A whole day dedicated to talking about the power of movements? Yes please! The Community Leadership summit took place on 6 September 2019.
It was a couple of months ago that a little post popped up in my twitter feed about this event, I had a click through and it sounded really interesting, a whole day to talk about community building and movements — something I’m really interested in. Oh and it was in Copenhagen, I have always wanted to go there
To be honest I didn’t think it was something I would really be able to go to, and as a joke I tweeted it with the comment “Does anyone want to sponsor me to go to this?” It was a joke but Nour and DavidBuck took me seriously and decided to use some of the One Team Gov funds to send me along.
I’m so grateful for them for the opportunity and through writing up this post I hope to share some of what I’ve learned back to the community.
It was great that there was a small contingent from UK gov in attendance. James and Imran from DEFRA, Trilly from NHS Digital, and Jess from the National Leadership Centre at the Cabinet Office. It was cool to be there with a different group of people than I would usually get to work or spend time with, and although we were coming from different places we had a lot of really interesting discussion and a lot in common.
A little bit about travel and location
I travelled by plane from Heathrow on Thursday night and returned on Saturday afternoon so it was a short trip for a flight but taking a train would have taken five days. I know because we checked.
I stayed at an eco hotel called 66 Guldsmeden, it was a really good example of how a hotel doesn’t need all new and perfect furnishings and expense to be totally comfortable and a really great place to stay. Their principles of reuse and not replacing anything until it absolutely needs to be replaced was great and I hadn’t expected it to be so inspiring.
On Saturday morning James suggested we rent some electric scooters and scoot around the city. It was difficult, I don’t ride a bike and I don’t drive so I was really worried about being on the road, but James helped and stuck with me until my confidence built and I could get on and do it. Massive thanks James, I would never have done that without you.
A little bit about Techfestival
Techfestival is a three day event in Copenhagen which brings people from around the world to talk about all sorts aspects of tech. I like the focus on the human factors and the impact of tech and over the course of a couple of days it was good to find out more about how it had come about and about the Copenhagen letter.
The festival itself has panel discussions, speakers but also a number of different day long summits. The Community Leadership Summit was just one of them.
One Team Gov lightning talk
As part of the event Severin and Co-matter invited us to do a lightning talk about One Team Gov. So James, Imran and I did that.
It was a short, just 10 minutes and with so much to say we couldn’t cover everything and decided to focus on our personal experiences within the movement. I hope it provided attendees with a good overview of our context and what we are trying to achieve, as well as showing that UK Government isn’t just offices stuffed with dusty bureaucrats but actually fully of people who really care about making change happen for the benefit of everyone.
We weren’t allowed any words, only pictures, but if you’re interested you’ll find them below.
I believe that our talk was recorded too, so when that comes out I will add it in here.
As a side note, where Techfestival is held is exceptionally cool, but relaxed, like a much more chilled out Hoxon. The venue we were in, however, was intimidatingly cool, and the attendees were diverse and from what I would have called “cool” jobs for big brands like Spotify or Lego.
Attending helped me to recognise the creative freedom that One Team Gov and working as a civil servant has given me, something never afforded to me when I worked in web design and advertising.
It’s interesting that in my early career I strived to work on “cool” or “exciting” things, and the moment I find purpose in my work within the civil service, it turns out to be the point when I feel like I’ve really arrived and can hold my own with those folks.
The day was split in two parts, lightning talks in the morning and then open space discussions in the afternoon. I took a lot of notes from the lightning talks and posted them on twitter so that people could see what was going on.
I really enjoyed the lightning talks, it was good to see so many different people speaking together across big brands, government, museums, extinction rebellion but that the overarching thing was people, bringing them together, learning. It was inspiring.
I really liked Diane Drubay’s talk about turning museums into more public places or ecosystems within a community and the permeability of public spaces, that felt really important when thinking about communities. I also really liked hearing about how music has been important to brands like Red Bull and (obviously) Spotify and the thought of turning offline communities and experiences into digital tools.
By far the talk that was the most useful was Kate Armstrong from FabLab Barcelona. The way she described the maker community and the documentation and sharing that goes on is exactly the kind of thing that I think many of us creating communities in government would aspire too.
I wonder how, when you don’t have that highly driven interest and motivation (like that within the maker community) you build that kind of community?
When I think about the work that we are doing in the Local Digital Collaboration Unit we talk about the barriers to collaboration and I often come back to the fact that people have to be really motivated and engaged in something to get it off the ground. I’m not sure if that’s possible to create any other way than organically, but it’s inspiring and a model that makes a lot of sense to me.
Open space sessions
In the afternoon we broke out for two open space sessions, we all went along to different things so when the day was over James, Jess, Imran, Trilly and I went to a nearby cafe to chat about what we had learned.
Instead of writing copious notes they have all given their permission to share an audio file of our conversation:
At the end of the day Jennifer and Mara from Zebra’s Unite chatted about their work and some of the things they’ve been doing. They were genuinely inspiring and interesting women who are clearly driven to change things, training people in journalistic skills. I think that co-matter will be releasing this as a podcast so look out for that soon.
The last activity we did was to reflect on what we had heard on the day, almost like a retro but also a kind of creating a set of pledges or thoughts to take away.
Overall it was a great day and I met a lot of people and learned a lot. I was exhausted but inspired.
Thank you so much to Severin and Co-Matter for inviting us to speak, and to Nour and David for sending me. Huge thanks to James, Imran, Trilly and Jess for being wonderful travelling buddies.