One of the actions from last week’s LocalGov Digital meeting was for us to launch the UnMentoring scheme and start getting folk signed up to take part.

Pitched by Carl Haggerty as part of the skills and capabilities work he’s been doing, UnMentoring takes its inspiration from Nesta’s Randomised Coffee Trials. By signing up to LocalGov Digital’s UnMentoring you are committing to give an 30 mins to an hour a month to have a conversation with the person you’re randomly matched with.

That conversation could be about anything but to get things started Carl suggests talking around the LocalGov Digital ethos of Think, Do, Share. The conversation could be with someone doing something similar to you in another council or it could be with someone doing an entirely different type of job but who is passionate about local government.

It’s not so much ‘institutionalising serendipity’, as Nesta put it, but rather giving connections, conversations and ideas permission to flourish. The only rule is no sales pitches – beyond that it is just starting to talk with another person and seeing where that conversation takes you.


LocalGov Digital has been talking for a while about coaching and mentoring in the sector in order to raise capabilities and skills. At the meeting last week we spoke again about the differences between the two, how they might benefit individuals and the sector, and how as a network we could support them.

As a steering group we committed to signing up to our version of the randomised coffee trial on the basis it’s informal but could lead to collaboration, discovery or, in some cases, very informal mentoring.


Well, for a start off, good things come from talking to other people. Networks and connections is increasingly becoming my ‘thing’ and this is just another way for people to discover things about others or themselves through talking.

Nesta also say the benefits are:

  • Provides legitimacy to chat to people about things that aren’t directly work related. Although every time there have been direct beneficial impacts on various projects and programmes.
  • Totally random conversations, as well as some very useful work related conversations. Breaks silos… in a really effective way.
  • Offers the chance to make time to talk to people they should be talking to anyway, and to meet people who they won’t be directly working with but it’s nice to know who they are!
  • It’s a really good way of revealing links within and outside of the organisation and encouraging us to collaborate.
  • They like the prompt to talk to someone new (or someone they already know), and the permission to take 30-60 minutes to just to see what’s going on, without any particular agenda or goal.

Who can sign up?

Anyone in or around local government. You don’t need to be digital, or employed by a council. You just need to have the time each month to be open to a conversation with a random person.

Carl launched the scheme earlier this week and in just a couple of days more than 50 people from in and around local government have signed up and made that commitment of an hour a month. You can sign up on the LocalGov Digital site (it takes 30 seconds) and pairings will begin in March.


If you want to talk to me more directly than waiting to be randomly matched through UnMentoring you can find me on Twitter. I’m also writing words about music over on Louder Than War here.