Notes from GovCamp 2020

by @edent | # # # # | Read ~118 times.

I’ve been to a fair few GovCamps – the (mostly) annual gathering of Civil Servants who want to explore new ways of working.

For a flavour of what they’re like, see scripti electronici passim:

It was great to see old friends (and how old we’ve become) but even greater to hear so many pitches start with “This is my first time at GovCamp!”

Movements like this only survive if we can convince new people to join. Otherwise we’re just talking to ourselves.

I do worry about the lack of senior leaders. There were some, and some of us are on track to go pretty high up. But my fear is that the event is just us letting off steam and no one in a position of power takes it seriously.

We must, through our actions, model the values of openness and collaboration in our work lives. We have to be the change we want to see. I’m not even sorry if that sounds too self-aggrandising.

I’ve already written about How to Archive a GovCamp, so the rest of this post focuses on the session I facilitated.


Along with Hadley, my boss, and my colleague Colin we talked about NHSX. I started the session with 3 ground rules:

  1. Share but don’t attribute. Tweet about the interesting things in the session, but don’t attribute to any specific person.
  2. Stories but not personal health. We wanted to hear stories of crap IT, but we didn’t want to know people’s detailed medical history.
  3. Optimism not cynicism. It’s really easy to say “that’s impossible” – we’re here to say “let’s make that happen”.

We came out with a bunch of useful information, and hopefully some eager recruits for new jobs.

Giant post it notes stuck to a wall.

The session was packed – and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.


Key points (for me) were:

  • Clinicians lean new medical knowledge all the time – they can learn new software
  • Patients expect these things to just work
  • Having jobs outside London is seen as a positive continuation
  • Clinicians are endlessly inventive and want to co-design software

Read the full session notes.


Massive thanks to everyone who made the camp happen, and all the lovely people who blogged.

Perhaps it’s time to move the next GovCamp far out of London. Perhaps a weekend somewhere rural, with no WiFi?

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