On Saturday 18th June I attended LocalGovCamp2011 in Birmingham where I found myself to be the only Assistant Director and most senior local government officer present.

I had attended the first LocalGovCamp in Birmingham in 2009, not knowing quite what to expect. I was impressed with the overwhelming enthusiasm and interest in developing creative solutions to everyday problems. The ‘grass-roots’ feel of the event made a refreshing change to the polished corporate offerings I’d grown so accustomed to. I learned a lot from attendance and subsequently presented proposals to my Chief Executive to enhance our use of social technologies, including an innovative ‘BarnsleyBUZZ’ enterprise social media pilot and an ‘Innovation Week’.

I found my use of online networks, particularly Twitter, grew quite rapidly and I connected with many interesting and innovative people who seemed to really care about local government and about making a difference to people’s lives. You could say I caught the bug. Along with a fellow village resident I’d met online, Kevin Campbell-Wright (@kevupnorth), I organised LocalGovCamp Yorkshire and Humber last year. We were really keen to move the game on and to make our unconference a little different. We had two main aims; to attract [some] senior managers and to engage with elected members. Regrettably, despite our best promotional efforts, supported by the region’s Chief Executive’s, we failed spectacularly on the first point.

The event was still judged a success and the online conversation had a social reach in excess of 35,000 people, but we failed to interest the movers and shakers, the people of real influence in local government who by and large are still living in an analogue world.

We were more successful on the second aim and ran interactive sessions for Councillors with the assistance of Carl Whistlecraft and Steven Tuck from Kirklees (@gr8governance and @steventuck) and Councillors Simon Cooke from Bradford and Tim Cheetham from Barnsley (@simonmagus and @cllrtim).

So, I attended this year’s event hoping that the pressures upon local government finances would have encouraged more senior officer participation. I’d imagined more of my peers would be searching for innovative and creative solutions to the problems we face, leaving no stone unturned so to speak. I was a little disappointed to find otherwise.

The 200 or so attendees again demonstrated that there is genuine talent within the sector and an interest in innovation that transcends the traditional 9 to 5. However, it was all too apparent that many of these people are held back, they are blocked from affecting change, from doing things differently and from doing different things. In many cases they are frustrated by their lack of influence and by local government’s resistance to change and bottom up innovation.

It seems clear to me that this needs to change. We need to be more agile, more adaptive and better able to encourage and nurture grass-roots, low cost creativity. I’m less clear on how we actually do that.

Local Government has barely acknowledged the many opportunities presented by digital and social technologies. The scale of disruptive change is not fully appreciated by some senior decision makers. Meanwhile citizens and communities are increasingly living in digitally enabled ways and their expectations do not map onto our largely 19th century models of service delivery.

LocalGovCamp left me wondering how we can translate grassroots innovation and enthusiasm into change across local government. It seems to me that will be important in shaping our future.


Fundraising – Kilimanjaro & Barnsley Hospice

Barnsley Council, partners, colleagues, family and friends are raising funds for Barnsley Hospice by climbing the highest freestanding mountain in the world!

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa, located in northeastern Tanzania and is 19,340 feet (5,893m) high. Whilst the former volcano can be scaled without serious mountaineering skills, an ascent to the top of Africa represents a very serious challenge.

Barnsley Hospice provides care and support for hundreds of local people each year. Their main priority is to achieve the best possible quality of life for patients with a life limiting illness, whilst supporting their families, during the period of illness and bereavement.  As a specialist care provider, the range of skills offered includes, pain and symptom management, emotional support and terminal care at the end of life.

Barnsley Council has a strong history of supporting the Hospice through charitable activities, including walking events over the last couple of years.

You can read more about the trek and track our progress at www.bkct.org.uk or make a donation by credit/debit card using PayPal.

Fundraising – Trailtrekker2010

Rather foolishly, I’ve signed up to take part in one of Europe’s most demanding charity challenges, Trailtrekker 2010, a non stop 100km hike through the Yorkshire Dales.

