Guest blogger Charlotte Britton FRSA – Fellowship Councillor and Chair of the Digital Engagement Working Group – brings us up to speed on the major technology and digital developments which will offer many new possibilities for the RSA Fellowship.
Based on feedback from the Fellowship survey, the Fellowship team recognise that Fellows need to:
- Provide an up-to-date directory of Fellows – accessible to all (unless unsubscribed) and improve SkillsBank
- Ensure uniformly high standard of intellectual debate and address identified areas for improvement
- Online communities may require more moderation and quality assurance
- Help improve regional Fellowship offer
- Leverage the existing high usage of social media by Fellows, particularly Linked-In and Facebook, to encourage more intra-Fellowship networking and collaboration
a group of Fellows that will be recruited to assist in testing the system and clarifying the functionality
The aim of this programme is to provide a platform which enables the Fellowship team to deliver these specific aspects of the recommendations from the Fellowship survey.
Digital and Technology Strategy Delivery Programme
The IT team at John Adam Street has been working on deploying a new customer relationship management (CRM) database, which is Phase 1 of the planned Digital and Technology Strategy Delivery Programme.
The Trustee Board have approved budget for 2013-14 to complete phases 2-4 of the Digital and Technology Strategy Delivery Programme, which will run up to December 2013. This is subject to a final review at the March Board when the final budget will be submitted for approval.
The Programme will put in place the two key fundamental components of the new technology infrastructure on which all current and new digital services will run. These are the Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and the Social Content Management System (CMS). These are both major installations and will be in place and connected together by late Summer after which we will be able to start providing a whole range of useful digital services.
Recruiting Fellows for User Testing
The team at John Adam Street is committed to ensuring that what they deliver are what our Fellows want most. They will do that through involving a group of Fellows that will be recruited to assist in testing the system and clarifying the functionality.
The team at John Adam Street will be working with the Fellowship Council’s Digital Engagement Group throughout the entire delivery process, particularly on the user testing activities where we aim to involve groups of users who are representative of the whole Fellowship and not just ones who are very active digitally.
Timescales for Phases
The majority of the work will commence at the beginning of April and there will be some early user testing work from late February. Work for finalising the selection of implementation partners for Phases 2, 3 and 4 is currently underway.
Communications to Fellows
Communications are currently being developed to keep the Fellowship informed on what is happening and when to expect what. The team at John Adam Street will be working with the Digital Engagement Group and Regional Digital Champions on this throughout the year. The communications will focus on what it means for the Fellowship, rather than any technical updates!
What will be delivered in each phase
The phases will overlap and the services that are actually delivered in each phase may vary depending on the evidence form our user testing research, which will indicate what is most important to our users. Using this evidence will guide what is chosen to be delivered first.
Phase 1 (October 2012 – February 2013)
- Replacement of the outdated CRM system (Progress) with a modern industrial-strength platform (Salesforce)
- Significant improvements in the quality of our Fellowship data from an extensive data cleansing exercise (50% of records have been ‘cleansed’ and 60,000 old records removed). The implementation process has already driven improvements in RSA business processes and created opportunities for further efficiencies
- Full integration with RSA financial services
- Provision of online payment via Credit/Debit cards & Direct Debits as part of online Fellowship application and Student Design Awards.
- The CRM will be further developed in preparation for a self-service portal where Fellows are able to manage their own information and profile. Part of this will run in parallel with Phase 3
Phase 2 (February 2013 – may 2013)
This phase builds on the platform created in Salesforce for Phase 1 and works to develop some of the features of the Fellows’ portal. The work will commence with further user experience research to ensure input from Fellows and other users. The main features will be:
- A number of ‘quick win’ extensions to Salesforce (e.g. integration with our Eventbrite system to feed attendee data from public events into our CRM)
- The interface design and underlying infrastructure to support the initial Fellows’ Portal with self-registration & ability to manage profile, search for other Fellows with similar interests and contact them and renew membership and make donations.
