How brewcamps stir up innovation in local government

http://flic.kr/p/bTTfeR

Pop-up cinema at Brewcamp

A few years ago a group of us put together HyperWM. It’s an afternoon unconference (no charge, no agenda) for people working in Local Government in the West Midlands to get together for a few hours and talk about stuff that matters to them.

It was a lot of fun to do and afterwards we were keen to maintain the enthusiasm and momentum that we felt had been initiated. We were also a bit knackered afterwards and quickly reviewed our initial thoughts of making it a three or four times yearly affair.

So instead we alighted upon the idea of running a regular event that was a little bit smaller; something that only needed us to find a coffee shop or similar venue who were willing to accommodate us and a few interesting people to talk or lead a discussion.

From this rather vague specification we came up with the idea of Brewcamps, an idea we adapted from the Teacamps that were started by Jeremy Gould in 2008.

The evenings can be quite loosely structured. They are very informal but are consistent in their themes of coffee, cake and conversation. Each camp will have three people who agree to lead a session each. This may involve talking about an interesting piece of work someone is doing; asking for help with something or leading a discussion on a topic of interest.

We don’t have many rules

NO POWERPOINTS (this is pretty much our only rule)

You don’t have to be an expert to lead a session at Brewcamp and we often encourage people who don’t think of themselves as being experts to talk. We’re very keen for Brewcamps to be listening and supporting environments where people have the chance to explore new ideas.

We’ve always arranged things online and as of writing this we’ve put on three unconferences and a dozen brewcamps without being constituted or having a bank account (although we do have a Google group, an Eventbrite account and a website or two)

One of the ways we try to keep fresh is by moving the venue around and we’ve held Brewcamps all across the West Midlands. If you haven’t had the chance to come to one yet then do get in touch and who knows, we might pitch up in your town for the night.

by

Si Whitehouse,

a freelance web developer and former implementation manager at Digital Birmingham, Birmingham City Council.

Picutre credit

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