The RSA Fellows' Forum was launched in March 2017 following a heated discussion on LinkedIn at the end of 2016. That mirrored earlier discussions, like these in 2012, when Fellows expressed their desire for betters ways to connect and engage with RSA.
This time a group of Fellows, led by Fellowship Councillors Judy Rees, took the initiative rather than asking staff to act. We set up a working group on Slack.com, and then created a Fellows Forum using Discourse. There are now more than 600 members, and some lively discussions. The Forum has the support of Fellowship Council, and assistance from RSA staff in recruiting members.
Here's an explanation for those joining:
The purpose of this experimental Fellows Forum is to enable Fellows to find and contact other fellows who share their interests, and to find out about RSA-supported and Fellow-led projects. This will enable them to use the forum to form networks, groups and teams (regardless of geography) in order to take joint action to support the RSA’s mission and Change Aims.
Fellowship Council chair Rod Hyde explains the experiment in this blog post. He wrote:
World-wide, there are 28,000 RSA Fellows but only a handful of places where there is sufficient critical mass to sustain successful face to face networks. We are a scattered Fellowship and we know that things happen when people can get together. But online forums have been tried in the past and have not been sustainable.
We want to support Fellows to make a significant contribution to the Society’s mission and so we must find a way of making online Forums work. Technology is not the barrier that it once was and so we will focus on finding ways to establish and nurture a forum. RSA staff are currently working on technology options and welcome our focus on the facilitation process.
The aim of the trial is to show that an online Fellows’ Forum can work, to test and develop the method, and to show that it can enable productive discussion and strengthen the network.
Forum members are currently exploring how to add additional tools to the Forum. There is an associated blog, and online video conferencing has started.