- Initial scoping of Skills Bank.
- Grant management system to support RSA applications for funding & support provision of funding (Catalyst).
All of the above will be integrated so that all relevant and useful data on any activity is captured and can be reported on. These are features which have a particularly high priority for Fellows, and management of profiles is something which most membership organisations would hope to provide.
Phase 3 (February 2013 – October 2013)
This is the largest project in the programme and is focused on creating our new Content Management System, migrating the RSA website over to it and connecting it to our CRM. Once completed, it will enable us to start delivering a wide range of improved and new services, the majority of which will start appearing in phase 4.
The Phase will involve:
- Migration of the RSA website to an improved platform (EPiServer) for managing RSA’s expanding web content and services, including increased mobile use;
- Greatly improved search facilities and more reliable hosting
- Integration with Salesforce CRM so all data can be captured/shared to provide new and improved content & services
- First delivery of personalised content & services as we build and extend the Fellows’ Portal.
- Much better support for International and digital marketing.
- Flexible, well-supported and future-proof platform which will accommodate RSA’s growing needs with little technical resource required
- Scoping and feasibility study of a comprehensive and all-encompassing events managements service covering all events (Public, Regional, Paid-for, ARC-based) within RSA. While potentially very beneficial, this could be a very complex business change project so this study will provide us with evidence of need, benefits, complexity, scope, costs and will indicate if and when best to deliver it.
It had originally envisaged including the scoping and trial of a basic version of a new community platform (a replacement for the RSAFellowship.com, Virtual Coffee House (virtual-coffee-house.ning.com/) and the regional Ning community sites) but we are rescheduling this to accommodate the Digital Engagement group’s project to compete the consolidation of the Nings by August –enabling easier migration of content into the new community area of the CMS.
Phase 4 (September 2013 – December 2013)
The key services which will become available during this phase are a new community platform where Fellows can find other like-minded Fellows and share ideas and collaborations, together with new project workspaces which Fellows can use to organize and deliver projects and activities they are leading on or are involved with
This phase builds new services on the connected CMS/CRM platform including:
- Further incremental delivery of the personalised content & services requested by Fellows in a greatly extended Fellows’ Portal
- Implementation of a full-featured version of community platform (Ning replacement)
- Creation of collaborative workspaces to replace Basecamp where Fellows and staff can manage projects in a secure and structured environment.
- Support for improved, extended and more integrated (with Salesforce) digital marketing and engagement channels
- Integrate all separate blogs into main RSA website with improved publishing management.
Throughout the programme there will be regular updates on the progress of the implementation of the projects. In the meantime, if you’re interested in joining the user testing group please get in touch or leave a comment on this post.
Look forward to hearing from you.
(Chair, Digital Engagement Group)
An invitation from leadership coach Lee Chalmers FRSA enticed me to a very enjoyable launch event for an interesting research report by the Office for National Statistics and the Barrett Values Centre on the UK’s national and community values – including the UK’s very high – 59% – level of ‘cultural entropy’, a measure of dysfunctional values.
what would a private detective think about your values if they followed you around for six months?
But it was the way the event really engaged its large audience at London’s Conway Hall - a historic centre for free thinking – that particularly impressed me.
An exercise to decide on, and then discuss – in pairs – our own values, beliefs and behaviours did indeed seem able to ‘help you meet someone more deeply, even if you’ve worked with them for ten years’, as one audience member put it.
The exercise had three steps:
- Please choose three values that are important to you in your life
- What are your beliefs that support this value?
- What behaviours do you exhibit that support this value?
We were offered 70 suggested values to help us with the first question – everything from job security to wisdom.
You can download the guidance page for the Values exercise – and use it to generate a revealing discussion at your own meeting or event. (A less cluttered version of the exercise sheet is here – though it offers fewer examples of values to choose from.)
