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Friday, 16 November 2007

Who will decide on "open" - and how?

Tessy - love the drawing as well as your insights on collaboration! More please!
There's further discussion about openness with Mick Fealty and Eleanor Ford over on the RSA Networks blog, where Eleanor posts:

A comment on the nature of openness has value. David is right in saying that it is central to the NESTA Connect lines of inquiry, where openness integrates with trust and collaboration to seed innovation.

However, as I see it, the RSA aims to provide a sort of 'fertile ground' to be cultivated by the Fellows and the Society alike. In this space great ideas and innovations can be grown. But this vision takes time to create. And most importantly at the heart of the transformation is participation, which reveals its elective basis, coming honestly and transparently out of the passion/interest/commitment of all those involved.

Perhaps we should accept that in a sense people have to elect to be open, and then the conditions set up by the RSA are ripe to accept and encourage that, rather than making it a prerequisite. There will always be some people who are more or less comfortable with this position. That said, if the RSA Networks project succeeds in its long-term aims, this should cease to become an issue - as openness will be something that naturally unfolds.

And I respond:
However, decisions about the architecture and operation of the online system (and other activities) will make a big difference from the outset. It seems to me that civic innovation projects must involve a wide range of collaborations outside the RSA staff and Fellows ... so the collaboration system must cater for "outside" involvement, not just be a closed talking place for Fellows. Who will make that decision, and how?
Openness is also important for the engagement process. At present we don't know who is designing it, and what it is beyond the meeting next week for 250 Fellows.
My reason for reposting this is that Saul and Andy will be demonstrating the prototype system over the next week, and we don't know how decisions are to be made about the way that it will operate. The architecture for project collaboration could be set without anyone being clear about who is the "client" for Saul and Andy (although, I expect they won't let that one slide by in practice:-) and where the governance of the system lies. In my experience, lack of clarity on these issues leads to trouble further down the line.
Which also leads to the question, where are the RSA trustees in all this? Shouldn't they be part of the conversation as custodians of the balance between benefit for Fellows, and benefit for wider interests in society?


Saul Albert said...

Hi David,

This is interesting stuff -and very relevant to the wider objectives of what we're developing with the RSA Networks prototype. But I think I should probably interject at this point to explain what we've been asked to do more fully.

We have been commissioned by the RSA to produce this prototype as a discussion piece, as part of a wider report and set of recommendations as to what we think is the most appropriate set of tools and approaches to pursue.

This being the case, our job is to talk to everyone involved, try lots of things out as quickly as possible and report on our findings - not to develop a specific prototype to a specific brief. We are in the enviable position of developing our own brief - in collaboration with all parties.

The ideas and feedback from the RSA staff, the OpenRSA group and many interested individuals who recognise the immense potential of that creative mix are making this one of the most stimulating and enjoyable projects I've worked on yet!

davidwilcox said...

Thanks Saul - and Anshuman, who has commented here
That's very helpful, and makes it even clearer how the prototype development can both show possible tools, and help help us evolve the project development process. Sorry to jump to conclusion. It does, however, reinforce my feeling that it would be helpful to have a "state of play" page somewhere explaining what's going on.