Read about the RSA Networks event - see the videos

Information about RSA networks and OpenRSA here. More about this blog, and how to join in.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Anyone interested in an open discussion on civic journalism?

Rosie Anderson has now explained more about the RSA Journalism Network over on the RSA Networks site. The joint initiative with the Reuters Institute of Journalism aims to "support the civic function of news" but will be focussed on working, professional journalists as "a professional sub-culture, a community of practice".
Others who don't fall into this category ("news users") are encouraged by Rosie to start their own discussions.
The main RSA Networks site is currently still open for anyone to register, but as I understand it, that will change as it is recoded and integrated into the main RSA site. At that point it will be for RSA Fellows only, plus occasional invited guests. That may be great for building the Fellowship, and starting Fellows-staff projects, but it doesn't sound appropriate as a discussion space where "professional journalists", citizen journalists and others interested in using social media for social benefit can meet.
I'm personally most interested in breaking out of the old media professional boundaries because I think greatest innovation - and citizen empowerment - is likely to take place as old cultures are challenged, openly. It's time the newspeople stopped seeing those that they write for as "news users", now we are producing a lot of our own content online.
It's a point well made by Nick Booth at Podnosh a while back, when writing about the BBC initiative to support Manchester bloggers.
From my experience of BBC editorial meetings this would require a culture shift. The discussion has traditionally been rather cynical – based on traditional journalistic instinct about what makes a good story. This will often require conflict, criticism and celebrity (or prominence) as a core part of the story. News is made or broken by whether those things exist or can be readily conjured up.
I'm developing ideas about what Charlie Beckett and others are calling networked journalism over at and suggesting we need to develop a new set of values.
Anyone else interested in open discussions about civic-networked journalism, and/or know where they are taking place?
I personally think it is a bit arrogant of RSA and Reuters Institute to think they can have a useful discussion about civic journalism without civic journalists, but that's the new-style social reporter in me showing through.
David (NUJ member since 1968)

Thursday, 20 March 2008

RSA journalism network on "civic function of news"

Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication and Co-Director of the Centre for Digital Citizenship, is launching an RSA Journalism Network over on the RSA Networks site.

The public’s declining trust in the news media is a worrying trend. The RSA and the Reuters Institute of Journalism are looking at how we can support the civic function of news. We’re particularly interested in how professional journalists and Fellows relate to the public’s ideas about news and what it is for.
This is a very timely project ... but as I argue on my blog I do think that this is something that should be a public discussion, even if it starts off behind the login.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Chichester Networks Event - 7th April 08

Monday 7th April 2008
6.30 for 7pm start; 9pm drinks; 10pm finish
The Council House, North Street, Chichester PO19 1LQ

"How can the RSA Fellow's Network contribute to local communities and serve as a catalyst for positive social progress?"

The evening will include an introduction with Matthew Taylor, RSA chief executive, as guest speaker, with the emphasis on building local networks and alliances of Fellows.

RSA Networks Project
Inspired by the highly successful event at the RSA in London on the 22 November 07, this evening has been arranged to give RSA Fellows living in regional communities the opportunity to meet other local Fellows and examine how the RSA Networks strategy can be developed at local level.

Open Space
The event on the 22 November was designed as an Open Space event and a portion of this evening will follow this workshop format, allowing you to self organise around issues and ideas that you really care about. This format ensures maximum participation, by creating an agenda collaborating on the evening and forming smaller discussion groups. Ideas, opinions and information from these discussions will then be fed back to those attending later in the evening, but also more widely via the RSA website.

The evening will include an introduction by Laura Bunt from RSA John Adam Street, an Open Space workshop, a demonstration of the developing RSA Networks website and refreshments.

If you have not yet registered to attend, contact Greg Slay or myself, Tessy Britton.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The (Re-inventing) Membership Project is now up and running

The Membership Project is now up and running, with a open collaboration website at Do come across and comment - or even better, register and contribute. Here's what we say on the About page.

