GovCamp Cymru explained

What is a govcamp?…

No agenda!

A govcamp is an event, also known as an unconference, where the attendees lead the programme – there is a theme, or overarching question, but there is no detailed agenda until the start of the day when people make suggestions for what they’d like to talk about.

(Barod have also provided a clear and simple explanation of GovCamp Cymru that can be viewed here.)


Delegates then attend the sessions that interests them. The sessions may vary vastly by topic and style but all are intended to encourage conversation,  learning from peers, creativity and collaborative working.


It’s free to attend (though donations through tickets and/or sponsorship are always gratefully received).

If you care – it’s for you!

It’s open to anyone who wants to be there: public/private/whatever sector, for work or if you’re just passionate about public services in Wales, and how they affect our lives.

People at unconference
Photo issued under a Creative Commons licence by Official BlackBerry Images

What will happen on the day?

The nuts and bolts of how we run this unconference is following Open Space principles, so people wander in and out of sessions, and many tweet, blog and take photos to record and share their learning with the outside world.

At the beginning of the day the whole group will gather together and be guided through creating the agenda. Everyone there has the opportunity to put forward sessions for the agenda, and all sessions are welcome.

Every delegate will have the opportunity to propose a session; then based on the level of interest gauged, the session will be allocated an appropriate room (i.e. the more interest the bigger the room) and a spot on the agenda. This continues until all spots are full.

The sessions will no doubt range in style: some are formal pre-prepared thinking reflecting on years of research… some are new ideas that would be great to chat through with some peers… some involve the hatching of ideas there and then on the day. All are welcomed!

The sessions?

There is no need to do any preparation before the unconference to be able to convene a session. If you have an idea the day of the event, then ‘pitch’ a session.

There will be many formats of sessions on the day and none are right or wrong ways of running a session, although it is recommended that every session has space for conversation and interaction.

People pitching at Housing Camp
Pitches. Photo by AlexLJackson issued under a Creative Commons licence

Some ideas for formats of sessions just to get you thinking might be:

The group conversation – As it says on the tin really… someone presents an idea or a topic and others come along and discuss it and just see what happens. These can be the most effective sessions as there is no telling where the conversation may take you. This is the most common format.

The question – No matter how big or small, there may be a problem you have been trying to solve – put it to the group to have a discussion about it and to help you find the answer to your question.

The short presentation – This format has some prior preparation by the session ‘host’, but the initial presentation of ideas is brief, and the rest of the time is handed over to discussion by the whole group.

Taught session – The host can teach a small group of people how to do something. The host will need to bring the equipment they need and be able to facilitate teaching a small group of people to do something at the same time.

Show and Tell – This could be a new product or idea that the host wants people to test out/play around with and can act as a springboard for discussion. This format could also be used to encourage others to show and tell, but some forward planning and lots of communication will be needed for this.

The fun stuff – The day is all about having discussions and interactions that you enjoy, so if you want to ‘host’ a session of a much less formal nature that may seemingly not have anything to do with the topic then that’s fine too. Who knows what discussions will happen during the fun stuff (just to give you an idea, things like stitching, morris dancing, cake decorating, mocktail making,… have all been run at unconferences – however the host needs to bring the materials for these!)

Some advice…

  • If you are hosting a session, your role is not to have all the answers, it is simply to invite people into a conversation.
  • There is no such thing as failure at an unconference, everyone wants the sessions to work.
  • Go with the flow.
  • The “law of two feet” applies: go to the sessions that interest you, and when you have learnt as much as you want, or feel you have contributed as much as you can, use your two feet, move on, and go find another session.
  • Take responsibility for your own learning. You’ll get out of it what you put in. If the topic you want to discuss isn’t on the agenda at first, then you need to put it on there.
  • Have fun!

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