Get the deets/the down low/the scoop/the 411

So – tomorrow’s the day! Here are a few things you might need to know.


We’ll kick off at 10 on the dot, feel free to arrive anytime from about 9.15.

We’ll be heading to the pub shortly before 5pm.

The front door to Premier House

The front door to Premier House

Getting to Premier House

General travel information is here.

From Twickenham station: Turn left out of the front doors; walk down to the traffic lights, cross the road, Premier House is right in front of you.

Getting In

If you arrive after about 10am, there’ll be a sign on the door telling you how to get in (it’s a little complicated as it’s a Saturday). If in doubt call 020 8607 0576 and someone will come and get you.


We’ll provide (thanks to our lovely sponsors, specifically Cullinan Studio) a selection of sandwiches and suchlike, some fruit and the odd sweet treat or two.  However, we can’t promise to meet your dietary requirements, so please bear that in mind! Don’t worry though, Waitrose is – quite literally – downstairs from the venue.


Sadly the weather is looking like it won’t allow us to make use of some of Twickenham’s beautiful riverside pubs (although unfortunately the White Swan’s beer garden is tidal, and it can get a little awkward going home with damp ankles). So we’ll most likely be hunkering down at the Bear. Follow @housingcamp for confirmation at the time, and look out for beer monitor Jenny on the day.

UPDATE: We’ll now be at The Cabbage Patch, which is quite literally a stones-throw from the venue.

Once again, love and thanks to stars of learning, Learning Pool for funding the booze.


And thanks to our sponsors not specifically mentioned above: Thames Valley Housing, Our Housing and Wazoku.

What’s this “Rule of Two Feet” thing all about then?

feetUse your two feet to take you where you can contribute, share, enjoy, learn or add value.  Don’t sit still and be bored or think “this isn’t the session for me”.  It’s ok, move around.  It’s liberating.  It keeps the energy levels high, and results in a vibrant and stimulating day.

If someone in your session decides its time to move on to another one, that’s ok – be cool.  It doesn’t mean they’re being rude.  It just means they want to explore something else now, and are making space for others to contribute energy to the session.

We’ve probably spent most of our lives being terribly observant of social norms, like sitting still and paying attention.  And it feels a bit weird to get up and head off somewhere else.  But really, its ok.  Try it!

Don’t forget by the way, there are still a few tickets left for Saturday – so spread the word to your housing friends!

Less than a week to go – 10 top tips for newbies

There’s less than one week to go until Housing Camp hits the TVH offices in Twickenham on Saturday 18th May. Preparations are well under way, and I’ve just taken delivery of an un-sightly quantity of post-it notes – all good there then.

So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to run through some of my top tips for first timers…

One// Don’t be afraid to pitch
The day only works when people decide they want to talk about stuff and invite other people to join them. Have a read of Jayne’s blog post on pitching for more.

Two// Embrace the fomo
Fear of Missing Out (fomo) is inevitable – something you want to go to will be scheduled at the same time as something else you want to go to. Pick one, find someone who’s going to the other, and agree to exchange notes. There’ll also be write-ups and tweets to read afterwards too.

UKGovCamp last year - photo by David Pearson.

UKGovCamp last year – photo by David Pearson.

Three// Talk to people
The other people in the building will be people doing similar stuff to you, facing the same challenges as you and trying to change the world just like you are. Meeting them is good, and you don’t have to be in a session all the time.

Four// Go to the pub
Just like number three, it’s important for meeting people and good fun.
And if the weather’s nice, we’ll probably be by the river. (PS – thanks to Learning Pool for sponsoring).

Five// Follow along
The hashtag for Housing Camp is #housingcamp. Follow it on Twitter, Pinboard, Flickr (group), Audioboo, Slideshare, Storify and pretty much anything else you can think of.

A #ukgc11 session by Paul Clarke

A #ukgc11 session by Paul Clarke

Six// Create and share online
If you cope with the multitasking then definitely tweet (and blog, and record, etc) away during the event, the more you do, the more other people can join in online.

Seven// Continue the conversations
Join the Google Group (nb – this doesn’t exist yet), set up a hashtag alert, whatever floats your boat – just keep in touch with people! Trust me, they’ll prove some of the most valuable connections you’ll ever make.

