Supporting tech for good unconferences: VCSSCamp

Logo designed by Michaela Hodges


In 2013 three individuals working in or with third sector infrastructure organisations, including Pauline Roche, decided that staff, volunteers and trustees (Board Members) of Local Infrastructure Organisations (LIOs) should have an opportunity to get together and discuss issues and initiatives concerning information, communication and the role of Digital Technology. Thus VCSSCamp, the unconference, was initiated.



Some responses when we asked participants from one VCSSCamp to complete the sentence “I went to a VCSSCamp and the new thing I’m now able to do using a digital tool or technology website is …”

  • “Following feedback from other organisations at VCSSCamp we now use Tweetdeck to schedule our tweets for up to weeks in advance. This block session helps to keep us focused”.

  • “I tell my organisations’ (plural) stories better”

  • “Deliver Crowdfunding training”

  • “share information with others, find others doing interesting things, gain information and new contacts (mainly through twitter – it’s amazing!)”

  • “design basic infographics using piktochat”

  • “Offer alternative ways of connecting with members (online forum and Slack)”

  • “VCCSCamp helps me remember how new digital tools and tech are to other people and how little some people explore and play”

We also asked them to complete this sentence “Over the last 12 months my organisation has changed the way it now uses technology by doing this …”

  • “We have revisited and updated our Social Media policy to make it more robust and to identify a clear focus for our communications. We are also looking at the possibility of using Mail Chimp or other mailing solution to manage our e-networks”.

  • “Boosted use of online office software & file storage and transferred my knowledge to other organisations”

  • “We’ve developed a more strategic approach to communications and are shifting resources (money and staff time) away from printed materials towards online”.

  • “using Trello to manage quality assessment projects”

  • “Engaging staff in following on Twitter and using their phones to take photos at events and tweet”.

  • “We now have a staff team WhatsApp group which is open to anyone who wants to be in it – it’s great for sharing useful links and bits of work, and holiday snaps. Some unhelpful dynamics have put some people off, so it’s not a silver bullet comms solution. Also some staff have played with Periscope since I used it at our volunteer awards and talked it up in the bar afterwards!”


VCSSCamp is currently organised by RnR Organisation, lead by Pauline Roche with admin & finance support provided by Ted Ryan. Since 2013 we have organised and run 8 VCSSCamps: 5 in Birmingham, 1 in Barnsley and 2 in London (latest in April 2018).

As at other unconferences, delegates decide the agenda on the day of the event by pitching sessions they would like to run or see run by others. Delegates decide for themselves which sessions they want to attend, and can decide to leave any session, moving to another session or none, if they decide they have learnt enough, or the session  wasn’t what they thought it would be. This practice is known as the law of two feet (see a brief history of Open Space, including the law , by Harrison Owen here)



VCSSCamp has received support, including in kind and financial support, from various sources including Innovation Birmingham, RAWM, NCVO, UKGovCamp, LVSC, Voluntary Action Barnsley, Greater London Authority, Greater London Volunteering, Superhighways and RnR Organisation.



VCSSCamp was inspired by and exists within an ‘unconference’ ecosystem that includes UKGovCamp, LocalGovCamp, Open Data Camp and CommsCamp. Pauline Roche and Ted Ryan have attended and volunteered at several of these, and Pauline is a co-organiser of Open Data Camp.

These Camps provide an informal environment for (mostly) public sector staff to discuss and share digital and transformation ideas and activity.

Updated 27/3/20