UKGovcamp and NHS Hack Day: a fortnight of fab

Two great events in two weeks. A proper good start to the year.

On the 18th January 2020, I attended UKGovcamp 20 in London at the Ministry of Justice offices in London. The following weekend on 25th and 26th January, I helped run another NHS Hack Day at Cardiff University. They were both great.

UKGovcamp 20

It was UKGovcamp last weekend (Saturday 18th January), hosted again at the excellent Ministry of Justice offices in London. This was my third UKGovcamp, and many of us will be looking forward to next year’s already.

UKGovcamp is always a nice event. There are many more emphatic adjectives that people could use to describe the event: enlightening! emboldening! refreshing! inspiring! All totally valid. It’s also just really nice, and that’s really why I keep going back.

The effort put in by the organising team is obvious – it’s a confident event, and is slickly run. Being involved in organising events myself (NHS Hack Day and UK Health Camp), I have learned first hand that it is easy to underestimate how much effort it takes to make things look calm.

Amanda Smith was a great host – I was definitely watching and learning. The whole team are supportive of each other and this sets the tone for everyone.

Photo taken from behind the audience at the pitching session at UK Gov Camp. Many audience members have their hands raised to indicate their interest in the pitched session.
Photo by @mattstibbs / CC BY-NC

Every year, there’s an increasingly strong focus on diversity, accessibility, and inclusivity. Irrespective of whether you personally care about these things (although most of the people at UKGovcamp value them highly) – we all feel the benefit of them being such a focus.

I pitched a session, which was a first for me at UKGovcamp. It’s not the first time I’ve had to talk to a room of people, but it still scares me and I get very worked up about it! I’m glad I pitched, though.

It started as a bit of a niche topic, which I was attempting to open out into a discussion that was more widely revelant and applicable to people outside of health. I didn’t quite manage to pitch it like this, but we had a decent number of people in the room and everyone had something to say.

I felt that I was among friends for my session. Though it was niche, the whole room were actively involved in the conversation, and that’s testament to the sort of supportive, inquisitive people that UKGovcamp attracts.

It did make me appreciate the skill in putting together a session pitch that is well thought through, and designed to be inclusive and engaging. It’s certainly not mandatory to have prepared a session, but it can make experience even better for people and those are the sessions which often live on for people after the day.

I’m looking forward to applying for a ticket next year 🙂


NHS Hack Day #23

The following weekend, I was part of a team running NHS Hack Day #23 in Cardiff. I’ve been involved with NHS Hack Day for a few years now (initially as an attendee, and more recently as an organiser). Anne-Marie Cunningham, a GP and health informatician by day, led the Cardiff event. She’s also a great host.

NHSHD_25Jan_026
Photo by paulclarke.com / CC BY-NC

I love NHS Hack Day ♥️

NHS Hack Day shares many of the values of UKGovcamp (and the community around it). It too is a community event, run by people in the community, for other people in the community. It too is an event that is entirely dependent on the attendees for its success! And it too is an event that is much easier to enjoy when the organisation is calm and clear (which takes a considerable amount of effort to enable).

Cardiff #23 was excellent – maybe one of the best yet. We had over 115 people, 28 initial pitches; 18 projects made it through to the presentation stage at the end.

We live-streamed the presentations on YouTube and had over 20 people watching at one point – this was very encouraging and we will certainly continue to put the effort in to streaming in future.

NHSHD_26Jan_066
Photo by paulclarke.com / CC BY-NC

It also meant we could record the presentations, which are now all published on the NHS Hack Day website. You can also find the videos on the NHS Hack Day YouTube channel.

As always, the results from a little over 12 hours of hacking were amazing. Genuinely impressive. I always get halfway through the presentations and think “I wish people from all over the NHS were watching this right now.”

People might assume that most of the ideas people pitch are from ‘tech bros’ who want to solve the NHS with ‘Uber for dentists’. In our experience this simply isn’t true (well maybe one or two ‘fillings via the blockchain’ pitches) – the overwhelming majority are real problems from real people.

Clinicians present problems they suffer on a daily basis when trying to do their jobs; patients present problems they experience in accessing their own data, or in managing their own care.

Here’s real magic though: often people pitch these problems with relatively low expectations of what will happen. “I’m afraid I can’t really help to build anything – I’m just a clinician” or “I don’t really know how far I can take this problem because I’m really not techy.”

These are some of the best candidates for successful projects – with these problems, you get a team forming around the actual user with the actual problem. Many might not realise it, but this is basically a dream come true for any product team trying to build something that useful. It’s actually more interesting to join a team where the person hasn’t already solved the problem.

I’m going to write something separate on how NHS Hack Days (and maybe hack events in general) are actually an unintentional ‘neutron star’ of modern product development principles – densely packing, into one weekend, many of the behaviours we spend months trying to enact in our ‘real jobs’.

We’re doing two more NHS Hack Days this year: one in Manchester on 6th/7th June and one in London in the autumn.

There’s a lovely set of photos here taken by Paul Clarke (paulclarke.com). (Separate album for second day).

You can sign-up to the mailing list on http://nhshackday.com/ or follow https://twitter.com/nhshackday for more news about those events.

UK Health Camp is a spin-off from UKGovcamp focused on the health and care sector. You can find out more at https://ukhealthcamp.com or follow https://twitter.com/ukhealthcamp.

You can find out more about UKGovcamp on https:/www.ukgovcamp.com or follow https://twitter.com/ukgovcamp

What a fab fortnight 🙂