There has been an explosion of bright ideas in local government in the West Midlands.
It’s been powered by the social web and sees people freely give up their time to talk about how they can do a better job.
The driver of this revolution in thinking has been the unconference.
People are not waiting for permission. They’re scraping together enough money to stage an event and they’re using the internet to plan it and then distribute free tickets.
There is no agenda. There is no death by powerpoint. Job titles are left at the door and anyone can put up their hand at the start of a session and pitch to run one.
Why? You put bright people in a room and bounce ideas and the chances are you will come up with better ideas.
What’s best about those with a public sector spirit is a willingness to share and collaborate. That just wouldn’t happen in the private sector.
But it would be wrong to think that this was powered solely by people in local government.
At an unconference chances are you will find a blogger, a librarian and a police web manager kick around an idea.
Ideas throughout Best by West Midlands have their origins directly or indirectly through an unconference.
There is a direct link between the West Midlands’ ability to stage an unconference and its position on the cutting edge of innovation of social media in local government.
When did all this start? For many it was when Dave Briggs stood up at Fazeley Studios in Birmingham with 120 attendees at localgovcamp one Saturday in 2009.
From that the first of three annual Hyper WM in 2010 which has been staged in Oldbury, Walsall and Warwick.
Librarians have staged a camp. So have museums people. There has been a CityCamp in Coventry which looked at real solutions to on-the-ground problems. There was commscamp too for communications people. The NHS had one too to look at health and digital.
The regular brewcamp meet-ups also come from this shared approach. The events are held in cafes who are willing to accommodate an extra 20 customers or so, start at 6pm and are ticketed by using eventbrite which people can sign-up to online. Three topics are decided upon in advance at the discussions are led around those subjects with the opportunity for people to chip in and debate.
The unconference approach has been the driver for the social media innovation in the West Midlands. Not only are ideas shared and shaped but a broad network is built of people who are passionate about the places they live and the job they do.
by Dan Slee,
Senior Press & PR Officer for Walsall Council,
Co-founder of Brewcamp and HyperWM