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Friday, 7 December 2007

Are RSA Fellows co-creators or just users?

The key issue for development of RSA Networks, as I see it, is what staff mean by collaboration and co-creation. Clarification is crucial as decisions are, I believe, currently being made about development of the online system that could set a pattern for the future. There's some discussion on an earlier post which I think is worth flagging up more visibly here.
The briefing paper for November 22 said:
If Fellows are to move from the periphery to the centre of the organisation, then it is essential that as Fellows, you are fully engaged at every step of the process, as collaborators and co-creators along with the staff of the organisation.
RSA web manager Anshuman Rane has responded quickly and helpfully under that post, but for me it leaves open the issue of whether Fellows are seen essentially as system users - with development decisions taken by staff - or as co-creators.
Dominic has contributed some ideas here on a model which would enable Fellows to make more strategic input.
I think co-creation involves being in the same place at the same time to develop ideas and make decisions together. Will that happen? If so, how and when?
I feel it is worth pushing the issue not because I think there is any bad faith involved: far the reverse. I believe RSA staff are doing everything they can, within the current context, to start doing things in a very different way. RSA developments are fascinating because I believe many membership organisations will face similar issues.
The problem arises, in my experience, because terms like consultation, engagement, co-creation can mean one thing if you are sitting within what's traditionally been a hierarchical organisation (give members a bit more of a say but keep control). They mean something entirely different if you are outside the core, yet want to make a system-changing contribution. It's not just a matter of language, but culture and mindset.
The only way to make progress is to talk about it ... and that can't be done solely online. Do RSA staff have any plans to invite Fellows back to follow through on the co-creation promise?


Saul Albert said...

Hi David,

I'm glad to say - on the question of whether there will be a follow-up on November 22nd: YES.

Andy and I have been asked to do a further round of development on the RSA Networks site, and I've been busily drawing up plans, gathering feedback and features, prioritising bug fixes and getting ready to sprint on this again in early January.

We're also going to try to fix some of the leaks and obvious problems before Christmas, and make sure we explain the next phase so that people have a chance to feed into it over the coming month.

Part of our plan is to organise a meeting for late January, to look at the second round of development with fellows and staff, and to hammer out the important issues relating to privacy, access, facilitation and the value of fellowship in the network. The date is yet to be set though - so no announcement just this minute.

More on the development process soon - here on this blog!



Sophia Parker said...

Hi David, thanks for a really thoughtful post. I'm super conscious of the difference between co-creators and users, and spend most of my non-RSA time arguing with government people about how they are different! So your blog really resonates for me.

In terms of engaging Fellows back into the process - I think it's essential. Saul's comment outlines the thinking about how to do that regarding the site.

Beyond that, I'm want us (fellows and staff) to build the next round of conversations and thinking on the themes that have emerged from the first phase of the RSA networks project. You'll see that a few meetings are being proposed on the RSA networks platform, around some of the 'how' themes - e.g. RSA events and Fellowship engagement; how the RSA can create spaces for Fellows to meet around the country and so on. These are all opportunities to engage.

But these meetings need to be contextualised for all participants, if they are going to make sense, and so I really want to share our thinking about the work that needs to be done on the org change dimensions of the RSA networks project before Christmas.

My only question is how should I do that?! My initial thinking was to email it to all the people who attended the 22nd, with a bit of an update on progress. But if you have views on better, more original ways of sharing this, then please let me know!

davidwilcox said...

Saul, Sophia - thanks so much for these commitments to engagement with Fellows, and the practical proposals.
On what's next, I think as a first step it would be helpful to agree a main space where we can continue conversations. This blog has the advantage of being open and fairly flexible ... you could create a discussion space on RSA Networks. Or both and cross link.
Beyond that, it's difficult to make specific suggestions without knowing more about plans for project support, for spreading out beyond those who attended November 22, and the mix of online/offline.
How about: agree one or more spaces to talk about this; email as you suggest; offer an opportunity to meet. In offering the invite you could check whether people are interested in the broad direction of the initiative, or specifics.
My experience is that a core group of enthusiasts will emerge from conversations ... and it is OK to have that focus provided it is transparent and new people can join.
What do others think?