User Tools

Site Tools


an_open_exploration_to_support_the_rsa_mission

OpenRSA Exploration

Back to RSA networks and engagement

Summary: relaunch our earlier OpenRSA exploration, which was originally framed as “How can RSA Fellows contribute to the organisation’s mission - and benefit from the experience in ways that suit their needs as well?”.

We can now draw on inspiration from recent blog posts by Matthew Taylor; the work of the new Board in refining the RSA mission; and the start of scoping of new online platforms. Recent discussions on Linkedin about RSA mission and Fellowship show the scope for engaging a wide range of Fellows. Here’s a suggestion for the focus, and some draft provocations:

How can we use open processes and digital technology to support the RSA mission: encouraging arts, manufacturing and commerce, and enhancing human capability.

  • Take a whole organisation approach - involve Fellows, staff, Board, Council and others who engage with RSA
  • Adopt whole system thinking - draw on ideas of collaborative economy and social ecology
  • Build on RSA strengths - staff-led projects and events, diverse Fellowship, many partners, wider audience
  • Reconnect to RSA foundations - develop virtual coffee houses for conversations across disciplines and sectors
  • Help people use digital technologies to develop the ecology bottom up - foster personal learning networks
  • Blend online and face-to-face - expand events digitally, enable informal meetings
  • Offer rewards to match individual interests - personal or professional development, projects opportunities, sociability
  • Use the process to build the Fellowship - renewal, recruitment, and returning Fellows
  • Recognise the skills and resources needed for the process - develop a communication and innovation hub
  • Make it fun

The exploration would be a first stage in development. It would not aim to take on the major task of developing and transforming Fellowship - that is a matter for RSA Board, staff and Fellowship Council. It could, however, make a modest contribution to the design of the process needed.

The exploration could be valuable to other membership organisations considering how social media and and other developments can either enhance their offerings - or challenge their sustainability as people develop their own networks more easily. This revisits an earlier RSA-supported exploration of membership, with an open process methodology developed with Big Lottery Fund and Nominet Trust.

David Wilcox david@socialreporter.com

Matthew Taylor’s challenge

In a series of blog posts about RSA mission and Fellowship in 2012 chief executive Matthew Taylor set a major challenge: how to achieve more through the activities of Fellows, and wider relationships, in pursuit of the historic mission to encourage arts, manufacturing and commerce, and in the current context to develop human capability supporting social progress.

The challenge comes at a time of major innovation for the RSA. The new chair Vikki Heywood and Board of trustees are refining how the broad mission can be turned into a fresh round of projects and programmes; regions are developing teams to support local action; the technology board are scoping new online systems for Fellows and the organisation as a whole.

In his post Matthew indicated that progress will require more than just “try harder”. He wrote:
“… these posts are about how the RSA moves from good to great and, as I have said throughout, I think this depends most on taking the mission of Fellowship engagement to the next level and doing it in the next couple of years.
”We will know we have together achieved something really significant when:

  • Projects begun by Fellows and led by Fellows are starting to become as high profile and influential as the research and development projects managed by professional staff and, as a sign of this, Fellows’ projects are starting to access external funds.
  • Research among FRSA is showing a high and rising awareness of all aspects of the Society’s work and how Fellows can get involved.
  • More Fellows are being recruited (and retained) because they see the RSA, and the Fellowship in particular as a powerful vehicle for innovation and social progress. At present the numbers are pretty steady (which is a good outcome in the current economic environment), but a gradually rising roll will make it possible for us to continue to invest more in Fellowship.
  • And, most of all, outside the RSA there is a growing sense that the Fellowship is made up of people with the inclination and the tools to intervene when new solutions are needed.“

What Fellows think

Fellows have already turned their attention to the challenge with two major discussions in the Linkedin group.

  • Item for the RSA Board awayday: a mission we can understand Summary of discussion 26 Fellows, over 150 comments
  • Here’s CEO Matthew Taylor’s vision for FRSAs. What’s yours? Summary of discussion and the following key points. 15 Fellows, over 70 comments

Key points from the Linkedin discussion about Fellowship:

  • there is a lot of enthusiasm for developing more Fellow-led projects and activities to contribute to the RSA’s overall purpose, as Matthew Taylor hoped for in his post
  • however, rather than just identifying specific tip-of-the-iceburg projects as contributing to the purpose, we should take account of the overall contribution that the work of Fellows can make where that has been supported by networking within RSA and other support
  • in order to achieve that greater contribution, we need much better networking and support. This may be some sort of communication and innovation hub, plus well-facilitated online and offline spaces, specifically to serve Fellows
  • while the RSA has overall to pursue the charitable objects defined in its Charter, the notion of constraining Fellows’ individual activities as charitable does not make sense, and is not motivating
  • in order to retain, motivate and recruit Fellows we need a way of blending the achievement of some overall purpose with personal and professional development and learning … in ways that are relevant to the individual.