The Membership Project explores how the social web and other factors are changing the ways in which we may belong to groups and organisations.
We believe that these changes will have major implications for civil society institutions, ranging from national charities to local groups.
Put simply, will people still pay subscriptions if they can get information, meet and collaborate through social networks? As individuals, how do we turn connections made online and in other ways into deeper relationships and ways of working towards a better society? What benefits must organisations offer in future to survive?
We are inviting anyone interested to join us in a exploring how 'membership' and the act of 'joining' is changing, review the implications for civil society institutions, and then to develop services, support or guidance to help them meet the challenges and opportunities.
The precise objectives and outputs will be agreed during an initial project design phase, when we will also consider the drivers behind change. We wish to situate our discussions of how 'membership' is changing within a broader exploration of changing patterns of involvement/participation, which have been driven by a range of technological (including social media) and social factors.
You'll see that the aim is to develop a market place for early ideas, products and services which can then form the basis for more substantial work packages and funding bids.

Big thank you to RSA and the NCVO Foresight team for initial funding to get the site up and develop first activities, and proposals.

We'll be talking to RSA staff and NCVO about organising a get-together for anyone interested within the next month.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

RSA event proposal: How should the BBC support citizenship and civil society

It looks as if the BBC is planning to spend some £20 million on new web sites for local news, multimedia content and other activities that could help fulfill its Charter purpose of "sustaining citizenship and civil society" now that its platform for local activism, the BBC Action Network, is due to close. More details over here.
This may be a great idea - or there may be better ways to support local democracy and civic innovation. It may seriously damage moves by commercial regional media to support citizen journalism - or networked journalism as it is better known these days.
Networked journalism is where the people formerly known as the audience contribute to the whole editorial process. The public write blogs, take pictures, gather information and comment as part of newsgathering and publishing. The professional journalists become filters, connectors, facilitators and editors.
The problem is we may not get the chance to discuss the pros and cons of how our license money is spent unless the BBC Trust (which has the final say) mounts a rather more effective consultation process than they have in the past.
I think this could be a great opportunity for the RSA to use its convening power to bring together some key interests to discuss both the issues, and the way that citizens should be involved in how the BBC - and other local media - help provide platforms for engagement in future.
I'm being quite shameless here in seeing if some blogging, and the RSA networks initiative, can help influence the way that pillars of society like the BBC and BBC Trust pay more attention to effective citizen-led action - and not take for granted what's needed at grass roots level.
My initial blog post (see comment) has already attracted support from Charlie Beckett, quoted above, who is director of a think tank on journalism and society backed by LSE and the London College of Communications. Charlie asks if anyone is interested in a conference. Another commenter has further suggestions for an open conversation to frame the issues.
What do you think? Is this a good one for RSA networks?

Thursday, 31 January 2008

RSA Networks: Action and Openness, 15th Feb 2008

Hi everyone,

As Saul mentioned in his previous post, the new version of the RSA Networks platform is now available on our development servers for fellows to play with and comment.

As with the initial release of the software, we would like to invite you to meet with us face-to-face to discuss the system and how it can help support fellow-led activities within our networks. And, like last time, we'd also like to make this event about the process of developing projects within the RSA networks and not just about technology, which means we want you to bring your own projects for discussion too.

So, you are cordially invited to join us at the RSA on Friday 15th February 2008, 6pm to 8pm, to talk about the online platform, the networks project in general, and the projects arising from it. The (very loose) themes of the event will be:
  • Action - how can the RSA and fellows support all the great ideas and discussions within the networks to become practical action projects?
  • Openness - what level of openness does this practical action require, and what are the implications for the RSA and its fellowship?
Saul and I will be presenting the developments with online engagement, and RSA Fellow Fiona Coffey will be presenting the developments with offline engagement, such as new events, changes to the lecture programme and other ways to support the fellows in their activities. (Thanks Fiona!) We would also like to invite presentations from a couple of fellows who have developed ideas on the online platform, and can talk for a couple of minutes about their experiences of trying to take their projects on to the next level of practical action.

If you would like to attend, or if you want more information, please contact Laura Bunt in the Networks team (Laura.Bunt[at], or myself (andy[at] We promise there will be free wine this time...

