Here are the answers to some of the most Frequently Asked Questions.

(Just click the + symbol to activate any question)

Why is it ‘gov’ camp?

Because we believe that most significant, scaleable innovation for public-purpose will inevitably link back to government or the public service, even if in a resourcing or co-creation capacity.

Who attends – just the public sector or others?

GovCamp is firstly for the public sector from federal, state/territory and local government (and we acknowledge the varying challenges facing each sphere of government). It’s also an important way that private sector contributors as well as civic innovators and change-makers can interact in the spirit of sharing ideas and experience. (It’s not, however, a forum for pitching or griping.)

What’s the purpose? What are the outcomes?

GovCamp aims to provide open, participatory spaces for the free exchange of ideas and experience. The outcomes happen on two levels: the participants’ own experience of exchanging knowledge and connections; as well as the newer goal of eliciting and curating ‘social knowledge’ that may be distilled and fed back into points of influence within the public sector and other institutions. )

How is this different to GovHack?

GovHack in Australia is a hackathon-style program, more focused on practical innovation results through the work of developers and others harnessing digital technologies and open data. GovCamp is about dialogue and ‘social knowledge’: new ways of capturing emergent challenges and innovative approaches. The two initiatives are separate with different leadership and coordination teams, but with a shared parentage so we collaborate and share ideas quite a bit.

What will I experience?

GovCamps typically involve a day of open, informal discussion among the participants. They start with inspiring, lightning presentations and then participants self-nominate to host or attend short 20-30 minute sessions held in parallel, often 3-5 sessions simultaneously. There are several plenary gatherings by the attendees – particularly at the beginning and end of the day to draw together shared learnings and observations. Oh, and just to add, we don’t do weird corporate games for those who are allergic.

Why is it different to a conference?

GovCamp runs to the ‘unconference’ model ie. the agenda is created ‘live’ on the day by participants. This way, what gets discussed is usually what is of highest interest or priority to the most participants.

How is the unconference format facilitated?

It is an open, agile approach. The main facilitation happens after the introductory presentations: helping participants unpack and share ideas for discussion. Once the day’s agenda is mapped on a board, the rest of the day is largely self-managing.

What will we be talking about?

It’s largely up to the event organisers. Because GovCamp aims to focus on the participants’ experience and priorities, broad themes are set in advance to provide a loose framework for discussion. Each GovCamp can be different, focusing on particular themes and/or locational/jurisdictional priorities.

Why is it on a weekend?

Whether public sector or other, weekday attendance at conference events typically requires approvals or justification of time away from work. GovCamps tend to work best for those who place personal value on this open, participatory knowledge sharing and see it as contributing to their professional development. That given, some GovCamp special events (such as 2 hr GovCampfire sessions) are held during weekday morning, lunch or evenings to broaden the reach and experience of the community.

What’s the program on the day?

There is no structured program. Why? Does it work? (See the FAQs for What will I experience? Why is it different to a conference? What will we be talking about?)

Why is there no structured program for the day?

There are plenty of formal, structured learning and knowledge exchange opportunities such as conferences, association events and tertiary/professional development programs. Some of the most useful ‘social knowledge’ networking happens over a coffee between peers. GovCamp aims to provide that experience within a loose thematic framework, in a stimulating environment, with a large group of like-minds.

What are the themes and topics discussed?

Whatever most people want to discuss, within the loose thematic framework set by the organisers. (See What will we be talking about? What’s the program on the day?) Don’t forget, if there’s a major topic of interest to a large enough group, we’ll support you in convening a special GovCamp.

What do you mean by a ‘networked’ GovCamp?

This is itself a recent innovation in GovCamp dialogue-based events. It’s an experiment in using digital tools and channels to link-up similar discussions across locations. In practice, it means using facilitated videoconferencing combined with social streams and open, interactive note-taking tools.

Is this a good day for networking?

Oh, yes – about as good as it gets: A diverse cross-section of professional disciplines and interests, committed to spending time sharing ideas combined with good venues, (hopefully) good coffee and like-minded people.

Can I give a talk?

Absolutely. You can come prepared, but it comes down to self-nominating after the beginning of the GovCamp. After the introductory plenary session, before the group breaks into parallel streams everyone who wants will have a chance to self-nominate a talk.

What’s involved in giving a talk?

Your whole session will be 25-30 minutes – so it’s ‘speed thinking’ meets open conversation. It’s ideal to deliver a 5-10 minute stimulating conversation-starter to your group session and then leave enough room for open discussion… that’s often how you get to learn something new about your favourite topic. Oh, and try to avoid slide presentations. Most rooms won’t be setup for it, and it kills the conversation spirit of the session… unless it depicts something highly visual and stimulating.