The UK values report – ‘cultural entropy’ in the UK
The Office of National Statistics/Barrett Values Centre report itself revealed that UK citizens value meaningful, close relationships and operate with a strong sense of integrity. Top personal values included caring, family, honesty, humour and fun, friendship, fairness and compassion, as well as independence, respect and trust.
But, when asked about the values of the nation as a whole, a rather depressing picture of the UK’s values emerged: bureaucracy, crime and violence, uncertainty about the future, corruption, blame, wasted resources, media influence, conflict/aggression, drugs/alcohol abuse and apathy.
Some people will quite rightly point out that our espoused values can all too often tend to be rather more uplifting than the values we in fact exhibit in our day-to-day behaviour.
The audience was encouraged to look candidly at whether we are really living our values: ‘what would a private detective think about your values if they followed you around for six months?’
(An automated values analysis of the texts of Matthew Taylor’s Twenty-first century enlightenment pamphlet and the RSA’s Purpose, Vision & Strategy is here. It uses a version of the ‘Hall-Tonna values inventory’, a precursor model to Richard Barrett’s).
The current controversy over how best to work with values for effective behaviour change: two models at loggerheads
For me, the most intriguing – and crucial – argument around values at the moment is between Pat Dade’s Maslow-based ‘Values Modes’ approach (articles and a free ‘Values Modes’ assessment are here) and the approach outlined in the WWF’s 2010 report ‘Common Cause – The Case for Working with our Cultural Values’.
They are both very influential amongst numerous organisations seeking behaviour changes towards more sustainable, environment-friendly behaviours – but each believes that the other approach contains a fundamental flaw which will derail its hopes to enable behaviour change.
Common Cause warn that the Maslow-based ‘Values Modes’ approach is wrong to encourage strategies which dress up eco-friendly actions so that they can also appeal to status-conscious – dare I say selfish? – ‘Outer Directed’ people. Rather than satiating that level of Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ – and thus prompting people move to new more globally compassionate, caring needs – they will just strengthen the values of selfish consumerism, they argue.
Pat Dade, by contrast, warns that Common Cause’s advocacy of deeper green language – that his research finds appeals particularly to a narrow subset of the population called ‘Concerned Ethicals’ – will just alienate many, perhaps even most of the UK population, who don’t enjoy the feeling of being lectured in worthy-sounding Guardian-esque language, and rarely if ever change their behaviour as a result of it.
One attendee at the RSA’s recent Social Entrepreneurs Network meeting – who had worked for a leading environmental communications agency Futerra Sustainability Commuications – told me that while her radical heart would love Common Cause to be right, for effective communication and behaviour change, she would always opt for Values Modes (which have in fact been used in recent work the RSA has done in conjunction with The Campaign Company).
- The United Kingdom Values Survey – Increasing Happiness by Understanding What People Value (pdf)
- UK Values Alliance
- Barrett Values Centre (their free values assessment is here)
- Plainer version of personal values exercise worksheet (though with fewer suggested values)
- Action for Happiness
- Cultural Dynamics/Values Modes (includes free values assessment)
- Common Cause
- ‘We shouldn’t simply try to change people’s values when it comes to the environment‘ [Blog in The Independent by recent RSA speaker Tony Juniper on the 'Values Modes' approach ]
- Common Cause’s critique of Tony Juniper blog about Values Modes
I recently stumbled across a case study of a social entrepreneur who fixed a problem in the energy market. Energy suppliers were colluding to fix the market and charging over the odds for fuel in winter, straining household budgets and pushing people into fuel poverty. The entrepreneur responded by devising a fund that would buy fuel in bulk when the price was low, store it and sell it for a fair price in winter, when rates were artificially high. Facing an initial lack of interest from potential investors, he started with £2,000 of his own savings, but when the project proved popular he was able to recruit more subscribers, and grew the fund to over six times that value. His efforts saved people in his local area about 35% on their energy bills.
