Birmingham ‘Unconference’

Engaging SME Tech Innovators with local government change agents

Location and Date:
Location: ​University of Birmingham, G15 Muirhead Tower, Edgbaston Campus

University of Birmingham. B15 2TN . View Map
Date: ​11th May 10.30 to 4pm.

About the Event:

“Engaging SME tech innovators with local government change agents”
… or more simply, this is a chance to help to release the energy in the SME software sector to get more traction, help the public sector solve problems faster and in more innovative ways. It's about how to get better at engagement with SMEs and local government – to reduce costs, to manage risks and to improve services to vulnerable people and communities.

Led by Hilary Simpson and Jos Creese, this event is all about ‘doing’ - collectively solving intransigent problems and building an action plan. It is about honestly and openly examining the opportunities as well was the barriers from public and private sector perspectives and finding solutions.

We want this event to help to deliver elusive but simple solutions to complex social problems - using technology and information. This event has struck a chord (judging by the massive response on LinkedIn) to discussions and ideas. There is no shortage of energy and constructive challenge, so we want to focus that at this event

What’s an Unconference?

Conferences can be a bit formulaic and PowerPoint drive. You hear best practice, but don’t always get to hear the problem and to solve these together.
Our event will be run by experienced event organisers from Sleuth. Whatever comes out of it is up to you, if you join us - we will seek to make the prioritised actions happen.
Delegates can listen, express and collectively solve the difficulties and frustrations encountered when public and private sector meet. The agenda is set by those that attend:


The Law of Two Feet:
Everyone at an un-conference is encouraged to practice the law of two feet which says that if you become uninterested at any point, you are encouraged to leave and join another session. In an un-conference you are also invited to take breaks at any time, with the idea that it is sometimes in the breaks that the ‘A-ha’ moments arrive

Who is it for?

We have an open invitation to tech SMEs (especially software suppliers), Government procurement people, and Local Government technology purchasers.
But feel free to share the invitation to others with an interest and a passion for problem solving – we can cater for up to 200
Please do share this article if people in your networks would benefit from attending. We are looking for the problem-solving synergies that come from different perspectives.

Ultimate we want outcomes to be about:


· Saving public sector money

· Making it easier for IT tech SMEs to engage with councils

· Disrupting a stagnating software market for local government

· Speeding up digital local government

· Sharing best practice, ideas and innovations faster across local government

For SMEs, it is a chance to l work collaboratively with people from Local Government, Government Procurement and seasoned facilitators to break down barriers and frustrations and engage more successfully. It is a chance for SMEs to have greater influence over the direction of public sector engagement and procurement practices.

For Local Government IT leaders, it is a chance to have an open dialogue with SMEs outside tendering and formal procurement to explain what you need from them and where barriers exist, listing to their ideas and feedback in terms of better outcomes, social value and risk management.

For Government procurement organisations and commissioning advisors, it is a chance to get wider insights and ideas from an SME perspective about the practical frustrations they face to winning public sector work. Some of this is already known in theory but was want this event to dig into whole system and qualitative factors that prevent better engagement.

Draft Agenda:

We won't really have an agenda in the formal sense. After arrival an empty conference agenda is posted on the wall with time slots and a variety of meeting spaces. Leaders share a theme or question they would like to discuss and post it in a time slot.

If you post a topic, it is your responsibility to turn up to that session and introduce your topic or question. If you are not hosting a session, you are free to attend whichever of the sessions you are interested in.

Attendees are encouraged to adopt any of a number of roles:
Leaders facilitate each breakout
Scribe takes notes for each group
Nomads give attendees permission to move between break-outs.

There will be plenty of free time and coffee, and broad time plan as follows:


1. Arrival and Refreshments – 10:00am

Introduction, welcome, unconference intro, plans for the day


2. Questions, Analyses, topics and Facilitation – from 10:30am

To include:


  • SOCITM unconference Local Government software purchasers’ feedback
  • ‘Three top things’ - 3 minutes – Hilary Simpson
  • What works’ - 3 minutes each from c5-6 main sponsors
  • ‘What works’ – 3 minutes from c5-6 councils
  • National government perspective and response

3. Analysis, problem solving session – 11:15 to 12:45

To include:

  • Facilitated discussion of real and perceived issues/blockers to engaging with the public sector
  • Facilitated problem solving (silent writing - affinity mapping etc)


4. Lunch 13:00 - 14:00

5. Feedback from the Morning sessions by groups from 14:00

To include:


  • Dot Voting? On which topics and issues to take forward for further deconstruction and action.
  • Prioritisation of top 3
  • Open discussion from the floor on top 3 to collect further insights from people that weren’t in those groups.

6. Close, sum up, next steps by and Hilary and Jos led panel 15:30


How to Register:

Its easy to register via Eventbrite. Just click below for details:

It is a free event for local government, and on a ‘not-for-profit’ basis, but we ask for just £50 from SMEs to cover our costs.


Security level: Public

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