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

RSA Networks Version 2 - in testing

Dear OpenRSAniks,

I'm very pleased to announce that the next beta version of the RSA Networks platform is now ready for testing on the development site.

There's a full post on the RSA Networks live site about the changes we've made in response to the fantastic feedback we've received from users so far.

To summarise, we've internationalised the location mapping system and enabled 'find people near me' searches. We've also enabled skills and interest matching - so projects and people can now be matched according to skills offered, skills needed and matching interests.

This is really the most interesting development so far - it was a small brainwave of my colleague Andy Gibson's that all we needed to do was to separate skills from interests in how people describe projects and themselves, and we could draw lots more interesting inference about what people might be interested in.

We have already implemented this separation on the live site, in preparation for the integration on the 15th February - so please do edit your profiles and projects there, and get ready for a whole new level of relevance!

We've also tried to improve the navigation, tracking and accessibility of new information and discussions on the site, as well as enabling users to post images and video from popular media sharing sites (picassa, flickr, youtube, etc.) to their discussions.

We hope all this makes the site easier to use, and that it generates another round of feedback so we can make further improvements before the changes are implemented on the live site after a forthcoming off-line meeting on the 15th February.

This meeting will be an opportunity for users of the system so far to meet and feedback live, talk about potential futures for the RSA Networks project and site, and bring some of their own projects to the table. My colleague Andy Gibson will post more about that meeting shortly.

In any case, please feel free to play with the development site, and feedback here or on the live site.

NB: Changes and content added to the development site will be wiped out on the 15th February. Some features of the new site will not work properly until then: eg. it won't send email (to prevent too many test recommendations being sent out) , and especially those features requiring your input - like separating out your skills and interests - will not work properly until they integrate with the live site on the 15th.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Another online collaboration platform

I just heard of the launch in March of UnLtdWorld "the new online platform for social entrepreneurs and their supporters". It is still in beta but you can register on site for an invite to join later. It sounds as if they are going for an open approach - so there is scope to join up with RSA Networks activity.
UnLtdWorld is the online platform that empowers people to generate greater social impact in the real world by enabling them to share, shape and build knowledge, markets and communities through social networks. It is the platform where social entrepreneurs can connect with other socially minded people, find the resources and opportunities they need, find and market services and products, get answers to key questions, create and join groups, find information on upcoming events and news, and lots more. Above all UnLtdWorld is built on an open system, allowing agencies to build applications and connect up their own resources and networks.

.... we will announce new exciting features that will go live during the event. These will include an array of developments that will foster deep collaboration and help build the capacity of all organisations working in the sector. They will make relations between social entrepreneurs, relevant agencies and the general public more efficient and will enable people to build and share value openly.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Exploring RSA Offline Space

On Friday 25th January a group of us are meeting at John Adam Street to how Fellows can become more involved and connected with each other and with RSA, through face to face meetings.

The existing ‘offline experience’ includes RSA-led events/initiatives at which we are physically present and participating with others (such as Lectures) and spaces which allow Fellows to meet and connect (such as New Fellows Evenings). In this meeting, we want to explore how to develop these existing RSA events/experiences to improve relationship building and also consider new ways of helping Fellows to meet and connect.

There are lots of ideas bubbling away on the RSA Networks platform, including a project on lectures and deliberative space, which I'm personally really excited about- If you would like to come along and haven't got an invite already please let me or Laura Bunt know via the discussion board.

David has posted lots of interesting thoughts on the whole issue of open access and the degree to which the RSA Fellowship experience is restricted to Fellows. I think these are big and necessary questions to ask AND I believe there is an inevitable tension between open access and creating community which doubtless we won't resolve before or on Friday. However, whatever our respective views on this, I personally feel that addressing the quality of face-to-face experience is one of the most powerful ways we can create community in RSA, both for Fellows and as a way of reaching out to wider stakeholders. I'm really looking forward to a great discussion on Friday, and to more f2f working on these issues going forward ....