Oxfam hope the event will raise £600,000 for projects helping some of the world’s poorest people. The charity is looking to build on the success of last year’s inaugural event, which saw 664 participants – some from as far afield as Australia – raise almost £400,000 between them.

The 62-mile circular walk begins and ends in Skipton, taking in the stunning heights of Malham Edge and 2,100 ft Pen-y-Ghent as well as the rolling hills of Langstrothdale and Wharfedale. 

I find myself in serious New Year training mode, abstaining from all things grape related and dieting hard. 

The thought of attempting a challenge originally conceived as a training exercise for the Gurkhas has certainly helped focus my mind on the task ahead!

To be eligible to enter the event I need to raise a minimum of £500 for Oxfam. If you can, please visit my online fundraising page to make a donation to this very worthwhile cause.

Company sponsors should email a copy of their logo to mail@publicsectornomads.com for inclusion on this page and for front page mention in future updates on my progress.


The authors of Womenomics make a convincing argument for women to benefit from the flexibility business revolution.

“Finding balance and satisfaction in both professional and personal lives,” a nomad mantra for sure.

NomadTech – Resistive Screens

Stantum Japan have unveiled their multi-touch, resistive touchscreen technology, showcased on a Slate PC proof of concept device.

Responsiveness and accuracy are reported to be remarkable, with the multitouch feature accommodating as many fingers as you can fit on the screen. There’s pressure sensitivity too and users can even use the thing with a paintbrush. Yes, a paintbrush.

Scalable from 2.5 to 30 inches, this can do all the gestures, swipes and rotations you could want. At face value, very impressive technology. Watch the video.

So why resistive instead of capacitive (or resistive vs iPhone / iPod Touch)?

Stantum is looking to break into all sorts of markets with their new touch panels – including mobile, Tablet and netbook markets. Hopefully we’ll see a next generation mobile device with one of their screens in the near future.

(Thanks to www.netbooked.net )

Government Goes Mobile Masterclass

I had the pleasure of chairing an event in Milton Keynes with Public Sector Forums today. Presentations will be on the PSF site from 30 November.

My Slides are here;

Creative Commons License  Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Twitter posts (Tweets) from the day and the parallel infosecurity sessions are aggregated here.

The day finished with a good discussion on the future of Nomad. I was very pleased to hear that delegates see a role for Nomad going forward and grateful for the kind words of support and thanks for our efforts in saving the community (phoenix from the ashes)!

We talked about plans to build a new web2.0 platform to support the Nomad community and enable groups of common interest to collaborate and share learning.

It was suggested that Nomad should also;

  • Have a role in procurement to leverage value for money (including by joining up organisations developing similar solutions)
  • Consider a Nomad offer to the private sector
  • Act as a strong voice for the public sector including on Gov Connects
  • Evidence what didn’t work (‘warts and all’ approach)
  • Represent all of the public sector
  • Broaden scope to include all technology enabled change (transformation),  including use of social media, development of smartphone ‘apps’ and transactional services
  • Explore a low cost subscription model (tiered)
  • Develop a project database to encourage and facilitate collaboration

It’s not too late to let us know your thoughts. Complete the mobile working survey, including specific questions on Nomad. Or contact us directly at mail@nomadpublicsector.com

Telepresence Robots!?

“Be two places at once with QA, telepresence robot from Anybots. Enjoy complete freedom to move fluidly and interact with others in a remote location from the ease of your home or office.”

“QA operates simply, cleanly, and quietly while still giving you a full physical presence. It allows you to see and be seen, talk and listen, and collaborate in ways and places never before possible.”

Amazing but somehow reinforces the perception of work as a place we should attend rather than an activity we can often do from different locations.

Still pretty whizzy though. I wonder if they do a ‘Transformers’ version, perhaps with weaponry? Autobots or Decepticons?