On October 14th, a group of people who are passionate about public services gave up their Saturday to gather and discuss ways to improve public services in Wales and wider government at GovCamp Cymru. At this unconference, service users shared their experiences with service designers and owners; civil servants and 3rd party providers were there in equal measure discussing topics they’re passionate about.

GovCamp Cymru was the first `unconference` I’d ever attended, and I didn’t entirely know what to expect. The organisers did a good job of explaining the format of the unconference – there is no set agenda but the first session of the day allows attendees to propose sessions on topics of interest to them. Those attendees are then responsible for their sessions and can suggest a format for their session or just kick off a discussion around the question they may have posed. I attended sessions on improving involvement in the NHS Hackday, the need to make government procurement more transparent and increase accountability, starting OneTeamGov in Wales and even a retrospective on the unconference experience at the end of the day. There was such diversity in topics (as well as attendees!) that there was something that interested me in every session.

In a traditional conference setting, I am always much too intimidated to approach speakers after their talks or ask questions in the Q&A. The highlight of GovCamp for me was feeling that my contribution would be valued, and for the first time in my career, I felt so comfortable in a room of people that my imposter syndrome was nowhere to be seen. There was no sense that one person was an expert on the topic, but rather that we each had our own expertise in different areas or views of the topic. Even when I didn’t contribute anything, I still felt involved in the conversation; even when I was corrected or disagreed with, I felt uplifted by being engaged with. I think that comes down to the welcoming nature of all attendees and the focus on improving services for the public good which we all shared.

As a company that straddles the goals of being experts in what we do, whilst valuing the expertise of the civil servants we so often work with, I think the unconference format presents an interesting way of bringing people into a discussion. Some core principles of how Methods work are reflected by the benefits an unconference can provide – create an environment where everyone feels safe, acknowledge that everyone knows something you don’t and encourage people to engage with the areas they care about where they can have the most impact.

Unconference Roundup!
Unconference Roundup!