And this one time, at GovCamp.
My main role was Queen of the Campmakers; making sure we had enough volunteers, listening to what types of roles they’d like to do and matching those up with my nerdy spreadsheet of tasks, running standup, making sure Campmakers were happy and encouraging them to apply the Disney ‘no sad kids’ rule to attendees, checking each task was setup/resourced and general question answering and problem solving. I also did a lot of cheering throughout pitching and tried to keep everyone’s energy levels up throughout the day.
When I was trusted to manage the cloakroom to give a Campmaker a much needed moment of rest, I fell over a hatstand and made lots of non-hilarious tombola stall jokes.
Once again, a huge thank you to all of the Campmakers. If a call for help was posted in Whatsapp, someone responded in seconds. You were positive, hard working, and an absolute dream to be with. Thank you so much for giving up your time to make GovCamp happen.
Whilst rushing around to keep people happy, I only managed to make it to one session for 15 minutes, and can’t wait to read session notes and everyone else’s blog posts about the day. I’ve noticed these ones from Terence and Vicky so far and threads from Leah and Jon. So this won’t be your typical GovCamp blog post about what session content I took away with me, but my experiences of the day from a organiser, sharing a few observations and areas I’d love to hear feedback about.
People came up to me throughout the day to say how great the event was, that it felt positive, open, energetic, inclusive. That they hadn’t enjoyed some GovCamps or even skipped GovCamp recently as they felt it had become a few voices dominating conversations, was cliquey, and that there wasn’t a diverse group of people pitching sessions. This had led to people having the conversations they needed in breakout areas, rather than feeling comfortable to make their voice heard in sessions. However this year people shared with me that they felt there was a clearer commitment that every voice should be heard, and that the environment was more supportive for people expressing themselves in the ways that best suit them.
Janet’s role as compere was perfect (she is perfect) and I thought she was marvellous at how she led the pitching. She encouraging everyone to get up, asked that under-represented voices were heard, gave people hugs and reminded people throughout pitching that even if they were sat down they still had time to get up.
Other things (but not all the things) we did: put an aisle in the middle of rows so that people could more easily get up and pitch (rather than be stuck in the middle); had Campmakers in the queue supporting people; encouraged people to share ideas beforehand on Twitter.
And although I think we created a supportive space, I heard people saying ‘I didn’t pitch but I wish I had’. Knowing that some of my friends struggle to speak in front of large groups, would pitch corners to practice beforehand be helpful? In the intro, should we take five minutes for people to share their ideas in pairs, and then share those two ideas with a pair sitting behind them?
Who we are exists on a spectrum: as an extrovert that can be shy, I’m surprised by my own personality quirks. I was nervous the first time I pitched many years ago at GovCamp, and I was nervous when I closed this years GovCamp. But I managed to do both because I had great people supporting me who believe in me. I’ll keep mulling this over.
I’d like to know more about how our ‘hands up to speak in sessions’ suggestion worked. I’d based the idea off a session I facilitated at Reimagining Public Service which had a lot of positive feedback after (but perhaps people are just trying to be kind!) Someone at GovCamp shared with me that they thought putting hands up to speak seemed to stop the flow of conversation. However, I had plenty of comments that hands up was good; that it made people realise how many times they were speaking, helped add different perspectives to the conversation and brought more people in. I also saw sessions with reflection time at the end, and time for brainstorming first with post-it notes. I don’t think we’ll ever get the perfect session or event, but I’d like to hear feedback and ideas.
The venue made me really happy and gave me a deeper appreciation for the great space I work in. I’ll definitely get away from my desk and work from the atrium from time to time. Having all of the rooms next to each other on one floor makes such a difference. The wonderful glass lift with doors that open from both sides made it much more accessible for folks. I thought the open space upstairs for sponsors and lunch was great. Having water constantly throughout the day always makes a difference. It was good to have lots of options for chat areas and the individual ‘study desks’ were used for naps and downtime for people throughout the day.
I loved the Beyonce, Gaga and Shakira chat spaces this year. It was helpful to have spaces for those pitches where a smaller group of people put their hands up, and the topic sometimes gets merged into another session and lost in the conversation. I saw lots of animated, energetic and focused conversations taking place that would make these historic women proud.
I didn’t see many people using the quiet room. I’m not sure what I expected, but perhaps having more open spaces in the venue gave people their space to unwind, relax and just be? Previous GovCamps have felt a bit cramped/on top of each other for me. But maybe the quiet room needed a better layout, or dimmed lighting, or cosy seats/bean bags.. something. Did it work, would something else work, should we do it again?
There was so much love for our wonderful sponsors. It was lovely to see the reaction at the end of the day to how much sponsorship was raised, how much goes into the pot for grant funding, and just how many events GovCamp supported throughout 2017. You can apply for funding at https://www.ukgovcamp.com/grants/
Anyway, I wanted to get this out of my head whilst it was fresh in my mind and there will be more to say when I’ve gone through tweets, session notes and heard more ideas and feedback. Did you have as much fun as I did?