One of the partners describes the programme’s aim as being to “get people to quit their jobs and start social ventures”, which turned out to be exactly the effect it had on me.
You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a new case study – but it’s not. That social entrepreneur was William Shipley – founder of the RSA – and his Fuel Scheme was launched in Northampton in 1751. Shipley’s success with his fund is credited with giving him the confidence to found the RSA three years later, with a wider remit to encourage projects and inventions for the public good.
Over 250 years later, the RSA has evolved and responded to the 21st century world, but I think it still shares Shipley’s value for early-stage innovations that solve real problems. For the last few years I’ve been able to contribute to the RSA’s modern-day mission from the inside, while working on projects in the Action & Research Centre. I enjoyed the variety; from researching how teams could remain innovative while under resource constraints, to running a micro-funding scheme for environmental activists, to even encouraging cab drivers to adopt more fuel-efficient driving behaviour.
We’re influenced by the idea of being a ‘lean startup’ and are iteratively developing and testing different approaches to overcoming these barriers as quickly and cheaply as we can
Earlier this year Bethnal Green Ventures, an accelerator programme for technology startups working on “things that matter”, called for business proposals. One of the partners describes the programme’s aim as being to “get people to quit their jobs and start social ventures”, which turned out to be exactly the effect it had on me… Working with a friend, we applied with an idea for a digital service that would encourage homeowners to invest in their home’s energy efficiency. We were accepted on the programme, and with the promise of their support (in the form of cash investment, access to their network of mentors, and office space at Google’s Campus) I evolved from being an employee, into a Fellow, of the RSA.
Though the energy business is dramatically different to Shipley’s time, fuel poverty is still a problem and market-fixing isn’t unheard of. Our fledgling idea, Homely, provides personal and unbiased information on measures that improve a home’s energy efficiency. The social benefits of greater efficiency are reduced fuel poverty, lower levels of illness due to under-heated homes (and the associated cost to NHS), as well as cutting our collective greenhouse gas emissions. Though the benefits are attractive to most people, there are barriers that get in the way: the high cost of some of the possible measures, lack of awareness about what’s right for each home, and the inertia that comes with any change that involves some hassle. Government schemes like the Green Deal will make warm homes more affordable – but may not do much to resolve other barriers.
The RSA approach also has a valuable ‘incubation effect’ on its staff, giving people like me the confidence, access to networks and experience to begin new initiatives of their own.
As we develop Homely, we’re influenced by the idea of being a ‘lean startup‘ and are iteratively developing and testing different approaches to overcoming these barriers as quickly and cheaply as we can. Our current hypothesis is that there’s a need for a trusted intermediary between homeowners and the companies that provide energy efficiency measures – and that homeowners are more likely to trust and act on energy efficiency advice from someone similar to themselves. To that end, we’re providing personal and tailored advice on warm homes (and lower energy bills) through the Homely website. In practice this means we’re interviewing people from a wide range of homes who’ve already taken steps to make them more efficient – do drop me an email to email@example.com if this describes you!
Shipley established the RSA to incentivise and incubate innovation for the public good. Over the years, the organisation’s approach has included premiums, grand (and small) projects, networks and published ideas. But I suggest that it also has a valuable ‘incubation effect’ on its staff, giving people like me the confidence, access to networks and experience to begin new initiatives of their own.
Jamie Young is co-founder of Homely, a startup that provides homeowners with relevant, personal and unbiased advice to help them warm up their home. Before starting Homely he worked for the RSA, researching projects on behaviour change and innovation, and prior to that worked as an engineer. Twitter: @dt99jay. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sixty RSA Fellows enjoyed an evening of lightning talks and speed networking at 3Space in Oxford Street – and heard about a range of innovative and exciting Fellow-led projects. London Fellow – and Regional Digital Champion – Jemima Gibbons guest blogs about the event, and how to organise one yourself.
