Another year has passed. Another Govcamp beckons. Every year it is much the same, because the basic model of an event with emergent content and structure works and works well. Every year it is very different, because the mix of people and the things they want to talk about changes. And even if they didn’t, there are tens of thousands of routes through the day – you really can’t experience the same event twice (or the same event as anybody else there):
We started the day with forty potential sessions, and by the end of the day forty actual sessions had happened – with the complaints I heard all being about the agony of deciding between the eight sessions going on in any given time slot. That, by the way, has a consequence which is not always recognised – a choice of eight sessions, five times over gives 32,768 different combinations: it’s a fairly safe bet that, quite literally, no two people experienced the same event.
So as a reminder to myself – and perhaps for the benefit of new and returning Govcampers – I have assembled a few thoughts from past Govcamps. The starting point and the most important is that I like Govcamp, for a long list of reasons, many of which contradict one another:
I like govcamp
I like govcamp because I meet people I know
I like govcamp because I meet people I don’t know
I like govcamp because there are lots of people who were there the year before
I like govcamp because there are lots of people who weren’t
I like govcamp because there are sessions about things I am interested in
I like govcamp because there are sessions about things I didn’t know I was interested in
I like govcamp because I can walk out of sessions I didn’t know I wasn’t interested in
I like govcamp because I can create the sessions I want to be interested in
I like govcamp because I don’t have to be in a session at all
I like govcamp because there are so many parallel sessions that it’s unlikely that any two people experience the same event
I like govcamp because there are so few parallel sessions that the rate of cross-fertilisation remains high
I like govcamp because it is starting to have history and in jokes
I like govcamp because it reinvents itself each year
I like govcamp because it’s unlike almost every other meeting and event I go to in the rest of the year
I like govcamp because it has a strong drive to make itself better
I like govcamp
Govcamp is also quite useless, which is its profound, but often misunderstood strength.
That uselessness is not a weakness, it is the very essence of what Govcamp is and how it works. Govcamp as an entity reaches no conclusions, sets no actions. It has no opinions and no manifesto. It does just one thing, and does it very effectively: it brings people together in a way which facilitates conversations between them on the topics they most want to talk about… So, as ever, Govcamp was useless. But it is a very special and rather compelling form of uselessness. If we could be this useless more consistently, who knows what could be achieved.
This year Govcamp is back at Microsoft, giving everybody the opportunity to compete with Paul Clarke for the all time most stunning photograph taken at a Govcamp award. His winning entry from 2011, as yet unchallenged, is at the top of this post. Even at Govcamp, it’s worth being distracted from what’s going on in the room by what can be seen on the outside.
Tomorrow, I might pitch a session on putting the continuousness in continuous improvement. Or I might not. But whatever 200 individuals decide to do, the collective impact will be another day to like, exactly the same as, and totally different from, all the ones before.