Seek Forgiveness, Not Permission – What I learned at Civil Service Live 2009

Civil Service Live 2009 logo
Civil Service Live 2009 logo

Civil Service Live 2009 is the single largest gathering of civil servants.

Being a shiny new civil servant, attendance was a no-brainer.

I made it along on the Wednesday. I made the following notes:

  • The Civil Service is humongous, yet fits neatly inside the London Olympia.
  • ‘When it comes to building a better democracy people are more interested in digital engagement than constitutional renewal’ – Alex Allan, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
  • Web access is the single biggest obstacle to digital engagement and no one knows the true nature of the challenge; it’s all anecdotal.
  • There is a tension between the craftsman and assembly-line approaches to civil service working. It seems to be an argument about quality. Perhaps we need to look to collaborative NPD methods for a compromise and the stride forward. I found a paper on the subject by Ingvild Sundby stimulated some ideas.
  • William Perrin‘s ‘Blackhall‘ is a fascinating vision and the revelation that GCHQ thinks blanketing SW1 with secure wifi is possible is tantalising.
  • Government is too often a recipient of innovation when it needs to be a source.
  • NHS Choices costs £20m a year (Tom Loosemore, Head of 4iP). Choices should try the ‘Facebook approach’ of offering an API to let developers big or small, commercial or not-for-profit to develop parts for the site. Heck, why stop at Choices.
  • ‘When blogging, civil servants should stick to openness of process, rather than openness of opinion’ – James Crabtree, Senior Editor at Prospect Magazine.
  • There should have been a civil servant on the panel of the ‘Digital Engagement – Building a better democracy’ session.
  • At this rate ‘seek forgiveness, not permission’ is going to become the motto of the innovative civil servant.
  • Microsoft Surface was fun to use and has serious potential and Infusion have been developing some neat applications for it.
  • Every civil servant should go on at least one shadowing or sabbatical during their career, ideally outside of government or in another country.
  • COI had the coolest stand. Well done Tiffany and Liz.
  • I need to get myself a more portable laptop or a decent smartphone so that I can upload these notes as I take them down.

Looking forward to next year!

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4 thoughts on “Seek Forgiveness, Not Permission – What I learned at Civil Service Live 2009

  1. >There should have been a civil servant on the panel of the
    >‘Digital Engagement – Building a better democracy’ session.

    What about me?

  2. Discounted you because you were the Chair, Alex.

    But your interventions were much appreciated, as ever.

  3. Hi Ross

    As an even newer (but less shiny) civil servant, I was disappointed not to have made it down to Olympia for Civil Service Live.

    Looking at your notes, it looks like I missed out on some interesting debates, and it reassures me that digital innovation is very much on the public sector agenda.

    Secure GCHQ-wide wifi is somthing that is incredibly exciting – and so I’ll be looking out for more news on this.

    Crackin’ blog!

  4. Thanks for dropping by Rax – look forward to meeting you in the real world to hear about your early days at MoJ.

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