Its interesting how after each govcamp some people say if only this was done or the format was revised etc it would be so much better.
Most of these seem to boil down to not using the unconference format.
- why not have themed discussions agreed in advance?
- why not have a big name speaker?
- why not have the same venue each year?
- where are the outcomes?
- what has really changed afterwards?
- why not have coffee in the morning?
The strength of the format is that it is open and gives everyone the chance to participate if they want and it is based around what people find interesting on the day itself. So why have a big name speaker what benefit would that serve? If you want that there are plenty of formal conferences.
It would be great (possibly) to have the same venue each year but this often depends on prior bookings, how much the host organisation want Govcamp back – did they get any benefits from the event – particularly if they provided the space for free? Is the key contact still working there?
What about the outcomes – well it depends what you mean by this? When are any outcomes delivered from any conference? Or even any meeting? It is pretty clear though that the outcome that was intended – that people have a space to talk, share knowledge and learn is achieved each year. That is without mentioning all the ideas generated that are followed up afterwards.
So what about the coffee? It’s worth remembering that it is not free. At some of the previous events the hosts such as IBM were incredibly generous and laid on tea, coffee and sandwiches in the morning. Where does the coffee come from – inhouse and there are staffing costs – outside and there are transportation, health & safety issues. So if coffee has to be paid for that means more money needs to be raised from sponsorship and should this be spent on coffee or building up money to seedfund other events, or help pay for the next govcamp? What would you decide to do?
The nice thing about Govcamp is that people always want to discuss it afterwards and how to ‘improve’ it. Perhaps the point is that there is no perfect Govcamp and if this is discussed afterwards job done the conversation is continuing.
Govcamp is like an English country garden before Humphrey Repton ‘improved’ it – a bit wild, untamed, unkempt and natural. I like it that way and I suspect others do as well.