I live in London and have been a Fellow since 2006 – but I only know a handful of Fellows here. In fact, I know more than most – around 80 – but that’s still just ONE per cent of the 8,000 Fellows who live and work in London.
So that’s a huge living resource that I could be connecting to in order to make a difference, develop projects and more. But I’m currently mostly missing out.
It was a great event and we had amazing feedback. People seemed to feel really energised and inspired – just as we intended!
One reason for this, as with so many RSA regions, is that there’s no structured face to face networking. Our regional drinks dwindled out. The London committee has events, but they are usually paid (due to venue costs), and are topic rather than network-led. And there’s the public lecture programme at John Adam Street (which we’re lucky to have), but again, these talks are very specific and – unless drinks are scheduled – there’s no real space to gather afterwards.
Back in March, I went to an RSA Mental Health workshop at 3Space on Oxford Street. It was a great venue and, it turned out, free for charities (such as the RSA) to use.
Bingo! How about hosting something there?
The great thing about 3Space is that it’s UK-wide. As well as London, the organisation currently has venues in Aylesbury, Blackpool, Bury St Edmunds, Cardiff, Falkirk and Wigan. So if any FRSA would like to hold events in those areas, you’ve a free venue readily available.
Designing the London #FRSA event
I got together with Roxanne Persaud (London Region Fellowship Councillor) and Matthew Mezey (RSA Online Community Manager) to hatch a plan. We wanted an event that met Fellows’ needs while also encouraging engagement, collaboration and community (things we’re all passionate about through our work with RSAde).
Feedback from the recent Fellowship Survey, and from previous London Region events, showed that the two main things Fellows want is to:
1. Connect with other Fellows who share their interests in their region
2. Hear about current projects and initiatives they can get involved with
So, we agreed what we hoped would be a “magic” formula…
1. Lightning talks
2. Speed networking
3. General chat and “collaboration huddles”
The evening would run over three hours with each activity repeated in short, sharp, bursts. The idea was to keep things moving and create a dynamic atmosphere to get everyone buzzing, spark conversation and maximise idea-sharing. This is the schedule breakdown.
The name #FRSA London Reboot! was inspired by the Reboot Britain event three years ago. A “reboot” is, of course, what you do to a computer to get it up and running again after a software update. We felt it was a great way to re-ignite the London network and kickstart collaborative activity.
For added inspiration, we gave the event a broad theme, “Positive deviants”. This was the “peg” for speakers’ presentations. We offered ten slots of 4 minutes each, broken into three “rounds” (at 6.30, 7.15 and 8pm). The speakers were allowed to talk about any type of project or initiative they wanted – the only requirement was that they needed some kind of input – whether it be skills, support or funding – from other FRSA.
3Space provided a projector so were able to show one slide containing basic information (name, website etc) behind each speaker. There was no time for multiple slides although in retrospect some of the speakers could have done with more illustration (Mark Power, for example). But equally, it would have been quite possible to run the talks with no slides.
In feedback, people said that there was a lot of information to take in and at times they felt quite overwhelmed. One attendee suggested we hand out speaker details so they could keep track of all the projects, and make notes. (Next time we can send these out with the reminder email so that people can print out and bring with them).
After each round of lightning talks, we split the room in half: people had the choice of either chatting with one of the speakers in a “huddle” (on the Oxford Street side of the room), or taking part in speed networking (on the Soho Square side).
The growing international network of ‘RSA Connectors’ has broken through the 40 barrier – with our latest Connectors being added in Singapore and Canada.
You can view all the profiles of RSA Connectors here: bit.ly/RSAconnectors
RSA Connectors is a new and growing network of RSA Fellows worldwide who act as a first port-of-call and a ‘friendly face’ for new Fellows who want to find out more and get involved, and who help local Fellows to organise events and collaborate on projects. (The focus has largely been away from those countries with well-established RSA structures or staff, such as the USA or Australia/New Zealand).
