GovCamp Cymru: reimagining public services in Wales

Nia shares her experiences of GovCamp Cymru 2023, a day that celebrates the hard work that goes into maintaining and improving public services in Wales. 

In June, I attended my first GovCamp Cymru. If you asked me to describe it in a few words, I'd say it's one of the most uplifting and encouraging events I've had the pleasure to attend.

GovCamp Cymru is for people interested in the challenges and opportunities to deliver better public services across Wales. 

It's run as an 'unconference', where attendees shape the day. People have just 30 seconds to pitch an idea, and these are organised into a day-long schedule of 1-hour sessions. 

Kudos to organiser, Jo Carter and the team of volunteers — every detail was thoughtfully planned. There were stickers you could wear to show if you were comfortable chatting, and a low-sensory space for people needing someone quiet time.  

And the sessions were excellent, too. Reflecting on the ones I attended, I noted 3 recurring themes, each showing the challenges and opportunities for improving service delivery. 

Designing services bilingually

The Welsh language was one of the stars of the day. There's a real interest in not only making the process of translating content into Welsh easier, but designing bilingually so that both languages are considered equally

One way of doing this is a technique called trio writing. Content designer, Rob Mills described how he worked with a translator and subject expert at Natural Resources Wales to design a piece of content in Welsh and English at the same time. (Listen to a podcast about this project.)

Content designer, Adrian Ortega has taken this technique a step further at the Centre for Digital Public Services (CDPS) by bringing together people from Welsh Government and local authorities to input and review the work too. 

Gareth Morlais from Welsh Government also shared a number of resources to make translating content easier during their session, including: 

  • Helo blod, a free translation service from Welsh Government.
  • Trawsgrifiwr, free software that transcribes Welsh speech to text from Bangor University.
  • Cysill Ar-lein, a free Welsh spellcheck tool, also from Bangor University.

Asking less of users

Another theme that resonated throughout the event was reducing the burden placed on users when using ‌public services. For example, how many times a user is asked to provide the same information. 

Joseph Reid from dxw ran a session about transactional services and asking less of users. We shared experiences of services where the government or council did things for us. Unsurprisingly, many of the experiences were negative.

In a similar vein, founder of Pilot Works, Darwin Peltan ran a session about how public services can find out when someone’s situation changes. For example, GOV.UK’s Tell us once service when someone dies. 

Darwin shared that some countries have ‘tell us once’ laws, where a government department can ask a user for information just once. This means that departments must find innovative ways to share data. 

Participants clearly understood the need for stringent data protection, but felt there was a fear in the public sector of GDPR which discouraged data sharing. One participant mentioned a lack of data specialists in these conversations who'd be able to identify and mitigate risks.

Speaking the same language

In a session run by user researcher, Tom Brame from CDPS, we discussed ways of creating a culture in public sector organisations that could encourage and enable user-centred design.

There were a lot of challenges, including:

  • demonstrating the value of new approaches to middle management,
  • the need to unlearn and relearn to improve ways of working,
  • a language barrier around agile and digital terminology,
  • no sense of ownership to make improvements,
  • user-centred design teams not being involved soon enough.

One of the most interesting to me was around communication. Agile and design terminology can be vague at best and off-putting at worst for people unfamiliar with those fields. 

Inconsistent language often gets in the way of establishing a common understanding across teams and organisations. People might be speaking about the same things but using different words. 

There was also a question around whether the term ‘digital’ was problematic, with some people still mistaking it for IT support. 

Through these collective efforts, GovCamp Cymru provides a space for the sector to unite, learn from each other, and work together to better understand and find solutions to challenges.

Read other people’s experiences of GovCamp Cymru 2023:

If you attended GovCamp Cymru 2023 and shared your experiences, let us know and we’ll add them to this list! Email:

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