Jon Foster January 17, 2013

Councillor Camp – “none of that boring old preaching to the converted nonsense”

Jon Foster

Saturday the 12th January saw the first ever Councillor Camp event take place at Facebook HQ in London.

More than a hundred local politicians from across both the country and the political spectrum came along, eager to share and learn about all things digital and social. This was a pretty good start towards our aims for the day – we really wanted to create space for councillors to talk over the issues they see around digital and social media and form networks to share ideas and experience – the same way movements like Govcamp have done for other groups.

The day kicked off with Facebook-ers Simon Milner and Elizabeth Linder giving us some incredible examples of Facebook use and a how-to for getting the most out of it.

We then heard from a selection of fantastic speakers, who each gave a 5-minute lightning talk on their own experience of using digital or social media. All the speakers were excellent, but particular highlights included David Harrington from Stockton telling us about his Skype surgeries, Liz Ixer from Harringay Online, and Alice Perry from Islington talking about digital campaigning. The brilliant Tom Phillips who videoed all the talks is in the process of uploading them to YouTube, so check out our bookmarks for the links.

Over the coffee break people started thinking about ideas for the afternoon unconference. It wasn’t long before the post-its were flying around and we had a full to overflowing grid ready for the rest of the day. Sessions ranged from “What can councillors say legally?”  and “What support do members really need on social media” all the way through to a big “Twitter bootcamp” session covering all things 140 characters.

Despite all but a few of the attendees being unconference newbies, everyone got stuck in – and the lack of structure seemed to go down really well. There are some brilliant write-ups of the sessions in the huge array of blog posts that have already been written about the day.

The day was rounded up with a closing panel, chaired by Jonathan Carr-West of the LGiU.  Panelists reflected on their experience of the day and what they’d learned, before handing over to the audience to do the same.

Throughout the whole day everyone at the event discussed and shared things with each other; there was a continual buzz in the venue all day, which was just as valuable as the talks and sessions.

Our goal for Saturday was to start conversations and give local politicians a network to support each other on social media and associated technology. To encourage those conversations to continue, there’s now a Councillor Campers Facebook group, specifically for local councillors to share, ask and learn anything digital or social.

We’re now thinking about what next for Councillor Camp and we’re open to offers, so do get in touch if you’re up for collaborating in the future.  And to keep up with all things Councillor Camp, just like the Facebook page.

Check out these bookmarks for links to all the blogs, podcasts, photos and more from Councillor Camp.

Title quote: Kate Butler