All you had to do was knock over a phone box, sell your motorbike and you had enough cash for a day in a studio and 500 7″ singles.
It’s those words that struck me after Hyperlocal Govcamp West Midlands in Walsall.
Run on a shoestring, powered by enthusiasm, favours and goodwill it saw 70 people from across the local government, hyperlocal blogging and open data communities come together in Walsall.
It should never have got off the ground. Once off the ground it should have crashed. Several times. That it stayed airborne should make all those who came proud.
At an unconference there can be a massive surge of ideas powered by conversation and debate. It’s a chance to think and be creative.
All that’s great but is that it?
In the few days after the event, a new hyperlocal Pelsall Common People was started by Jayne Howarth, Dave Musson at Solihull Council started to do cool things with Facebook and the organisation I work for Walsall Council started to trial Yammer. That’s a tiny tip of a large iceberg.
Here’s eight things to do after an unconference.
1. Sit down in a darkened room. If it’s been any good your head is filled with ace ideas and you’ll need a good lie down.
2. Blog. It’s one of the best ways to get your head around an idea. Besides. Everyone loves a sharer.
3. Don’t be despondent. If the unconference has been really good you’ll experience mild depression three days later. It’s the ambition – reality axis. Don’t worry. See 4.
5. Catch up. Read the blogs and presentations from sessions you couldn’t get to.
6. Stage an unconference yourself. No, really. Do. Find a few like minded people and do it yourself. They’re very rewarding.
7. Think of the phrase Just Flipping Do It. Write it on your pump bag if you like. JFDI It’s a good motto for life.
8. Think of it as training and not a jolly out of the office. Although if they serve cake it should be a fun experience.
I’ve long thought an unconference works short term and long term. It’s the ideas you can do straight away and it’s the slow burning suggestions that strike you 12 months down the line.
Do people have to wait for permission or someone else to create a bargovcamp?
Of course not. You can run one too. It would be hugely cool if from Hyperlocal Govcamp people were inspired to do it themselves.
To continue flogging the Punk analogy, when The Sex Pistols first played Manchester half the audience went out and formed bands. We got Joy Division, New Order, and The Buzzcocks. That we got Simply Red too shouldn’t be held against it.
For my money, and stay with me here, Localgovcamp in Birmingham was a local government equivalent of the Sex Pistols gig because a slew of inspirational things, events and projects came out of it.
Your unconference DIY toolkit
Dave Briggs’ guide to setting up an unconference we found indispensible.
Andy Mabbett said he’d blog on the things we learned and when he does I’ll insert the link [here].
There’ll also be a collection of resources from #hyperwm [here] very soon.
You can look at the images taken on the day at the #hyperwm Flickr group here.
John Popham points out here that an unconference is a cheap way of training in an era of austerity.