Picamp: Challenging and new conversations…

So what was PIcamp all about? Well the idea behind is pretty straightforward. It’s based on the understanding that meaningful change happens iteratively, in small steps and not through large scale revolutions.

We began this year’s events in Edinburgh, because one of the things that Scotland and Northern Ireland share is a lack of capacity with parties and government to come up with new ideas to deal with new problems.

The internet may not be able supply the answers to many of those problems. Not least because it often involves people talking endlessly, rather than involved in solving practical problems. The importance of the political innovation project is that it seeks to enable real world conversations with a purpose often amongst people meeting for the first time.

Paul Evans once gave me a great quote from an anonymous commenter on his site, which I recycled in this piece for the Guardian. It goes: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to complain about it.” The political innovation project is about building confidence around real and actionable ideas.

One of the big successes I think this time round was our uservoice site. Not only did it help get the ball rolling before the Belfast (hosted with great hospitality by NICVA) event, but it gave people like Geoff McGimpsey a chance to build a quorum of interest around his very well attended session on building unionism from the bottom-up… by getting people to vote and comment on the ideas before take off…

This bottom (dis-organised, as Paul puts it) process is critical to the huge energy levels of the event itself and it replicates some of the radical, self organising energy of the net.

In one of the most memorable quotes from the Edinburgh plenary, Pat Kane recalled Oscar Wilde’s dictum that the trouble with socialism was that it takes too many evenings. The net has unleashed a welter of evening work onto the news and political market (not all of it by any means socialist). The question is what do we do with all of it? Can any of it be put to actual use?

But the point of Picamp (the event led aspect of our Political Innovation project), is not to create a single consensus. But to give a real space in real time to conversations amongst real people with a common interest. Even that common interest does not require agreement, as Gladys points out in her report on one of the more contentious sessions.

It’s about finding new ways of doing things, like Bruno’s Storifying of the Edinburgh event… And it was good to see people like Phil (who’s been around the social media scene almost as long as Slugger) and Conor, who don’t do politics as a full on anorak…

And Lyra McKee, who’s really on the tech ball (you really should listen to Will Perrin’s excellent interview with her on FOI here – mine’s here)… And of course there is also Alan’s longer write up on Slugger

There was a number of sessions on civic engagement, and a lively session on participatory budgeting… And particularly tense session on whether dealing with the past can be dealt with as part of building a sustainable future

And I am hoping that some of those ideas are moving… I’ve a few people to catch up in the next week or so from Edinburgh and Belfast to take some conversations further… I hope that’s happening for some you who came along… if not, you can always post your ideas at the uservoice site AND organise further meet ups, even if it is only two of you over coffee…

Tomorrow, I’ll pick up on the issue of the new categories for the next Slugger Awards…

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