I’ve often heard people asking this question, sceptics and followers alike. Where are you going? What have you achieved? And after two years, I think it’s time to reflect on that question, and I think I have an answer…

Sam Villis
Jun 21 · 8 min read
Volunteers at #OneTeamGovGlobal unconference, July 2018

I first started attending One Team Gov Westminster Breakfast in summer 2017. I wrote about some of those early breakfast club meetings and why they were important to me in two blog posts; Three Reasons why you should come to One Team Gov breakfast club, and This is #MyOneTeamGov, what’s yours?

The first half of 2019 has felt like a dynamic time for the movement, and it’s been really exciting to me for many reasons. So, as we approach the 2 year anniversary of the first unconference, (and since I’ve been hanging around since those early days) I thought it was about time to bring together some of that story, and to think about what happens next.

Where did this all come from?

The story of the inception of One Team Gov is fairly well documented so I won’t go into it in detail here, but essentially Kit and James built an alliance over their mutual desire to bring digital and policy roles closer together. They bonded over a mutual desire to reform government to bring about a stronger bond between those two areas, helping public servants to deliver better results on behalf of citizens.

Those early discussions lead to an initial unconference, which led to some principles, which lead to regular breakfast meetings (lean coffee) in Westminster.

The idea was simple: that any action, however small will add up to create something much bigger. By explicitly calling these micro actions, the movement was able to engage more people in the idea that change doesn’t have to be huge to do something amazing, a microaction could simply be going to a meet-up, or wearing a lanyard.

The organising team at the first One Team Gov unconference

What’s happened so far?

Over the past two years the community has done a huge amount, most of which has been seen in the numerous events we’ve delivered [a timeline]:

June 2017. The first One Team Gov unconference brings together 180 public servants, around the same time the Westminster breakfasts start.

October 2017. #Reimagine2017 brought together the top 200 civil servants in England including Lord Jeremy Heywood to discuss the future of public service given unprecedented change. This event helped to show how unconferences have a legitimate place within public service and amongst our most senior leaders.

A graphic recording done at One Team Gov Scotland.

November 2017. One Team Gov Scotland brings together 100 public servants for an unconference.

January 2018. One Team Gov Wales ran their first unconference and brought together another 100 public servants in Wales.

March 2018. One Team Gov North ran their first unconference.

July 2018. #OneTeamGovGlobal brought together 700 public servants from around the world for the largest unconference we have ever run. The event had attendees from 40 countries and spawned many global connections, over 30 retrospective blog posts, and many other interactions.

An image of the crowds at #OneTeamGovGlobal

The One Team Gov community also shared numerous blog posts in the run up to the event; sharing and working in the open, as well as 4 blog posts after the event enabling others to learn from our experience.

This event also saw the launch of the One Team Gov podcast, put together by Kylie and Kamala, which has made 25 episodes to date covering interviews with public service leaders from around the world.

Summer 2018. One Team Gov is invited to run unconference taster sessions for Civil Service Live.

September 2018. DataJam North East brings together people from 50 organisations with an interest in Data Science and Service Design to take practical action to improve services in the north east. This initial 2 day event has now blossomed into a thriving community of public servants.

The DataJam logo

The list above doesn’t even cover the number of events our volunteers have given their time to support, through advice, volunteering and facilitation, and it doesn’t cover the regular meet-ups that have sprung up and are taking place all over the world on a regular basis.

And, what’s happening now?!

A little while ago I wrote this twitter thread about all of the things that the One Team Gov community were doing…

It really brought home to me how much the community had changed and grown over the past year.

What started as a team of engaged civil servants at the centre of UK government, has spun out to become an engaged and proactive national and global community.

Two years of microactions have enabled us to build a solid foundation to enable others to do some of their best work, this is shown in some of the events that are listed below [1]:

March 2019: One Team Gov ran an unconference event dedicated to Exploring Future Leadership. This event brought together 40 people interested in the subject, and published their findings in the open — there will be more events running across UK later in the year to meet demand.