Eight// Converse
If you go into a session thinking you’re about to share the one right way of doing something, or wanting to sell something – it’s unlikely to work. Just have a conversation instead.

Nine// Speak up
If you take one thing away from this blog post, it should be this: If you’ve got something to say, experience to share, suggestion to make – say/share/make it. Don’t hold back – this is one big conversation.

I couldn’t think of a number 10 to round off the numbering – any ideas?

Pitching a session

The unconference lingo can be a bit intimidating.  “Pitching”.  Assuming you’re not an American football fan, you’ll probably associate this word with sales.  And not everyone is comfortable with that.  So a quick word of reassurance.  There’s no expectation of a highly polished, clearly articulated elevated pitch (though if you have one of those, that’s fine).  Its perfectly fine to come along and “pitch” any number of variants on….

  • I’m working on [our welfare reform microsite], and I’d really like to get some feedback on our thinking so far.
  • I’m struggling with [finding alternatives to traditional benchmarking], and I’d really like a conversation with anyone who’s got some wisdom to share on it.
  • I’m struggling with [getting our main IT system supplier to provide a decent service], and I’d really like a conversation with others who’re in the same boat – as together we’ll have a louder voice to improve things.
  • I’ve had a eureka moment on [how to co-create projects and collaborate with customers online] and I’d love to share it with anyone who’s interested
  • I’m thinking about [mobile apps], and feel that something might be possible, but I’m not sure what.  It would be good to talk with folks with similar interests and we might be able to find a good approach
  • I’ve got this great idea for [data sharing] – and I’d love to find other orgs that might be up for joining in.

…. you get my drift.

Pitches at #ukgc11 by Paul Clarke

Pitches at #ukgc11 by Paul Clarke

And not everyone is happy standing up in a room full of people and ‘saying it out loud’.  So if that’s you, never fear.  Just fill in a ‘Pitch Card’ on the day, hand it to our facilitator for the day (the Lovely @LloydDavis), or put it in the “Pitch Box” that will be at the side of the room, and someone will read it out for you.  Simples.

There was a great discussion at CommsCamp about how few women pitch  (here’s the storify) – so we’re really hoping that ‘Pitch Cards’ and will make it easier for everyone to get involved.

And if you wanna check out some real life pitches – here are the LocalGovCamp 2011 ones courtesy of John Popham.

So what might people want to talk about?

I’ve hesitated to write this post, as I wouldn’t want folks to be limited to this list. If you want to talk about a subject, then heck, pitch a session and see if others are interested in it too. But since this is the first unconference in our sector, and the format is a bit unknown, I figured I’d start the ball rolling with some things I think folks might be interested in… (Oh, and by the way, there are still plenty of tickets left).

Welfare Reform. How’s it going so far? Sharing experiences on the ground – what’s working, what’s not in terms of customer engagement. Are leaflets triggering people to get in touch, or is it the phone call? How are different organisations ‘organising’ for it: do you have a specialist team or resource, or is benefits advice embedded in Housing Officer roles. Has anyone had good (or bad) experiences to share with benefit entitlement calculating tools, or budgeting tools for customers?

Resident Scrutiny. How is resident scrutiny evolving in the age of Tripadvisor? Is the language of “scrutiny” an impediment to getting staff engagement? Is there a more ‘story-telling’ approach that might be useful? How can technology be used to get feedback from “the unusual suspects”.

Digital Service Delivery. Do folks have experiences (good or bad!) to share on getting services online? Is anyone using the g-cloud procurement framework to good effect?

Digital Exclusion. Is this impacting on your service delivery? Will your customers struggle with Universal Credit administration being online? Any great projects or ideas to share – particularly with this funding competition in mind.

Social Media. How are organisations using social media to connect with their residents, and with each other. Is anyone using social media to facilitate mutual exchanges? How are organisations managing the personal/professional boundaries on social media? What sort of training and protocols are in place? Are you using video or podcasts to reach “the unusal suspects”?

Social Business Platforms. Are you using Yammer or Jive in your organisation? Is it in addition to your intranet or a replacement for it?

Skills Development and online learning. Are you using any tools or approaches in your organisation get more bangs for your training budget buck?

Data. We’ve got insane amounts of data knocking around our organisations. We’ve been collating KPIs for years. Are there more interesting things we can be doing with that data if we open it up and share it. Are there crowdsourcing data projects we can contribute to?