If I attend, do I have to give a presentation?

Not at all. There are usually three times as many people attending and participating as there are available slots for sessions. But it is a day for joining in the dialogue; for asking questions and challenging assumptions, as well as contributing something you know that someone else might value.

Can I come for part of the day?

Frankly, we don’t police it – but it’s sorta disappointing. Organising GovCamp takes a lot and it’s free to ensure no barriers to entry. Sure, it’s the weekend and it’s your time but, if it’s worth coming along, then try to make the whole day. Think of it as your first innovation challenge: Committing to contributing as well as consuming useful experience.

Are you streaming the presentations?

No. GovCamp is about participation and dialogue. It’s about ‘uploading’ as well as ‘downloading’. None of us are zealots about this, but the value is in the first-hand experience.

Can I participate remotely?

It’s a second-best option of course, but you can join in the social streams. (See XXXXX).

How can I help ‘social report’ the conversation?

Come along on the day and join in the pre-briefings for volunteer social reporters. You might learn some new ways of using online social tools.

What if I’m not in one of the host cities?

Well, if you can’t get to a nearby location you can follow the social stream and participate via comments.

Are there other GovCamps coming up?

The GovCamp Australia hub is planning quite a few more local events as well as themed events – and we know that some in the GovCamp community have others in store. Stay in touch by subscribing for email updates.

Can I host my own GovCamp?

We’d welcome it. The GovCamp Australia hub is being setup in 2014 to support local events on a wide range of themes.

What does it take to run a GovCamp?

More than we can tell you here now… It’s as much an art as a science, so we can support with convenor training, communication and event systems. If you’re interested, please get in touch.

Where does GovCamp come from?

It started a few years ago in the UK and there has since been GovCamp events in many countries. UKGovCamp is still going strong – mainly as an annual event with a digital focus. It continues as it was launched to be run voluntarily by a group of committed innovators.

What is GovCamp Australia?

In Australia, GovCamp started in 2011 almost simultaneously in Canberra and then Sydney, followed quickly the following year in Brisbane. While these events were all independent, in 2014 GovCamp Australia is now being drawn together as a collaborative program of free, open events supported by a national advisory circle and a hub to coordinate funding, event training and knowledge transfer.

Who runs GovCamp Australia?

GovCamp Australia is an open collaboration between a group of committed individuals. It is not connected to any partisan agenda or corporate interest. It is currently coordinated nationally by the Cofluence team – Allison Hornery and John Wells – on a pro bono basis with the support of the INSPIRE Centre at the University of Canberra.

Is GovCamp just a ‘fringe movement’? Does this have public sector endorsement?

GovCamp is an open community and is not aligned with a particular approach, methodology or practice. It aims to remain free from corporate or institutional influence and, as such, active participation and leadership is at the initiative of individuals. Over the years GovCamp does enjoy the enthusiastic support of a wide range of organisations – both private and public sector – which has included federal and state/territory agencies as well as local government associations. The national team is also convening an active collaboration with a range of advisors to progress the principles and practices of ‘social knowledge’.  

What does it cost?

In the past and foreseeable future, the core GovCamp events are free to attend to enable anyone to take part.

How is GovCamp resourced?

From sponsorship – mainly in-kind contributions of venues and contributions for catering. All the organising teams generously give their time for many weeks ahead of GovCamp events to deliver the best possible experience for participants. GovCamp has benefitted from unencumbered sponsorships to ensure autonomy of content and format.

Is it ‘just talk’ or can it contribute to my professional development?

GovCamp is not a particular, clever methodology. It’s largely about creating a space for energised, participatory discussion around issues that are important or emergent, or both. We aim to provide a bridge between formal, structured learning and open, informal knowledge exchange; between identified best practice and emergent practice. We are in ongoing consultation with education institutions and sectoral associations to enhance the relevance of GovCamp to the real-world workplace.

How can I use this to benefit my workplace?

Bring a topic you’d like to discuss to GovCamp. You don’t have to be an expert or have the answer to start a discussion. Chances are, you’ll mobilise interest around you from others with similar interests.

Does it work? Will I get value from attending?

That’s largely up to you. The national and local organising teams put a lot of effort into curating inspiring speakers and hosting well-planned events at great venues to ensure that the interaction between participants is fruitful. We also talk regularly with our Advisory Circle and others to ensure that discussion themes are topical and relevant to the challenges of the public sector and their collaborators from other sectors. Finally, it’s up to all participants to bring candour and relevant discussion to their GovCamp experience.