Friday, 18 January 2008

Fellowship network initiative spreads to the Regions


The first Regional Open Space event is being planned for Wednesday evening 6th February at Bedales School, Petersfield, Hampshire. This event is inspired by the event on the 22 November at John Adam Street and aims to create an opportunity for Fellows living in the area to start sharing ideas of how they would like the RSA network to benefit local communities and meet other Fellows. Bedales School have very generously offered the RSA the beautiful Olivier Theatre for this new event, which continues the RSA's innovative networks project.

The iniative is being arranged by the Chichester and Portsmouth LEG (Local Events Group), which forms part of the South Central Regional Committee. John Adam Street are enthusiastically supporting this event with practical advice and RSA representatives will be attending. It is intended that the evening include an on-screen demonstration of the RSA Networks new site.

This event will be followed by a further Open Space event in Chichester on the 7th April.

Invitations will be going to Fellows week commencing 21 January for postcodes in a catchment around Petersfield. If you would like to attend either event please contact Greg Slay or myself, Tessy Britton.


You can connect to this event and comment on the RSA Networks site *here* . We would be extremely interested in further developing an on-line and off-line forum for sharing experiences of these newly created regional opportunities in order to collaborate on developing unique methods and ideas for connecting Fellows to communities and local projects.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Welcoming each other - so no more drinking alone

One of the topics on RSA Networks is welcoming Fellows ... with a number of new Fellows saying they feel rather unwelcomed at present:
"As a new fellow I was not aware of what was expected of me."
"To be frank evidence of "fellowship" is simply not evident."
"I attended my first lecture today 16/1/08. It was also my first time at the house and my first act as a fellow. No-one was there to meet, greet and welcome me. Being shy, i made an effort to go the vault for drinks afterwards, no-one approached me, so i drank alone."
In the discussion RSA staff recognise the issue, say changes are planned, and recognise mentoring of new Fellows as a good idea. However, it sounds as if it will take time to introduce "official" procedures.
I've suggested on the site that we could make a start with some voluntary Fellow-to-Fellow support:
Meanwhile (and longer term too) I hope that Fellows could take a lead in welcoming and mentoring new Fellows. We could use this system for initial introductions and welcoming, then make some Fellow-to-Fellow mentor connections online and face-to-face. RSA staff have indicated that rooms can be made available for RSA projects.
Once we got together I'm sure we could come up with plenty of ideas for putting mentoring into practice.
This also ties into the wider re-inventing membership project on the site, also blogged here in more detail. It would also tie in well with other ideas including making better use of RSA lectures and events.
Would anyone else be interested in helping with some Fellow-to-Fellow mentoring? I think that this social activity would be good fun, lead to some really useful connections, and be a great complement to the project focus of RSA Networks.
I'm no expert in mentoring - so would really welcome ideas and support in this.
What lessons do people have from other mentoring processes? For example, should a key principle be that new Fellows should be able to choose their mentor?

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Other examples of social networking and professional development?

Greetings and Happy New Year to everyone!

I wonder if I can kick off 2008 by picking everyone's brains for a moment - I confess I have a selfish motivation behind this, but I think any answers I get may be of wider interest to others as well.

What I'm looking for is examples of organisations (or looser affiliations of individuals) who are using social software for professional development. Apart from RSA Networks, of course. So does anyone have any suggestions that I could follow up?

By social software I mean social networks (e.g. Facebook, Ning), blogs, wikis, shared bookmarks etc. And professional development can mean many things, but I'm mostly interesting in enhancing intrinsic job-specific skills on the one hand and broader scouting of collaborative/entrepreneurial opportunities on the other. The organisations could be membership-based, employers, educators or just self-organising networks.

The selfish part of this is that it relates to some work I'm doing for the National College for School Leadership, who are interested in extending the way they use social software with their constituency of school leaders. I'm happy to feed back the lessons from any leads that anyone gives me and share them with readers of this blog. Look forward to hearing from you if you can recommend any suitable examples (with contact details if possible). Our immediate deadline is 18th January, but happy to continue the discussion beyond then...