Digital Britain Unconference final report now live

The Digital Britain Unconference final, collated report is now up and can be read here.

Please consider:

  1. Adding your name in full as a signatory to the report
  2. Writing a blog post about Digital Britain, the unconferences and/or the report
  3. Link to the report on the profile of your favourite social network(s)
  4. Tell others about the unconference report

Wondering what this is all about? See the short explanation of the unconference report and how it came about.

A short explanation of the Digital Britain Unconferences

I’ve been asked to put together a short, formal explanation of the Digital Britain Unconferences, so I thought I may as well put it up here too:


The Digital Britain Unconferences were a set of UK-wide, grass roots events quickly set up in reaction to the British Library hosted ‘Digital Britain Summit’ on 17 April 2009. Their aim was to produce a representative ‘people’s response’ and gather set of positive, realistic contributions for the report.

A week after the Summit, and with a nod from the Digital Britain team that they were listening, a website was launched with these simple instructions:

“Anyone can attend or hold an event and associate it with Digital Britain Unconferences, you’ll just need to summarise your discussions and hold it by 13th May 2009! Yes, time is very tight.”

By the 13th May, twelve unconferences had taken place from Glasgow in the north to Truro in the south west. All attendees were encouraged to read the Interim Report and the level of engagement and serious thinking across each event was exemplary. The events included a virtual discussion focusing on rural issues related to Digital Britain and a family unconference held in Tutbury, Derbyshire, as well as large events of over 50 people in London and Manchester.

Such a speedy reaction was made possible by the free social media tools such as Yahoo Groups, Twitter, wikis, blogs and instant messaging. Few phone calls were made by the organisers. The process exemplifies what is possible for Digital Britain when these tools are combined with channeling existing loosely connected networks and motivations.

As Clay Shirky describes this phenomenon in Here Comes Everyboody:

“When we change how we communicate, we change society.”

Contemplating the Digital Britain Unconferences

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on the Digital Britain Unconference series of events, that sprang from being on Twitter on the afternoon of 18 April 2009, towards the end of the Digital Britain Summit. Bill Thompson has explained what happened and how, much better than I could – here.

The result of those Twitter conversations has led to – in less than three weeks – a group of people (all volunteers, most of whom have never met) from across the UK working together to organise over twelve unconferences to discuss Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Interim Report. This process experience in and of itself has been an amazing and at some point I’m planning to put together a case study of how we went about organising everything, the tools we used, what worked, what didn’t work – a guide for anyone should they wish to do something similar.

The unconferences will be all done and dusted by 13 May – less than a month after it all began – when the process of collating and editing everyone’s reports will begin, so that we can produce one final document for consideration by the Digital Britain team.

Suffice to say, all this has meant much contemplation about the future and how we’re in a huge process of change, in terms of how we think and operate as a country, how it affects infrastrucure, democracy, the economy, individual businesses and sectors, society, education, culture and how technologies sit amongst it all.

Last night the London unconference happened at the ICA. There were over 50 people in attendance representing many digital/technology touch points – a lot of brains and a lot of experience in one room. Discussions ranged from an uploaders manifesto and ensuring wide inclusion to how to encourage a stronger culture of entrepreneurship. The findings and conclusions are in process of being written up by Tom de Grunwald with help from others.

These are big, tough questions. Writing a report for Digital Britain that even begins to scrape the surface of some these issues is a challenge and my hope is that the unconference efforts help, not hinder this.

More to follow.