The other night I was chatting with GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell about the upcoming manor.govfresh event, happening in Manor, TX in less than two weeks. He asked me a simple, obvious question: why am I going? I gave him some reasons off the top of my head. Eventually the conversation turned to other topics. But it got me thinking more about the event and why it’s significant.
Last I checked there are about 30 government attendees signed up for manor.govfresh. They represent about two-thirds as many different government organizations. Almost all of them are from local governments. That’s about how many came to the inaugural CityCamp. That’s a big deal. Manor.govfresh is different from CityCamp in that the latter is more about sitting down at the table and working through issues. For the most part, manor.govfresh will be about orienting and educating people who are just starting to learn about Gov 2.0 at the local level. I like to think of events like manor.govfresh and sf.govfresh as a “stimulate” complement to CityCamp. So I want to see how local governments will respond to what they will be learning in Manor.
Part of manor.govfresh is also fascinating and worthwhile experiment in “making over” another small town in Texas called DeLeon. Imagine Extreme Home Makeover for local government IT. Try as they might, it seems nearly impossible for even willing governme nts to make the improvements everyone agrees are needed. Budgets aren’t just tight. They are disappearing. 99% of the time IT is a support function; not the mission itself. So Dustin Haisler, playing the part of (a surely subdued) Ty Pennington is showing up with an expert team of Gov 2.0 implementers to give the deserving town of DeLeon the lift it needs to move into the online 21st century.
There are many other reasons why I’m glad to be going to Manor. It’s a great opportunity to meet in person with many of the outstanding professionals with whom I’ve been collaborating in this space; Alissa Black from Code for America, Ben Berkowitz from SeeClickFix, Andy Krzmarzick from GovLoop, Chris Metcalf from Socrata, Dustin from City of Manor, and Luke from GovFresh. It’s sure to be fun and I know it will have Luke’s sense of style that I have come to appreciate.
There was something else special about the GovFresh event Luke put on in San Francisco, too. At the end of the event San Francisco CIO Chris Vein took questions from the audience. For about an hour he had an open dialog with his core constituency; the coders, journalists, designers, and community organizers who are interested in San Francisco’s open government initiatives. Where else does that happen? No where. Who else makes that happen? No one. I regret that I wasn’t able to attend the GovFresh event in San Francisco so there’s no way I’m missing Manor.