Weeknotes S9 Ep3

A busy week, but one where things start to come together

A gif from the Simpsons that says “Everything’s comin’ up Millhouse!”

Bit of a weird week that probably starts last Friday really. Because so much has happened I’m going to try and group things together under some themes.

Before I start, here’s what I’ve been reading:


A screenshot of my trello board for things I’m reading

Is being me ok?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this long read on women’s writing this week. It feels like it has come at the right time for some thoughts that have been quietly creeping into my mind… you might not have time to read it (it is a long read after all.

The general jist is, writing yeah? It’s hard if you’re a woman.


There are some points in my blogging where I’ve been suddenly aware that the mere act of writing has a power, all of it’s own, beyond what I could have imagined. This has been one of those weeks. This is also a note to myself not to take that small power for granted, to believe in it as something that gives me life beyond myself, and to see the small revolutionary act that blogging can occasionally be.

I call this thing blogging, because it sounds less important than writing, it makes it easier to spurt words out into the world if I tell myself I’m not trying to be a writer. I’m not trying that hard. It’s ok if it’s no good. It’s only a blog.

I have gotten very, very used to making any and all of my talents seem small.

A small cat

“That sounds a bit self-aggrandising by the way. What do you mean by a revolutionary act, Sam?”

I’m not entirely sure, these notions are only just coming together. But “blogging” can certainly sometimes undercut power structures, and can do it when you least expect it.

And, I guess, it’s those times when I’m most me, when I don’t think I’ve done anything particularly interesting (because I often don’t value my own thoughts or skills) when I’ve just told a story about myself (after some long conversations with myself about whether the whole pursuit is just an exercise in naval gazing) that my writing seems to become something much bigger than I expected.

Sorry for being so meta… blog posts talking about blog posts.

Why are you acting so weird?

Anyway, I published a post on Friday of last week, it was called Learning stuff is a Side Effect of Life. It was a about what I was up to back in 2009, which seems a long time ago now. I debated publishing it because I wasn’t sure it would be interesting to anyone, but it got shared lots, people talked to me about it in pubs, and it caught something that I didn’t at all expect it to.

Stats for my Medium post, 380 visits, 208 reads.

On Saturday I headed to #ukgc20 GovCamp. At some point in the week an idea had come to me about writing stories and just spending a session doing something that seemed completely un-GovCamp-y, relaxing, creative, tangential. Last year I found the day really overwhelming and I felt quite out of sorts so I thought if I ran a small session then it would give the opportunity for distraction and doing something entirely different.

I came up with an idea, I thought it was off the wall, but I put it on Twitter to see if people thought I was insane (share early and often). Then I ran a session about How to tell the story of your project using The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

It was fun, people actually participated, and they liked it! I listened to stories and I learned something. I learned how I might run the session again, that people actually gave it a go, and I learned how personal stories can feel and how that helps to ensure that they resonate.

I wrote up my thoughts about the workshop and how to run it, and it’s taken on a life of its own; lots of people have told me that they will go and try it with their teams, or in blog posts and more.

I’m thinking about creating some “Official Tiger Storyteller” stickers for anyone who tells me they’ve used the session in their day to day work… what about that? Maybe.

Anyway, it’s really humbling. Asmall part of my brain in the world, maybe not entirely original, but original enough in context, and something I tried.

I feel incredibly lucky to have spaces where I can try out being me. Does that sound weird?

This blog is a space where I can experiment in telling stories, and GovCamp provided me with a space to try something that may well have failed (and with people generous enough to let me try anyway).

I am honestly still floored any time I put myself out there with how people can be so supportive and enthusiastic. It makes me feel very lucky to have found you, so thank you anyone who’s been in touch recently and thank you #ukgc20

What about GovCamp?

A full day, on a Saturday, and the first day in… maybe forever that my little boy slept beyond 7am. Unheard of. I caught the train at 8.20 with Jenny. I spent a lot of the day with Lizzi, Louise, Dan, Coco and even more awesome people.

The pitching was excellent and there were lots of people lining up. I was feeling really terrible about pitching and seemed to be glued to my seat for a lot of it. When I saw @jukesie I totally jumped the queue, which I felt awkward about as once I got up to pitch I felt like I utterly crumpled.

Thinking that I might have delayed things for someone else and made them feel more nervous is something that I’m feeling very guilty about even now.