The possibilities are endless. If you’ve got a burning question, or quiet worry, share it. Chances are there’ll be someone in the room who wants to have that conversation too. Pitching a session needn’t be a daunting prospect. Some folks are keen to come along with a thoroughly well thought through presentation that they’d like to share and get get feedback on – and that’s great. But its just as great if you’d like to pitch a session that is “I have a question or a worry about XYZ, and I’d like to have a conversation with others who might also be interested”. No powerpoint required to have a conversation (in fact, we actively and heavily discourage it).

Please feel free to use the comments section to share ideas on what you might want to have a conversation about…

Average Beaver Ticket Release

Hello! Today our second batch of 50 tickets are available to register. Yay!

We’re a teeny bit concerned about the balance of people who registered tickets from our Earlybird release. While we’re flattered that so many people are up for coming along to our little camp, we are also keen to remember what it’s actually about (social housing, by the way).

So – as you’ll see below – half of this release is restricted to only people who work for a social housing provider (including local authorities), and half is open to anyone (including social housing staff if the other half fill up first). I’m sure you’ll understand that if we’re talking about housing all day, we’d like to have plenty of actual people from actual housing associations there ;).

This feels like a good time to remind you all that while of course everybody is welcome – if you’re coming with, for want of a better phrase, a commercial hat on, then you need to get stuck in to the day exactly the same as everyone else. No explicit sales pitches, no lecturing, and definitely no ‘industry research’ by sitting in the corner.

If you’ve got any questions, please do give me a shout – we’d much rather talk to you than leave you a bit confused! I’m @jonfoster or

And big thanks to our latest sponsors OurHousing and Cullinan Studio.

(if you can’t see anything here, then go here)

The Big Idea

We’ve been blown away here at HousingCamp HQ,that the first 50 tickets went in a flash. Don’t fret if you’ve missed them, the next batch are being released on 1st April (no joke). Sign up for email updates to this blog if you don’t want to miss them (right hand side of the homepage).

We figured it was worth jotting down a few words on why we’re doing it, on the BHAG.

All roads lead back to the idea that *everyone* has something to offer: some thoughts, some experience, some insight worth sharing. And also that everyone has some questions to ask – sharing your vulnerability and “not knowing everything” is hugely liberating. But most of all that participating is AGT (A Good Thing). These thoughts were all manifest in the first GovCamp I attended a few years back. Initially, I was skeptical – how would the free-form agenda setting process work – how would people know to turn up if they didn’t know what was on? And I wasn’t sure about pitching a session – what if no-one wanted to come? But I was blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of the people there. And, it turns out that people don’t need a conference organiser to tell them what they want to talk about, schedule rooms, and fetch lunch. We could work it all out for ourselves.

Over the years a few new tools have been added to the GovCamp format – the original flipchart paper grid (for scheduling the sessions) has turned into a shared Google Doc – but the principles remain the same and it works like a dream. Moreover, 4 or 5 years on from that first one, the #UKGC community rocks. Its the most amazing talent pool – people who are keen to share, ask for help and generally get stuck in to solving things. The government digital space is stronger for them.

Pitches at UK GovCamp 2013

Pitches at UK GovCamp 2013

So I’ve long harboured a desire to help grow a similar movement in the social housing sector. I wasn’t sure whether the unconference format would work though – we’re all more accustomed to a traditional event format and following ordered rules. But during 2012, it felt like social housing got a bit more digital and social, and now the time is right to try this out.

The BHAG is more than simply a great day on 18 May – it’s about connecting a group of people who can share thoughts and support each other – sometimes it’s difficult being a lone-digital-ranger in a more traditional organisation. Some people might already be making the shift to digital service delivery and have stories to share and warnings of bear traps to avoid. And some will have common challenges we can work on together.

It would be *awesome* to think that come 2014, there might be a group of unconference activists, organising a series of #housingcamp events up and down the country.

So that should keep us busy for a bit. But when we get a moment, anyone want to have a chat about a TedX Social Housing idea I’ve got knocking around?…

Photo Credit: CC BY-NC 2.0 Alex Jackson on Flickr.

A date and some tickets

So – here goes – we’ve got a date, and we’ve got some tickets. EXCITING!

