City Camp MN: Overview

Today, I am attending City Camp MN, an unconference that brings together people working for local government, elected officials, non-profits, neighborhood groups, private-sector developers, journalists…basically anyone interested in making our communities better through technology. The idea is that we can collaborate and by doing so, we can come up with solutions better than if we were to all just work on our own. This is of course the basic theory that underpins the idea of government itself, but it is more than that, too. By bringing together those who work for The Government and those who do not, hopefully we can make some magic, and the sum will be greater than the parts.

I come from the government side of this complicated equation. I do web and graphic design for a suburb in the Twin Cities. I am very involved in collaborating with others in local government who are tackling the same challenges I am: finding ways to deliver information and provide customer service online to the many groups of people who make up our community. I serve as Secretary for the National Association of Government Webmasters, and I helped start a local group, the Minnesota Association of Government Webmasters. Both help connect local government webmasters with each other so we can keep learning as technology continues to shift around us each and every day.

I have helped to organize the NAGW annual conference, and it’s quite a lot of work pulling together a great selection of speakers, arranging meeting and hotel space, coordinating volunteers, and much much more. I am very interested to see how the unconference format for City Camp MN works.

The day will kick off with everybody collaborating to come up with sessions for later in the day. My understanding is that rather than having presenters for each session, there will be group discussions. I think there will be some sort of voting mechanism to determine the actual sessions out of all the ideas that are generated. While that magic happens, five or six speakers will give five-minute Ignite-style talks, with just five slides each, to fire up the crowd around a big idea. Then, after that, the spontaneous sessions will take place, hopefully without any spontaneous combustion. At the end, we all get together to share what we learned, and then we go socialize.

As with many conferences, the value of this day will be generated not so much in the words that are said in each of the sessions, although that certainly has value, but in the connections which are made. This discussions outside of the sessions are often as valuable as the discussions inside the sessions. And hopefully, by bringing together a wide group of people from various backgrounds, this will just be the starting point for future collaboration.

I will be posting updates throughout the day on blog, with notes from my session. I will also be tweeting on th ehashtag For those attending the conference who are reading this, hope we get a chance to chat!

After all, that’s what we’ here for.