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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

RSA dashboard shows a wealth of online activity

In researching background for the workshop with RSA staff this week I've discovered just how far RSA has come recently in creating great public-facing content online. I've pulled it together on a startpage here, that acts as a sort of dashboard for online RSA activity. The page automatically updates with feeds from RSA sites and also OpenRSA.
Chief executive Matthew Taylor leads the way with top-quality blogging on his work and issues of the day - even managing to post from his holiday in Aviemore on the three massive challenges facing the UK: recession, protecting public services and climate change. Matthew says:
There is so much that the talented and committed Fellowship of the RSA could do. We here at John Adam Street are ready to support Fellows’ efforts; let’s see the whole of this great society step up to the plate.
There are also project blogs listed here on Arts, Civic Capitalism, Connected Communities, Design, Education, Environment, Pro-social behaviour, and public services. The events programme has listings, and audio and video of past events. I'm sure there's more I have missed.
The research made me think that the public-facing events and projects programmes could be a very fruitful area of engagement for those of us involved in OpenRSA who want to promote more collaboration between staff, Fellows, and others online and off ... and maybe help meet Matthew's challenges.
So far a lot of our attention has been on the closed RSA network site, and there's certainly lots of potential there. I'm enthusiastic about the idea of creating an online toolkit for Fellows and regions, providing additional tools and support.
However, I wonder if it might be possible to make faster progress working with some of the project and events teams where there is a commitment to blogging, audio, video, and interactions with both Fellows and others? By engaging with their activity - and adding more - we could demonstrate to the wider Fellowship the benefits of online collaboration, and hopefully feed that back into the networking.
Just a thought. I'll pop a linking comment on to Matthew's blog and see if resonates there.

Update: here's what I've posted as a comment on Matthew's blog, where it is awaiting moderation:

I think many Fellows would like to work together and rise to the challenges you highlight: the question is how best to collaborate among ourselves, and with staff.

A group of Fellows and RSA staff are meeting on Thursday to discuss just that, with a strong focus on the scope for working online. In researching background for the workshop I’ve been struck by how far RSA has come over the past year in developing great public-facing content. I’ve pulled it together on a dashboard here, and also blogged about the potential here.

What would help in the collaborative effort, in my view, is some initial help from RSA staff in convening around the challenges or other projects. Should we look to project or Fellowship departments? It’s quite difficult for Fellows to self-organise … though it may get easier once the new RSA network site is fully launched. At present we can’t find who might be interested, and space is tight in JAS.Clay Shirky has highlighted this new convening role for nonprofits - where self-organising meets organisation. Could you help us in the next round of innovation?

Anyone else got ideas on how best to work with RSA staff on these issues?

8 comments:

Justin said...

Is the RSA really dynamic enough to be trying to own this space? Nice conference venue, but isn't a bit crusty to be attracting a new breed of Gen Y-type social entrepreneurs.

Even the IOD realised that it had to create 123 Pall Mall in order to attract those that found the 'Regency splendour' of 116 Pall Mall way to stuffy.

I was at the RSA the other day and the restaurant had a menu that was pretty average, and the members bar was titchy. It's such a long way away from the likes of Alfred Place.

Just strikes me that Mathew Taylor's top-down "build it and they will come" vision is that anti-thesis of the bottom-up grass-roots social innovation he's trying to instigate.

davidwilcox said...

Justin - I rather agree. RSA hasn't decided what its offer is: RoI, RoV or RoD.
Is it saying we offer you a return on subsciption investment - no, others offer better for £140 a year. Or return on Vounteering, or Donation?
I suspect with older members it is relying on Fake Fellowship - FRSA. But that's just an historic anomaly of royal charter, as Matthew Taylor concedes here
How do we invent something better?

Justin said...

Well, the RSA does have it's fair share of amateur historians/genealogists that like to have FRSA on their letterheads, biz cards and personal web sites.

Maybe Matthew should have started by saying what the RSA could do for social innovators/entrepreneurs rather than the implied "Ask Not What We Can Do For You" other than throw some technology at you.

Putting interested parties in touch with each other is such a small step, that you have to ask whether it warrants the time and money invested in the technology to do so.

The real problem is that despite Matthew Taylor's vision what seems to be capturing the imagination of social innovators/entrepreneurs is the Social Innovation 2.0 'meet ups' like open2together, Social Innovation Camp et al. In fact, I wonder if the RSA really registers on the 'festival sets' radar or if they even care. That maybe because Matthew is not as hands on as those driving all these new meet ups. Also the RSA team don't seem to be part of that community.

My suggestion to the RSA is have both members and non-members submit some actual initiatives and then have them decide which one's they will support ... if Matthew can then leverage his contacts to help make something happen and they can show some real social impact, then perhaps they will show some real relevance, which is potentially missing from the Social Innovation 2.0 'festivals'.

CGF/dg_uk/Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
davidwilcox said...

Thanks Elizabeth
I think a key communication and collaboration issue is how to help a wider range of Fellows - particularly outside London - connect and develop projects. The RSA networks programme was launched to do that, and hopefully we'll hear more tomorrow about how it will develop. At the same time RSA staff are encourage Fellows to "just do it" and set up their own ways of making lateral connections. Looking forward to meeting up.

Justin said...

Well, my comments are from the sidelines and I actually have no axe to grind here either way. In fact, I would really like to see someone make an impact in the Social Innovation 2.0 space, but just have doubts whether the RSA is best placed to make this happen.

I just think there is a Leadership (2.0) issue here around Matthew and his vision as I have doubts about bottom-up initiatives being built from the top-down.

This leads on to an issue about 'ownership' and whether the RSA would have been better off partnering with others to help facilitate an initiative that was ‘owned’ by the participants rather than the facilitating partners.

As for whether the RSA team are really part of the Social Innovation 2.0 community or not, then I can only add that my limited exposure to commentary on this initiative has not exactly been flattering.

All I will add is that the RSA should not just engage with your champions, but also detractors as creative abrasion/conflict/debate is crucial for any innovation to occur.

socialreporter said...

The issue as always is who benefits? Is RSA for staff, Fellows .. or making some beneficial change in the world? That's where leadership is needed, I think. Matthew has likened the RSA to the RAC of civic activism .... but I'm not sure that's how most Fellows see it.
I guess problems solved, rescues made would give some measure though.

Justin said...

What I really really wanna know is how they plan to measure success. If Matthew T truly sees the RSA as being the RAC of civic activism then they are going to have to nail some kind of Social Impact Assessment/Evaluation Criteria to their mast or else its just more useless sloganeering.

In fact, I'd love to see what evaluation criteria was used to justify the funding of this initiative and where they are at as far as achieving their goals.

I'd also like to know whether some kind of Social Impact Assessment was part of their original funding proposal, because the likes of NING, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc, would have been far more cost effect ways of facilitating a member meets member programme as would a decent bar/cafe at their HQ.