Is there a problem with the sponsorship of public sector events?

We ran some user testing of the GovCamp website last week. One of the topics that came up was the size and positioning of the sponsors logos.

Actually the comments did more reflect on the difficulties we had last year adding the logos to the site rather than any bigger issues.

However it did spark a discussion about sponsorship in general some of which have been raised in the past.

So here are some thoughts/questions which feedback is welcome. They are definitely not directed against any particular sponsor.

As far as I know at least the first two GovCamps did not have any sponsorship. Jeremy Gould kindly held them in the basement of MoJ – I have no idea who paid for the food at the time – maybe even Jeremy himself?

As the event grew a bigger space was needed which leads onto issues such as needing to pay for a venue; then security, then food; then sponsors..who need visibility so then t-shirts are needed to display logos and money is needed to pay for the t-shirts. You get my drift.

Is there a thing such as a ‘good’ sponsor who the public sector should accept money from and who it should refuse. So it is it a smallish startup ran by someone well known in government digital is that alright? What if the company offering is a big SI who might not have such a great public profile? Does it make a difference where the money comes from?

Are the people planning to attend influenced by which sponsor logos they see on a website? Should the organisers of public sector events draw some kind of moral line and say I cannot work with x kind of sponsor? What if their boss tells them not to?

Should there be a percentage of sponsorship which one organisation should not be able to exceed? Should sponsors serve ‘fixed terms’ so that there is not an over reliance on particular companies?

What kind of information should be provided to sponors about attendees? Their name, job title, interests, contact details? If someone is attending on their own time at the weekend are they even to be linked to their weekday job title?

During the event is there a way that sponsors should behave. Sit in a corner and ignore the event and try to pitch to likley business or attend all the workshops? How much visibility should be given to the sponsors logos – splash them all over the event with many stands or pop-ups; or is something more discrete sensible?

So there are a few questions. What do you think?

Why do we need a public sector API group?

Somewhat rashly last week I decided to create a Public Sector API Meetup Group.

Why, I hear you ask?

The idea has been strongly influenced by Paul Hallett who set up the #LondonAPI meetup group where I have attended, I think, every meeting. They have been great meetings and much credit is due to Paul for lining up some great speakers who have been very willing to share so many excellent tips.

Why do we need a public sector group then?

Partly because, as far as I can see, most of the people who go to Paul’s meetup are from the private sector. Is that a bad thing? No. In fact for me this has been one of the strengths – seeing the commercial drive behind APIs and the rigour around making businesses work profitably around APIs. There is lot the public sector can learn from this approach.

I am hoping that because I know mainly people in the public sector we can start to replicate what Paul has done who knows maybe we only need one group in the long run?

In the meantime these are the issues I think we can look at as a group.

Standards

Are we working to the same standards in the public sector?

Should we be?

It is clear that there are divergent thoughts on this topic amongst developers but presumably in the public sector we have some responsibility to think about interoperability.

Do standards generate certification much like the Open Data Institutes #opendata certificates?

Categorisation

I keep expecting to find a directory of public sector APIs but have not come across one yet. Maybe I have been looking in the wrong place? If so please point me in the right direction. Programmable web have a great database of APIs and related content and there are some listed from the UK.

Do we need our own directory? Should we add our content to theirs? Do we need a standalone directory for the public sector. What kind of links should there be with data.gov.uk?

Collaboration

Perhaps the biggest thing for me, inspired by Jeremy Gould, is to bring together people with a common interest around a topic. This is always the most powerful of pushing things along and engaging with people.

Discoverability

A great point raised by Peter Wells @peterkwells

How does anyone know that our APIs exist? If there related to public services surely we have a responsibility to make sure the public know they exist? How do we make this easy and intuitive?

The (public sector) API economy

Of course what we should be aiming at is to contribute to the API economy and build services around freely available open data. This great article Wholesale Government: Open Data and APIs which is equally applicable to the UK has plenty of great suggestions.

 

Does any of that make sense? If so come along to the first meetup on 30 April at the NAO – just because I could easily find a room.