Unconferences, outcomes and small steps

In the wake of Friday’s successful HyperWM event for local government in the West Midlands, I was involved in yet another exchange on Twitter about the people who are not allowed to attend such events because their managers don’t see them as legitimate. I’ve written about this before, here, because I think that free, self-organised, events must have an increasingly important role to play in staff development, as finances get ever tighter. But, as some of the stories from HyperWM 2011 show, there are still people who are prevented from attending such opportunities. Part of the discussion about this suggested that one officer had been specifically stopped from attending because he was unable to prove any “identifiable outcomes” from the event.  Leaving aside the almost impossible nature of this task, it shows what those of us who believe in such events are up against.

Personally, I think that anyone who has actually attended a localgovcamp-type event cannot fail to be persuaded of its benefits. But, the problem is, there are still many more people who have not attended one than have. So, I have an idea, which might help more people get experience of such activities and, hopefully, then become evangelists for the approach,

I’d like to find a public sector organisation, probably a local authority, prepared to organise its own internal unconference, just for its own staff. It could even be done within the one department. My idea is that the event would be open only to the staff of that organisation, and that what happens there would be shared only to others in the organisation, via Yammer and the staff intranet. Hopefully, this would provide an environment where people could safely experiment with the format, and put out ideas they might be tentative about sharing in a more widely open forum.

I have a slight twist to the format which might help in embedding the approach. If organisers are feeling brave enough, there could be a mid-afternoon session of, say, half an hour, when participants decide what elements of discussions they want to share with the wider world. There could then be a closing plenary during which views are solicited from outsiders, via twitter and other forms of social media. This could serve to build confidence in the good ideas raised, and ensure the non-valid ideas are able to “fail fast”.

Is there an organisation out there prepared to experiment with this approach? I am confident it would create a sizeable cohort of unconference evangelists within the institution, and offer a model for wider adoption.

Can’t Get Online Week – Help still needed

Thank you to everyone who has help so far with making Can’t Get Online Week happen. I am especially grateful to the CLA for their sponsorship, and to everyone else who has helped out, especially those who have contributed financially. There is still time to make a contribution here, or a simpler way might be to donate using paypal to john[dot]popham[at]ntlworld[dot]com.

Here’s a message of support from Hugh Bonneville

The latest draft of the itinerary is below. As I am still some way short of my funding target, I am now asking if people could please help out with support in-kind, in the following ways:


Is there a car hire firm out there that might be prepared to donate a week’s car hire (Sunday 30th October to Saturday 5th November) in return for some positive publicity? Failing that, is there a company / organisation that has access to a favourable car hire rate as part of a corporate deal that I might be able to take advantage of?


If anyone would be prepared to put me up during the week, that would greatly help in keeping the costs down. I need accommodation in the following areas.

Sunday 30th October – somewhere in short driving distance of Colchester

Monday 31st October – somewhere in short driving distance of North Warwickshire

Thursday 3rd November – somewhere in short driving distance of Saltburn, North Yorkshire.

If at all possible I would like to stay in places with fairly decent internet connections, and where people don’t mind me hammering their connection by uploading the day’s content to the web.


Anyone got access to a way of paying for petrol (perhaps a corporate account) that they might help out with?


If you could send food parcels / vouchers, etc. that would be great (NB. I am vegetarian).

I would be exceptionally grateful to anyone that can help out, and I’ll ensure you get due publicity for your support.

Here are some links to some of the publicity and support we’ve received lately:

More from Hugh Bonneville:

Radio 5 Live “Outriders” programme:

Radio 4 “Today” Programme

And please join the Challenge on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/cantgetonline


Draft itinerary as at 20th October

Sunday 30th October: PM: Somewhere in south-east England

Monday 31st October: AM: Little Horkesley Essex (Village Hall)
PM: Sedgeford, Norfolk (Village Hall)

Tuesday 1st November: AM: TBA
PM: Adderley, Shropshire

Wednesday 2nd November: AM: Wray, Lancashire (Village Institute)
PM: Westmorland Showground, Milnthorpe, Cumbria (IT Suite)
PM: CLA Lancashire Committee, Garstang

Thursday 3rd November: AM: Northern Farming Conference in Sedgefield
County Durham (http://www.northernfarmingconference.org.uk/)
PM: Byers Green, County Durham
PM: Goats on the Roof, Fontburn, Northumberland

Friday 4th November: AM: Moorsholm, Near Saltburn, North Yorkshire (Church Hall)
PM: Sledmere Estate, Near Driffield, East Yorkshire
PM: South Stainley, Near Harrogate, North Yorkshire