Yes, I know – all the cool kids have already blogged about their experience of UK Gov Camp this year. All the clever and insightful things have been said. See, I was going to blog about the sessions, the topics, the organisation, the lunch, the t-shirts … But all of that has been done, and done really well. So I’m going to step away from that and blog about something else.
This has been covered a bit, but I’m going to crank it up a bit and see if I can do something useful with it. This post is going to be about the people who went, and the people who didn’t. You see there’s a theme developing after every gov camp now – why were there so few front line staff there, why is it always the same faces, how do we get new people to come along? It’s been said that its just the same faces every time now, standing around having the same conversations over and over again.
Alright then. Let’s examine this. We want new people there but it’s hard to look at the attributes of someone who’s not in front of you. So what are the common attributes of the people who did make it? (Obviously I’ll be generalising and guessing here, but I’m pretty confident that these things will be mostly true for most of the attendees).
1) we have the time (or we make the time) to think about how our roles and the sector as a whole could be improved.
2) we have considerable autonomy in our personal and professional lives
3) we have either sufficient personal disposable income, or an understanding boss with sufficient budget, to make paying for travel and accommodation possible
4) we believe our opinions are new, or at least emergent and unexplored, and we believe they are worth sharing. What’s more we are confident in our right to speak in a room full of awesome and high profile names.
So it’s possible that the people we don’t see at gov camps, the people we wish were there, who are likely to be equally amazing, are coming up against one of four barriers that attendees have overcome already. Having been in that position, here is what it looked like for me, and what it very probably still looks like for people who are stuck in it.
1) I can’t afford it and work won’t pay for it.
2) I’m not important/senior/qualified enough to go, or I don’t have an important/senior/qualified sponsor who will make the case for me to go.
3) nobody wants to listen to me even if I did go.
4) I’m too busy to worry about that stuff; I have my job to do and this just isn’t relevant.
Any of these strike a chord with anyone else?
While we’ve tried to tackle the question of relevance and importance, and we’re all communicating and blogging for all we’re worth to try to spread the word, I don’t think we’ve done anything to address the more concrete barriers here. What’s more I believe many of us are very well placed to do so. So I have two proposals for the next gov camp.
The first one is for the organisers. Let’s see if we can fundraise an extra £1000 or so on top of the cost of putting on the camp itself, so that we can offer two or three travel bursaries to young, junior or front line people. We might need some sort of nomination process, I don’t know, perhaps you all out there have some opinion on that?
The second proposal is for the rest of you. If you are a reasonably senior manager, you hold a budget, and you are in a position to sponsor someone in a front line role to come to gov camp: DO IT. Pay a contribution to their travel and accommodation costs out of your section budget, under the CPD cost code. You probably have one of those, right? Or something like it? This is what it’s for.
Anyway, that’s what I think …