Draw on lessons from RSA networks and the past five years

How can we take discussion and then action to “the next level” as Matthew suggests? My suggestion is that we first pick up points where his posts, and Fellows’ discussions, would appear to connect: make the Fellowship a vehicle for innovation and social progress; access external funds; involve Fellows in the work of staff-led projects; blend overall purpose with individual opportunities for personal and professional development. In short, enhance the capability of Fellows and others associated with the RSA to achieve its mission.

Back in 2007, shortly after Matthew became chief executive, the NESTA-funded RSA Networks projects aimed to do something similar, and many lessons were learned. They included Start with relationships, not transactions; Be clear about the invitation; Follow exciting leads; Understand an online presence as integral to the mission; Let networked innovation models change the hierarchy. All lessons are openrsa (principlesfornetworked_innovation)

Perhaps in 2007 too much emphasis was placed on the potential of online systems that had not been properly developed or supported, and too little on the need to enable change throughout the organisation. The current round of developments offers a fresh opportunity.

What came through strongly from the RSA Networks experiment - and experience over the next five years - is that what’s needed is a shared and more open process of exploration and development. As the evaluation report said: Co-design change to ensure relentless focus on the experience of participants.

During the RSA Networks initiative a group of Fellows OpenRSA 1 archive as a group to offer support, through workshops and online networking.
Since then the Fellow-led RSA digital engagement group (archive link). has done an enormous amount to help shape RSA technology development, provide practical support, and has become the liveliest public space for discussing RSA innovation.

During 2012 a group of Fellows involved in RSAde Exploration began a fresh OpenRSA exploration, but paused pending clarification on RSA mission and technology.
Now is a good time to restart.

Restarting the exploration

A promising model for exploration that we can use is one developed by socialreporters.net for work during 2011-2012 with Big Lottery Fund and Nominet Trust. That drew on a couple of earlier projects undertaken in part by RSA Fellows:the idea of an open innovation exchange in 2007 and the membership project 2008-09 to explore the impact of social media on membership organisation - later carried on by RSA and NCVO.

The Nominet Trust explorations in 2012 were aimed at exploring how digital technologies could be used by young people, and also those later in life, and are informing what projects and funding might be most appropriate. The proposed RSA exploration could make a contribution to the development Matthew Taylor hopes to see in Fellowship.

Socialreporters went about the explorations by developing a set of provocations, based on initial research, and then evolving more detailed ideas through a mix of online discussion and workshops. The advantage of this approach is:

  • The initial provocations provide a good focus for conversations
  • Any ideas for action are rooted in a review of research and past experience
  • Ideas are developed and evolved openly, so everyone involved feels some ownership
  • The process helps develop the relationships and networks needed to take things forward

The new exploration

As explained above, the new exploration follows earlier thinking about RSA networks, the work of the RSA digital engagement group, and more recent online discussions. It could be framed as:

How can we use open processes and digital technology to support the RSA mission: encouraging arts, manufacturing and commerce, and enhancing human capability.

These might be a set of opening provocations:

  • Take a whole organisation approach - involve Fellows, staff, Board, Council and
  • others who engage with RSA.
    * Adopt whole system thinking - draw on ideas of
  • collaborative economy and social ecology.
    * Build on RSA strengths - staff-led projects
  • and events, diverse Fellowship, many partners, wider audience.
    * Reconnect to RSA foundations - develop virtual coffee houses for conversations across disciplines and
  • sectors.
  • Help people use digital technologies to develop the ecology bottom up - foster personal
  • learning networks.
    * Blend online and face-to-face - expand events digitally, enable informal
  • meetings.
  • Offer rewards to match individual interests - personal or professional development,
  • projects opportunities, sociability
  • Use the process to build the Fellowship -
  • renewal, recruitment, and returning Fellows.
    * Recognise the skills and resources needed for the process - develop a communication and innovation hub
  • Make it fun

The exploration would be a first stage in development. It would not aim to take on the major task of developing and transforming Fellowship - that is a matter for RSA Board, staff and Fellowship Council. It could, however, make a contribution to the design of the process needed.

What next?

This page offers some ideas for discussion with other Fellows in the digital engagement group, and those who have taken part in the Linkedin discussions. We can then try and engage the interest of the RSA Board and, of course, Matthew Taylor.

There’s a discussion about the earlier exploration, with this update, in the digital engagement group forum (archive link) the digital engagement group forum

David Wilcox david@socialreporter.com

Back to RSA networks and engagement

an_open_exploration_to_support_the_rsa_mission.txt · Last modified: 2017/05/27 07:14 by admin