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Openrsa - Fellows' Digital Engagement Strategy

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This draft strategy has been developed by Dave Briggs and David Wilcox for the new RSA Digital Engagement group - draft Terms of Reference here
If you wish to contribute to drafting the strategy you can can ask to join this wiki - see above - or comment on the RSA DE group page - archive links

RSA Fellows’ Digital Engagement Strategy


The internet offers a wealth of opportunity for any group committed to doing social good. As documented in a number of books, articles and web pages, the ability for people with common interests to self organise to get things done presents a major shift in the way civic activity is performed.
This has repercussions for a number of actors within society, not least membership based organisations such as the RSA. If people can congregate around an issue by creating a group on Meetup, or Facebook, or by simply using a common tag on Twitter, what is the value-add from having to pay an organisation to be a member?
The RSA corporately is figuring out this conundrum under the banner of 21st Century Enlightenment, and is engaged in using a lot of online technology, such as blogs, Twitter and Ning groups to spread the word about its activities and to encourage new fellows to sign up. There have also been attempts to provide platforms for fellows to connect with one another and to organise into groups on the basis on issues or locality.\ In addition to this, a group of web-savvy fellows created an informal group called OpenRSA, with the aim of exploring how far self-organising could go for fellows, and how online developments affected the relationship between the RSA and its fellows.
The result of all this activity was the creation of several groups, mostly location based, using the free Ning platform. There is also the RSA Fellowship Council Ning site, which has the vast majority of activity. The proliferation of these free networks have demonstrated both the clear need fellows have for places where they can network online; but also the difficulties of managing multiple online spaces and keeping everyone up to date with their content.

About this strategy

This is a digital engagement strategy for fellows, and not for the RSA as a corporate body. This strategy identifies the challenges facing fellows in their attempts to use the internet to help them communicate and collaborate with other fellows, and then sets out what needs to happen to meet those challenges. This takes the form of activities and roles.

What this strategy does not cover

This strategy is for the fellows, and not for the RSA as a corporate body. Therefore, it is not concerned with explicitly promoting the RSA, it’s activities or fellowship (although those things may be by-products of this strategy). It also does not cover technology issues which are the responsibility of the RSA and which could not conceivably be undertaken by fellows alone - such as the membership directory project, for example.


This strategy sets out how fellows can use online technology to complement their activities and to create more connections and conversations between fellows. The strategy will enable fellows to play an active and influential role in the virtual communities which are growing in importance throughout civil society.


  • It is difficult for fellows to find one another, whether in terms of common issues and interests or locality
  • Not all fellows are up to speed with the latest online developments
  • Fellows do not feel empowered to start projects under their own steam
  • Online discussions are fragmented across sites and systems
  • Nobody is responsible for any one element of digital engagement activity


To meet the challenges, fellows need to achieve the following objectives:

  • To ensure all fellows who wish to engage online have the skills to feel comfortable in doing so
  • To identify a suite of online tools that can help facilitate fellows’ online activities
  • To ensure fellows can play an active part in the various ongoing civic digital initiatives


Connect with both RSA corporate and Fellowship activities

  • Follow what is happening across corporate and Fellowship sites -e.g. dashboard
  • Find and sign up for both corporate and Fellow-organised events


  • Post blog items, videos, photos

Network and collaborate

  • Find other like-minded Fellows
  • Set up affinity groups and discussions
  • Set up project groups to work together
  • Invite people to Fellow-organised events

Support other Fellows

  • Join a skills bank linked to the Catalyst project programme


  • Campaign strategist - not sure if we need this one really
  • Community manager - people with an oversight of the whole community, promote it through their networks, introduce new people to the community
  • Social media developer - people with the technical skills to set up online tools, and to hack existing ones to meet the needs of fellows
  • Digital mentor - fellows with skills and knowledge with digital technology and are happy and able to pass these onto others
  • Social reporter
  • Digital curator / gardener - people who can track conversations in a number of spaces and bring them together. Some overlap with social reporter? See reporters as creating content rather than organising it?


Any technology solution for the fellows needs to incorporate the following features. This not not need to all be in the same platform. Instead, a variety of tools could be identified for fellows to use to ensure all needs are met. Some of these, on reflection, might not be needed at all!

  • Fellow profiles, listing details like name, contacts, interests,
  • skills, knowledge etc
  • Themed discussion areas
  • Collaborative authoring - fellows working together on online
  • documents
  • E-learning - sharing skills and knowledge online with other fellows
  • (and indeed anyone else)
  • Online conferencing including live audio, video and text based discussions

What’s more, the technology used by fellows should, where possible, be:

  • Sustainable - it should be low cost or free, and likely to remain so
  • in the future
  • Scalable - it should be able to cope with large amounts of activity
  • and users, etc
  • Replicable - where a technology works well in one scenario, it
  • should be easily replicated to work in others
  • Open data - it should be easy to extract user data and content from
  • the technology to set up elsewhere if necessary
  • Open source - it is preferable to use open source technology where
  • possible, especially if using a self-hosted system rather than
  • software-as-a-service

Further reading and resources


  • Here Comes Everybody - Clay Shirky
  • We-Think - Charles Leadbeater
  • The Virtual Community - Howard Rheingold
  • Causewired - Tom Watson
  • Social by Social - Gibson, Sample-Ward and Wilcox

How to engage with RSA (Google Doc by David Wilcox and collaborators)

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fellows_digital_engagement_strategy.txt · Last modified: 2017/05/28 17:22 by admin