Why not recapture the spirit of 2007-09
First you might to like to review the history of the past ten years, which starts with RSA CEO Matthew Taylor's vision:
In essence, our aim is that the RSA becomes a network for civic innovation, empowering both Fellows and staff to develop new initiatives that promote and deliver progress in society. We want to make it easier for any Fellow who wants to get involved to connect with other like-minded Fellows and to develop initiatives that seek to remove barriers to progress, working locally, in professional groups or simply among people who share interests and enthusiasms.
Unfortunately the vision of supporting a networked Fellowship online wasn't realised, but we have the chance to try again … this time led by Fellows
The Fellows' Forum has been developed and run by volunteers, with some help from staff in recruitment, and now hosts discussion among more than 600 Fellows - details here.
As well as the closed Forum, there is an associated open blog, and plans for video conferencing, including a major event with RSA chair Vikki Heywood CBE. It is an impressive achievement, and I'm glad to have been one of the group contributing to development.
We are now considering how to sustain the Forum, and to add other tools and support that could achieve several things:
We are considering various ideas. One of the key issues - as I see it - is how far development can be maintained by volunteer Fellows, particularly if we wish to extend the reach of the Forum to more of the 28,000 Fellows. In my view, any extensive online system will require some professional staff, whether employed by RSA or, perhaps, Fellowship Council.
The challenge now is how to scope out the system that might be required … which is in itself quite a task, requiring professional input. While that expertise exists within the RSA Fellowship, it is a big ask of volunteers, and requires planning and management. RSA staff may not, currently, have the capacity to undertake or support the work.
My suggestion is to recapture some of the spirit of 2007-09, when Fellows and staff worked together to develop a networked vision for the Fellowship with systems to support it. The launch event was a large, inspirational ideas session on November 22 2007. OpenRSA held a workshop on October 1 to prepare for that, and there were further workshops with staff. For details see RSA networks history.
One of the ideas discussed among the Forum development group is running an online conference around the anniversary of the 2007 event.
Preparation for that event, and follow-through, would mobilise interest and help us address the issues of what Fellows want, what we can offer at present, and what more is needed.
We could use the conceptual and practical thinking we have already done, in the context of a positive and energising collaboration with Fellows and staff.
We could float the idea to RSA chair Vikki Heywood in our online conference on June 12, and follow through with a more formal proposal on June 29 when the Forum development group are due to report progress and ideas to Fellowship Council.
Maybe some of the original supporters of OpenRSA will re-engage, with a specific focus on how to develop and support the “open” aspects of the system that are needed.
The Fellows' Forum satisfies the desire for Fellows to have a private space for discussion, but it can't fulfil aspirations to support projects for wider social good, or support RSA networks that include Fellows and non-Fellows.
The issues of open or closed systems, that prompted formation of OpenRSA, are still with us. We need both, and can use our experience of the past 10 years, together the new tools now available to achieve that.