Should I have attended #LocalGovCamp?

LocalGovCamp took place at the weekend. It’s a place where conversations happen, ideas are formed and connections are made. Massive thanks to the organisers, especially Sarah Lay, and also to the sponsors and the attendees for making LocalGovCamp happen. You’re all amazing and I love you big time.

I was lucky enough to go to LocalGovCamp, tickets were scarce and a waiting list grew quickly. I was giddy with excitement about the day, catching up with lots of lovely people and meeting new folk. I was so excited I managed to arrive before the organisers.

I appear to have arrived rather early

I appear to have arrived rather early

But halfway through the day something changed and I couldn’t help but think that I shouldn’t be there. I couldn’t help but think that I had taken up the place of someone who either worked directly in the digital world or had the influence to make a change, to make a difference to a digital world.

A few things triggered this:-


At LocalGovCamp there were sessions pitched on agile, hacks, open data, open standards, homepage analytics, and there were plenty of people cheering and whooping for these sessions, but truth be told, I’m not really sure what a lot of this means. Should I?

I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about all things digital, technology, web, comms, service design, yet I’ve been in local gov for 14 years. I’m currently working in safeguarding children and early help for families, supporting parents who are concerned about their children self-harming, or who are at the end of their tether trying to understand their child’s behaviour. We try to prevent issues escalating to a specialist/acute social care level by looking to community/universal services or supporting access to targeted services. How can I apply homepage analytics, open data or agile to this?

Service Areas

I wondered how many other ‘frontline’  (not meaning corporate web, comms, IT, service design) service areas were there, and guessed that I might have been the only one. So is #LocalGovCamp for anyone with an interest in Local Gov, or where the focus is mainly of a digital nature?


The other thing which made me wobble was a tweet from Paul Matthews, CEO of Monmouthshire County Council.

@PaulMatthews67: If something doesn’t change on Monday, isn’t today just a great day out? #localgovcamp so who is going to change it?

The ‘so what?’ question is a good one, and a valid one, and I felt a sense of responsibility. What was I going to do differently on Monday as a result of attending LocalGovCamp? But I couldn’t help but think that it isn’t just my responsibility. It’s as much about the local gov organisation as it is the employee. It’s as much about the community as it is about the individual. Aren’t we all in this together? If we want change don’t we all have a responsibility to make it happen?

And without wishing to sound defeatist, on Saturday I thought that my circle of influence isn’t that big, and what changes could I make as a lone voice working in a small service area?

But then I realised, regardless of my lack of digital, tech, web, comms knowledge, I’m part of something bigger. I’m part of the LocalGov Digital network which is working to demonstrate that together, change can happen. And I’m not sure what help I can be but hell yeah, I’m in. And I’m in with the same excitement I had on Saturday morning.

So back to Paul’s question, what changed for me on that blue LocalGovCamp Monday?

· Well we helped 25 families that day access services for themselves as parents or their children.
· We started conversations about aligning children’s and adult’s content information as part of our work on the SEND reforms
· I undertook quality checks and updated information from the Ofsted feed
· And I didn’t eat cake

And yes, I’d have done these things without having LocalGovCamp, but I might have done them without realising the potential and possibilities for change, even within small service areas. So yes, Saturday was a great day out, it was there for the taking and I took it, and in the end, on reflection, I am so pleased I attended LocalGovcamp.

First to arrive and last to leave

First to arrive and last to leave


Kate Bentham

Tuesday 24th June 2014

4 thoughts on “Should I have attended #LocalGovCamp?

  1. I think you’re exactly one of the sort of people who should be at a #LocalGovCamp – it’s the mix of technical, comms, policy and frontline staff that makes the event what it is. You are one of the people that helps them understand the people that the digital services should be helping, both within and without the council.

  2. Just so you know, that’s the best thing I’ve read in ages and bang on the money. Good for you. Me, and I’m guessing many others, would have really missed you and your contribution.

    You really should have eaten cake on Monday though, what were you thinking?

    • I’m with Phil on this – digital services need to be firmly rooted in user experience, and there’s no one better than you to convey that. Love your evaluation too – asking what difference will it make is massively importance. Great blog!

      – Dyfrig

  3. I’m delighted you have written this, Kate, and I’m also delighted that you don’t regret going. My one niggling thought on Saturday was “I wish there were more non-digital people here.” It was my third event in as many weeks (after #channelshiftcamp and the Really Useful Day) and it was notable how there were more non-technical, frontline, and customer service employees at those other two events.

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