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Weeknote 1 - 23 January 2021

5 min read

On UKGovCamp, tough times in a transformation and being a practical ally.


I wrote my first weeknote[1] about a year ago following some advice I received at UKGovCamp20. Last week I was one of the virtual attendees at UKGovCamp21[2]. The organisers and camp makers - all volunteers - did a fantastic job of moving a high energy, interactive event entirely online. Obviously, it wasn’t the same, but in some ways it was even better. I’ve been a bit grumpy at work over the last couple of weeks but, thanks to the UKGovCamp crowd, I’ve come away with the same blast of community energy and positivity to keep me going until UKGovCamp22. I’ve reconnected with some old buddies, made some new ones, and picked up some new ideas to bring back to work.

I have been working with a couple of our recent joiners to pilot a digital public services course at the Council. This is a cross-Government effort based on a course developed at the HMPO[3]. We are a couple of weeks in and it seems to be going well. Once we have got through the pilot I hope to offer it up to others in the Council and, perhaps, other local authorities.

I’m also trying a skills swap with the Digital team at Dorset[4]. To start with I am providing some agile coaching to the team at Dorset and they are helping us with service design. If we can demonstrate the benefits of this there are all sorts of other things we might be able to do, as a pair of councils or as a regional or national group.


We are still transitioning from project-world to a product-world with our finance and workforce systems. I’m sure this is going to get harder before it gets easier as some of our new ideas and ways of working bump into more established or larger scope processes in the council.

We are asking people to act and think differently while they are also dealing with a pandemic, not to mention a host of other changes going on in their services or as part of long term strategic changes at the council. We’ve agreed to try some new things in how we fund and staff our team and prioritise our work. These all look fine on paper but sticking to them in the face of day to day demands from our users and managers isn’t easy.

For instance, I’ve been lucky enough to experience agile transformation at other organisations. I’ve seen how teams can make a much bigger impact by focusing on one or two things and getting them done instead of juggling loads of different work in parallel. If you have not seen these results before then these agile ideas require a real leap of faith, especially when influential stakeholders are demanding progress on things which are number 4 or 5 in the priority list. It can feel better that all 5 things are in progress when, in fact, it is a slower way to get all of the work done.

There are going to be a few months of compromise and frustration all round, as we speed up or slow down some of these changes until a critical mass of people have seen the results.


The first BAME Forum meeting of the year was really positive. We reviewed a draft apology and correction to a poorly worded announcement that was issued last year[5], and talked about how we could go beyond policies and statements to practically demonstrate our commitment to tackle racism and injustice. Loads of ideas for a year’s worth of action throughout 2021.

One of my own practical steps is to be a coach with codebar[6]. I joined another virtual event in January. Due to some last minute drop outs the Bristol event had more coaches than needed so a couple of us switched to the London event being held at the same time. If these had still been face-to-face events it would be a real stretch for me to support the group in Bristol and impossible to help someone in London with no notice. I guess this is one of the unexpected benefits of all of these things moving online. Once again, I really enjoyed it and have already signed up to the next event.


  1. My first weeknote. ↩︎

  2. Find out more by visiting the UKGovCamp website or checking the #ukgc21 topic in Twitter. ↩︎

  3. Go and read Rose Waite’s blog post for the background. ↩︎

  4. I really admire what Digital Dorset team are doing. ↩︎

  5. See my previous weeknote for an explanation. ↩︎

  6. More about codebar and what being a coach is like can be found in a previous weeknote. ↩︎

Originally published on by Richard Barton