to male a difference – ANY DIFFERENCE.

Build it or burn it, Comrades.

“You can take it back into your work with a renewed sense that there is something worth fighting for in all of this.”

Many thanks to the ukgovcamp volunteer organising team and sponsors for a morning of ideas and confusion.

Supporting Docs:

Room by room sessions [Goggle doc]

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