Living in the South West UK is great for all sorts of reasons. We’re not so isolated we can’t get to events if we really want to, but we do get to put some distance between us and the hubbub that big cities provide; the scenery, of course, is lovely; you’re never more than a 10 minute drive from some countryside; the pace of life is slightly slower and the people are friendly.

Nevertheless, we do miss out on some things by virtue of being a bit removed from it all. Pretty well every week some of the people I follow on Twitter seem to be attending an event that I would go to if it were easy. In my own sector, the GovCamp unconference events that are so spectacularly successful have not yet hit the South West. There are some conferences locally that have been good in the past but I can’t attend any more due to cost. Something seems to be missing.

And something also seems to be missing from the events that I do attend: GovCamps are only slowly starting to attract the front line practitioners and senior decision-makers that are the people that would benefit most  from some of the ideas. The pure unconference format at GovCamps does bias an agenda in favour of what is cool rather than what is important. Difficult and complex problems don’t tend to get solved because there’s no easy way to enthuse people about them and so we end up taking bite-sized chunks off them instead.

These reasons are why I’m so pleased that my friend and colleague Carl Haggerty has tried to put together something slightly different, taking the best bits of conventional events and unconferences and mashing them up into a new format:





What is Open Space South West?
It is an event and a network, bringing together public sector providers, businesses, community organisations and academia to reimagine the ways in which collaboration and web technologies will shape the future of public services in the south west.

You’ll hear from inspiring people from across the region as well as nationally who are recognised as leaders in their field. The speakers will also lead and suggest workshops for further discussion and learning.

The event also includes an unconference format, which means that as a participant, you’ll get to shape the agenda and talk or hear about issues/challenges important to you.

The event is running at County Hall, Exeter on Friday 14th September 2012 and is free – although tickets are limited. Check out the website for full details and the frankly awesome range of speakers already booked up.

If you’re interested in helping improve public services in the region from frankly any perspective, this is probably the event you want to be at. And if you can’t make it, the hashtag #OpenSSW will enable you to follow on Twitter – hopefully there will be other remote participation options as well.

I’m looking forward to the event, of course, but mainly I’m looking forward to helping form a community of people all working together to improve lives for all – something that lasts longer and creates more value. Recommended.