GovCamp Toronto?

GovCamp I came from this weekend’s PodCamp Toronto buzzing with ideas.

The most promising? GovCamp.

A quick Google search shows that others have had the same idea. GovCamps have been held in several countries in the last couple of years.

I think public servants could benefit from an event in the PodCamp vein where they could share their ideas, experiences and challenges related to new media in an informal setting.

Governments face unique challenges in implementing new media initiatives. Language and accessibility requirements, strict IT standards, tough approvals and other factors mean even considering cutting-edge solutions can be daunting. However, many of these tools are cheap, effective and embody the democratic principles of our society. GovCamp would help leading thinkers from different governments come together, compare notes and find solutions to their problems.

Toronto would be a perfect location for a Canadian GovCamp. It is home to the largest provincial and municipal governments in Canada, and just a few hours from the centre of the Canadian government. It is also a transit hub within north America.

What do you think? Is this a valuable idea? Is it worth pursuing? Interested in helping if we move ahead? Let me know what you think in the comments.

  • I have long wanted to do a camp for my industry, too– LibraryCamp. A few have done it already. I think it is a great idea, even if you just get a few people out sharing ideas. I say go for it! I’m not in government but would be willing to participate.

    Cheers,
    Connie

  • I know I would be interested in it.

    Working in the public sector, I know all too well the hoops we have to jump through to simply put links to relevant subject matter up on our Web site. I can only imagine the compliance issues we’d face with other Web technologies.

  • Dave:

    I like the concept.

    Sorry I couldn’t join you this year at Podcamp Toronto 2008 but family duties called.

    I hope it was a terrific experience…again!

    Best always,
    – Peter

  • Peter – I noticed your blog post earlier – congratulations! That’s a good excuse for missing an event if ever I heard one. Thank you for all your support for PodCamp – the audio promo was wonderful.

  • Dan O’Rourke

    I’m a fan of the idea. We’ve talked about doing something similar in my office (http://vp.gov.ns.ca).

    When you talk about web 2.0, online social networking, and emerging media in the context of “government” what you’re really discussing is “citizen engagement.” As the tools are just a means to engage citizens either to inform, consult colloborate, or empower.

    The goal is twofold, identify areas where engaging the public can occur or be enhanced. Then, identify the best means (one or many) of conducting that engagement. Many gov’t depts and agencies struggle to arrive even at step one. In many ways a cultural shift needs to occur within government right alongside a technical understanding of the possibilities.

    I’m less keen on Toronto, even though its my hometown. Nova Scotia has my office, Voluntary Planning, which is unique in the world and is seen as an example of how governments *can* do citizen engagement right. We’ve been doing it for over 40 years with tremendous success and are now employing emerging media in our processes. We’re also networked with citizen engagement practitioners throughout the world (gov’t and private offices ie. consultants).

  • Ian Ketcheson

    I’m into any ideas for Govcamps. “Don’t you think Ottawa is the naturally place for it?” he asks selfishly.

  • Winnipeg & Montreal also have huge numbers of government employees.

  • Laura Meil

    Hi Dave,

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while, but this is the first thing to draw me out of lurkdom. GovCamp sounds like an excellent idea, and I’d be more than happy to work on it.

    We seem to be taking such tiny steps toward embracing new media…I’d love to connect with people from other governments to figure out what we can do to make it work.

    Laura (OPS, Toronto)

  • Hey Dave.
    You have my vote. Sounds like a great idea. There are a lot of new media ideas floating around in government. GovCamp could help take them to the next level.

  • We did one in London recently:
    http://barcamp.org/BarcampUKGovweb

    It was a total success. It has facilitated further discussions – on a google group – and real-life regular meet ups.

    Good luck with yours!

  • Hi Dave,

    I think that this is a great idea. Does anyone know of anything similar in the states?

    If there is nothing I can’t wait to take the experiences you all have and use them here as well.
    Best of luck with it I hope it is very successful.

    John

  • Interesting comments. The thing to do is to test it where you happen to be, Dave (Toronto), but build it in such away that others could hopefully use the model for other cities and municipalities. Why does there just have to be one GovCamp?

    By the way, I forgot to mention–love the logo.

    Cheers,
    Connie

  • Sounds like a great idea in theory, are there enough case studies that could be shared and be compelling for all to learn from?

  • Hi folks… I’m loving the thoughtful comments – thanks for your input and please keep the suggestions coming!

    @Ian, Dan, Guinevere – it may be that there’s the potential for events in those locations. From my perspective, Toronto would be a good place to try it due to the huge number of gov’t employees (I think the City of Toronto has something like 50,000 alone, plus most of the provincial government and some Federal). Add to that the city’s central location, large general population and concentration of social media types and I think Toronto would be a good place to try this idea out.

    @Dan – I checked out your new blog. Sounds like you’re doing some cool things out in NS – I’d love to learn more about them.

    @Jenny – I saw the site for your event when I was researching the post. Congratulations on your successful event! Do you plan on hosting another one?

    @Connie – I didn’t realize this until I wrote the post, but there are already others (as Jenny mentioned). I’d love to see them spring up widely.

    @Dave – you’d be surprised at the things that different governments are doing. However, I think there also be a lot of value in getting people together in a positive environment where they can help each other come up with solutions to their problems.

  • I am definitely a big fan of this idea and would be willing to help out in some manner with getting such an event off the ground. I am pleased to see an increasing number of RSS feeds on Government sites (Ontario I am aware of at least). Keeping me up to date with the issues/stories seems like the logical first step for gov’t looking to increase engagement/conversation.

  • Hi Dave,
    Sounds like a great idea – I would further the proposal by saying there could be different new media considerations and applications for internal and external comms within government.
    Am still waiting for you to get back to me (consider this a public plea!).
    Chamika

  • Dear colleges, please feel free tot contact mee if you would like some feedback or information on our govcamp organisations. Keep up the good work! Check this out:
    http://www.slideshare.net/search/slideshow?q=govcamp&submit=post&commit=Search
    http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=govcamp
    and
    http://govcamp.org (feel free to annouce your initiative)

  • Dave, you’re like a spinning top – you never stop! I have very little experience with government but I’d be happy to use my PodCamp experience to help pitch in behind the scenes.

    I’ll be watching closely to see how this develops.

    Cheers,
    Eden

  • Sarah

    I think it’s an excellent idea. I would have said more, but it appears for the most part to have already been said. I would be 100 per cent on board and willing to help if the idea moves ahead…

  • Interesting idea. I’m doing a lot of Gov’t 2.0-ish work lately (including TransitCamp!) and would be happy to participate.

  • Having worked for several years now with Public Organizations I can say there is definitely a hunger to share experiences. Open Source software is now starting to be used more and more within the public sector and GovCamp can facilitate the sharing around these technologies which is so critical to their success.

    So basically you can count me in too! I say its worth discussing over a pint sometime soon….