The long-term target – of course – is to have Connectors in all 101 countries where there are RSA Fellows.
a first port-of-call and a ‘friendly face’ for new Fellows who want to find out more and get involved
Live-streaming the Chief Executive’s Annual Lecture – in Berlin
Fellowship activity that RSA Connectors have initiated include a live-streaming video showing of RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor’s annual lecture (link to video) – at the British Council, in Berlin Alexanderplatz. Another event is planned for January.
Led by the Finnish Connector, a delegation of 10 Finns involved in a manufacturing project recently visited John Adam Street – for activities including a workshop led by RSA Director of Enterprise Julian Thompson.
In Poland, the RSA Connector – along with UK-based Fellow Edward Truch – has investigated opportunities for partnerships with the Fellowship, through meetings with the British Ambassador, politicians, academic institutions and think-tanks.
Other countries such as Denmark and France have organised meetings to bring Fellows together and look at ways forward. Following the Paris meeting, a powerpoint presentation was producing – looking at the composition and aspirations of the French Fellowship, ways forward and more. It was sent to every Fellow in France.
* RSA Connectors webpage: bit.ly/RSAconnectors
* How-tos, resources and advice for organising Fellows’ meetings, networks or projects (including how to run an event using live-streamed video from an RSA lecture) are available on the Fellows’ tools & techniques page: bit.ly/Fellowresources
RSA Catalyst supported Keith Heggart FRSA, a teacher and activist who has been working with young people in Australia to develop short films about issues of importance to the students and the local community.
Keith worked between February and June of this year with more than 100 Year 9 students from McCarthy Catholic College (situated between Sydney and Brisbane), for an hour every fortnight. He took the students through the processes of researching, storyboarding, shooting and editing films. The films themselves covered a range of topics that participants had identified as being important, including racism, refugees, domestic violence, water pollution and much more.
I think that it is important we encourage young people to be active in their local community. Too often, we don’t listen to their concerns – or allow them to be part of a solution. That’s what this film festival is all about
- Keith Heggart
Keith’s project received £1,000 from the RSA’s Catalyst seed fund for Fellows’ projects in January 2012 – and was the first Catalyst-funded project in Australia.
The resulting films were shown at the first annual Justice Citizens Film Festival, held at Kingswood Neighbourhood Centre, to a packed house of more than 50 people, including friends, family, community members and local councillors and politicians. Getting into the spirit of things, Federal MP, David Bradbury, recorded his own film introducing the evening.
Keith said, ‘I think that it is important we encourage young people to be active in their local community. Too often, we don’t listen to their concerns – or allow them to be part of a solution. That’s what this film festival is all about.’
I totally think that people would change their mind about dirt bike safety if they saw our film. I guess we are being active citizens by doing this – we’re helping out our community
- Daniel Spicer, student film-maker
The films that were shown on the evening can now be viewed on the groups Facebook page: www.facebook.com/justicecitizens.
The students were assisted by local journalist, Bernie Burke, and worked through the RSA Australia and New Zealand branch to secure the Catalyst funding. Keith plans to work with more local schools in the next year to make the project even bigger than it currently is! After the success of the first event, a second Justice Citizens Film Festival is also now planned.
Reflections from a student film-maker
Student film-maker Daniel Spicer comments:
“We made a film about Dirt Bike Safety, because we thought that was an important issue for us. We both like to ride dirt bikes, and we know that people can get injured if they don’t ride them properly. For example, my brother was badly hurt when he came off his dirtbike. That’s why we made the film we did. Our film gives dirt bike riders lots of tips to remember when they are riding their bikes so they don’t hurt themselves.
Justice Citizens was good because we learnt lots of things about accidents and stuff. Like how many people in Australia are injured every year on motorbikes. We also learnt heaps of stuff about how to make a film – like adding music, and using cameras and even doing voiceovers.
I totally think that people would change their mind about dirt bike safety if they saw our film. I guess we are being active citizens by doing this – we’re helping out our community.”