We also teamed up with the Civil Service Leadership Academy to run a directors’ network event for directors from all government departments. The second of these events will be happening in July.

May 2019: User Research unconference. Lisa and Rochelle ran this event after spotting that there was a lack of support for new user researchers in Leeds, and wanted to create a space for peer support and discussion, using One Team Gov to enable them to deliver this. There will be more events coming in the future.

Post-it notes showing feedback from the User Research Unconference.

May 2019: Engaged public servants in Canada ran another #OneTeamGovGlobal in Victoria, British Columbia. The event again brought together public servants from across the world, as well as from across Canada and it was exciting to see how the event could be used to engage geographically diverse public servants from across that gigantic country!

You’ll find an excellent write up of every single topic of discussion by Emma-Rose here:

June 2019: #WellbeingCamp was run in Leeds, a full day dedicated to wellbeing with a diverse selection of sessions and an amazing opportunity to focus on health and happiness and how it can affect people at work. This event brought together 250 people, 90% of which had never been to a One Team Gov event before, showing that there is still plenty of opportunity for the network to grow.

June 2019: One Team Gov Finland held their first ever unconference.

Summer 2019: One Team Gov were again asked to run unconference taster sessions at Civil Service live. One Team Gov volunteers run events in 7 cities.

But that’s not all, over this time the community has spun out of the centre and there are now 7 UK One Team Gov groups; Newcastle and Manchester, Leeds, Midlands, West, Wales and Scotland. And there are growing numbers of international groups across Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Stickers from One Team Gov Wales.

I’m not even finished!

In the next few weeks there will be the #BureaucracyHack taking place in Hackney, our colleagues in Switzerland are supporting OpenDataCH with an unconference, One Team Gov Scotland will be supporting unconference events at Fringe by Design, and One Team Gov Mids are running a #LeanCoffee in Birmingham.

Some of the UK team are currently working on a project for Nesta, and this engaged global community are supporting us in that. A tweet for help has, as I write this, been retweeted 123 times and the community are engaged and ready to participate.

Across One Team Gov twitter accounts we have almost 12,000 followers now, which is absolutely huge, and amazing, to think that so many of these people are engaged and ready to help bring about change in their organisations.

One Team Gov is a box

You might have noticed one thing about all of the events I’ve listed above, they’re all really different.

One of the most exciting things about where One Team Gov has got to over the past two years is that through solid work, working in the open, by creating and sharing assets (like stickers and lanyards, but also business cases and blog posts), and by supporting others to run events, this network has created a structure that is enabling others to succeed and to do their best work.

The structure I’ve outlined above is what I’m calling “the box” which seems apt when you consider our logo, but which basically means - we have the structure, we have the foundation,and we have an ever growing network of engaged, enthusiastic volunteers around the world.

A picture of a One Team Gov t-shirt with the logo on it. In the background you can see the words, Be diverse and inclusive, Care deeply about citizens and Work across borders.

It’s now possible to put whatever you want in the box. One Team Gov is providing the structure for engaged public servants to talk about and explore the things that are most important to them.

There is still more to do, there are more people out there who need permission and support to explore the issues that are important to them. These are the people that will lead significant reform and change in the future , I’m sure of that.

There is so much to say here that I am sure I haven’t included it all. If you have any comments thoughts or observations please let me know in the comments below or on twitter and I will update this post. Thank you!


[1] On reading this the ever awesome DavidBuck likened our strategy of micro-actions to the creation of a foundation of sedimentary rock. Which is a lovely image.

[2] Since publishing this I have added unconference events in Wales and North, knew I’d forgotten something! I’ve also added more detail about microactions and information about Fringe by Design in Scotland.

OneTeamGov

UK policymakers, service designers, digital professionals and others working out how we can make government more effective. #oneteamgov

Sam Villis

Written by

Working to #FixThePlumbing at MHCLG, Prev: Standards Assurance at GDS and Cabinet Office. Proud to be @OneTeamGov. Weeknotes/Design/illustration/things/records

OneTeamGov

UK policymakers, service designers, digital professionals and others working out how we can make government more effective. #oneteamgov

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