Even though the room was full of so many friendly faces and people I know to be supportive, my adrenaline rushed up and I have no idea how my pitch went. Janet jumping and cheering me on made it better, but also somehow worse, and I quickly babbled out my pitch, didn’t really show my prop (the book) and got back to my seat as fast as I possibly could.

My cheerleader, Janet, at #ukgc20

Afterwards, with my heart still racing, I felt I couldn’t cope with session 1 so went out, bought a huge pain au raisin and ate it. I sat with lovely people and had lovely chats.

By session 2 everyone dispersed into sessions but I still didn’t feel quite right so I just sat on my own. I briefly watched the introverts session, run by Salma from outside of the glass box that they were in, another, slightly meta thing.

At lunch, I hung out with Lizzi and more people taking photos of toys #ToyCamp. Lizzi is excellently creative in doing this kind of thing and it was really lovely to learn a little bit.

Clive Squid enjoyed the sandwiches.

After lunch was my session, as previously mentioned. Then I went to a session about how power plays out in your organisation and we had some great conversations about social mobility, diversity and being a woman. I felt that this session was a bit light on discussion, there was a lot of introduction by the session leads, and I would have maybe preferred to have been in something more interactive, but that probably reflects more where I was on the day.

Afterwards I joined @jukesie’s sticker designing session, which was very fun.

It was a good day and an amazing opportunity to spend time with interesting people. Thank you to all the Camp Makers and organisers — you magnificent people you.


What else has happened?

Lots has been going on in the NLC team, we are less than a week to our big event so there are currently a lot of moving parts.

But, in brief:

  • We delivered in new page designs for the main NLC website https://www.nationalleadership.gov.uk/
  • We got the results back from our IT Health Check which included only 4 items (2 medium and 2 low priority) which is excellent!
  • We made really great steps to delivering a really nice piece of functionality for the programme team

Over and above this, the team have been spending a lot of time together working out how to work better together. We are in a good place now, with workable and achievable sprint goals and a plan to ‘reset’ after this Sprint, step back and really dig into the most valuable user stories.

My confidence hasn’t been the highest since I started out on my own in the team, but this week I’ve felt things coming back together. It’s felt good to have my instincts validated by the team who have provided me with the research, and insights. I’ve started formulating patterns that are the start of something becoming something good, and I’ve started to get to grips with the language I want to use.

On a personal level I’ve been worrying about the regularity with which I deploy phrases such as:

“Does that make sense?”

“Is that ok?”

“Is that right?”

I’m more comfortable with “Is that right?” because I want to be a good leader and enable people to question or correct me. But the other two are more worrying, they are purely and straightforwardly my neurosis about being understood and about being liked.

I hope they are received as welcoming and generous, rather than uncertain, because I am certain. I can make decisions easily if I have the knowledge to hand, I just don’t want to assume that I have all of the knowledge to hand.

I’ve also been asked to write a Digital Strategy, which feels like a lot of responsibility for someone whose only officially been in the role for 3 weeks, and I’m conscious that it’s a strategy that will ultimately end up being someone else’s, so it’s important not to be too prescriptive (though that’s important in agile anyway). I’m working out how I walk that line.

Letchworth Heritage Foundation

I met with Graham Fisher, the Chief Exec of the Heritage Foundation, for a chat after applying to become a governor last year. He encouraged me to stand as an elected governor, which is running in July, so there’s a thing.

Elected governor. That sounds terribly important doesn’t it? I would have to actually be successful though…

I was thinking a lot about service design, and systems thinking. I started thinking a lot more about how uniquely placed the Heritage Foundation is in Letchworth. With a duty of care to the people who live here, and in the environment, but not a council, and not a service like Health or Police, but a charitable trust.

They really are in a unique position to convene, work with other services and a number of partners, and to support the work of other organisations. Their cultural education work, and wellbeing work sound incredibly interesting and I’m really keen to see how it plays out. It’s definitely exciting and something I’m keen to learn much more about and get involved with.


One Green Gov — One Team Gov

Everything over the past few weeks has been so full on that I didn’t manage to get to #OneGreenGov and I was so utterly disappointed that I can’t really say.

But anyway, I did my bit from afar on Twitter, RTing and sharing everything I possibly could via the One Team Gov account; reading about the speakers and following the hashtag.

It was a really inspiring day; scary at times, but also hopefully uplifting and the start of some real change within the public sector in how we think about the changes we can make. I can’t wait to see the write ups of the day.

And that’s probably enough for this week right? Yeah probably. Byeeeeeeee!

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