Housing Camp will take place on the 18th of May, starting at 10am and finishing at about 5pm.

Tickets will be released in three batches – 50 today, 50 on the 1st of April and 50 on the 1st of May.

So, get registering…

(if you can’t see anything here, then go here)

Travel Deets

Our lovely hosts Thames Valley Housing might not be right in the centre of town, but it’s still Greater London you know – and only 20 minutes from Waterloo…

By Rail photo by emdeenLess than 5 minutes from the front door, Twickenham Station is as quick as 20 minutes from London Waterloo, and the same from Vauxhall – both well connected within central London.

Direct trains to Twickenham from: Waterloo, Vauxhall, Clapham Junction, Reading.

Twickenham is also served every few minutes by trains from Richmond, for interchanges with London Overground (to Willesden Junction and Stratford) and London Unerground District Line.

See this rail & tube map of all services in Greater London (hint: Twickenham is South West). The TfL journey planner is also a great resource if you’re not a Londoner – the most obvious route from your arrival point may not be the best (for example to get to us, it is often quicker to travel via Clapham Junction or Vauxhall)!

Top tip – there might be engineering works on the tube or trains.

By Road

tumblr_mdebapV5A01r6uj4mo1_400From the M25, take the M3 (junction 12) towards Central London and continue onto the A316. At the second roundabout turn right into Whitton Road, signposted to Twickenham. After approx. 1/2 mile, bear right at the traffic lights, and continue past the station on the left. Premier House is on the corner by the traffic lights. Turn left into Arragon Road and the entrance to the car park is on the right after about 300 yards.

There is an NCP car park attached to TVH building, accessed from Arragon Road.

See here for more details on driving.

Other Methods

pets-on-a-plane-1Helicopter: Parking available at Harlequins.

Charter jet: Heathrow is just up the road.

Limousine: Best parked in Arragon Road where we can most easily roll out a red carpet.

Introducing Housing Camp

Drum roll… It’s long been an idea, but now its time has come. #housingcamp

Now the social housing world has embraced another kind of ‘social’, some of us reckon it would be good to get together and share experience, find fellow game-changers and generally bond over all things digital, social and social housing. We’re thinking an unconference format (inspired by UKGovCamp), which is the perfect antidote for those who’ve found themselves dozing off in traditional conferences. Essentially, an unconference is put together and delivered by the attendees. For the people, by the people. Here’s a much better explanation than I could ever muster myself.

We’re hoping for lots of online collaboration – from the hashtag on Twitter, Google Docs and Slideshares, through to video reporting on YouTube – and everything in between.

This is a DIY gathering of interested people who want to make a difference, rather than a slick professional conference. So (a) please bear with us and (b) please offer to help if you can. Collaboration rocks.

So. The outline of a plan.

Event Comms: Primarily twitter, leveraging our collective networks and the #ukhousing tag. Maybe a Facebook page, because its easy. No expensive paid for advertising in the Guardian or Inside Housing. Although a spot of editorial coverage would be nice 😉

Venue: Thames Valley HA have agreed to host it. There’s a couple of big auditorium style rooms, and a range of smaller break-off session rooms. It’s right next door to Twickenham station, just 20 mins from London Waterloo.

Date: We’re thinking April/May/June. Please participate in the poll to let us know of preferred or impossible dates… By the way – it’s on a Saturday – mainly because that’s when the venue is available.

Sponsorship: Thames Valley are sponsoring the venue. If anyone else would like to sponsor lunch, t-shirts, or beers afterwards – then please get in touch ( We’re aiming for light-touch costs, hence light-touch sponsorship.

Tickets: FREE (of course). Your contribution comes by participating and making it a great event. But you’ll need to book so we can manage numbers – we’ll manage tickets on Eventbrite.

Themes: Well, it’s a #housingcamp, so I doubt anyone will want to run a session on Rugby (but now watch, someone will). Given what’s current in housing at the moment, we reckon folks will want to talk about welfare reform, social media, digital service delivery, housing-tech solutions, who knows… If you’d like to pitch to run a session, you’ll have the chance to on the day (*please* do – my big fear is that no-one wants to run a session) – and it would be great if you could share your session ideas here on this site in advance too.

Format: Pretty much the same as our chums at UKGovCamp…

Lets do it.