Catalyst Fund homepage
We’re trying out a few changes to the RSAFellowship.com online community which we hope will improve your experience with the site. We would appreciate your feedback on these.
The latest countries with RSA Connectors are India, Mexico, Thailand, UAE and North Korea
The changes are:
1. E-mail notifications of new content
These notifications of new content (eg in any of the 50+people can join on the site) now include the actual new text rather than just a link to it – which should make it easier to read in your inbox, and respond immediately if it’s something you’d like to reply to.
2. Re-structure of the RSAFellowship.com homepage
We’ve moved some sections to different locations on the homepage so that any new content (eg new posts in groups) is more visible, rather than being pushed down ‘below the fold’ of the webpage.
The colour scheme has also been changed, which should make headings for different sections easier to read. We also moved the over-long ‘Welcome’ information to a new ‘About this site’ tab.
Do get in touch if you have any comments (or encounter any problems).
Other RSA news
‘RSA Connectors’ network worldwide
This year we have been developing a global network of ‘RSA Connectors’, in particular to support Fellow activity in countries without an existing RSA infrastructure.
The latest countries with RSA Connectors are India, Mexico, Thailand, UAE and North Korea.
RSA Connectors act as a first port-of-call and a ‘friendly face’ for new Fellows who want to find out more and get involved, and can help local Fellows to organise events and collaborate on projects.
If you are a Fellow and your country is not included, would you like to be considered for the Connector role? (Or is there an RSA Fellow who you think would make a great Connector in a country not yet listed? NB we have Fellows in around 100 countries).
If you are a Fellow and your country is not included, would you like to be considered for the Connector role?
See this webpage for the list so far, including photos and interests: http://bit.ly/RSAconnectors
Live-streaming of RSA lectures and other events
From September 2012, every RSA lecture will be available as a live-streamed video – which provides an opportunity to organise Fellow events locally around a live-streamed lecture, as it happens. (You can also tweet in questions to be asked in the room itself, by the Twitter monitor).
The webpage for any specific event that is being live-streamed will include a link to the ‘Watch live’ page: http://www.thersa.org/events/watch-live – which will go live around 30 minutes beforehand.
If you would like to organise a meeting using the live video-stream from an RSA event, here is a new guidance page on how to do it.
Please let the Fellowship team know if you plan to organise a live-streamed video event.
Upcoming live-streamed lectures include the RSA President’s Lecture: Why Creativity is the New Economy, with Dr Richard Florida, who developed the influential theory of the ‘Creative Class’.
More detailed advice on live-streaming a lecture will appear in an upcoming blog post.
New Fellows’ Tools and Techniques webpage
A page of resources for Fellows (eg how to organise local meetings; RSA projects to get involved in etc.) has recently been created – please find out more at: http://bit.ly/Fellowresources
Do take a look. What do you think? Are there any resources you would really value – that would help you become more active, engaged and effective as a Fellow?
One additional page of advice that is in the pipeline is a guide for new Fellows (this is something that some Fellows have requested during online discussions, and seems like a great idea).
RSA House in September – Fellowship Friday and more
For the week of 10– 14th September, the RSA House will be focused on a week-long celebration, showcasing the work of the RSA, promoting innovation, enterprise and social change. It kicks off with the President’s Lecture on Monday and continues until Friday where we would like to invite you to join us for Fellows’ Friday celebrating innovation in projects and showcasing some of the latest innovations amongst the RSA and the Fellowship.
Activities on Friday 14th September include:
Social Entrepreneurs Network brunch – youth and social enterprise – 11am
The first session will be a special Social Entrepreneurs Network brunch focussed on social enterprise and youth employment being held at 11am – 1pm.
Lunch will be available at 1pm – 2.30pm
The networking lunch will enable you to discuss ideas further and meet other Fellows. Please bring your lunch or come prepared to purchase something. Free tea and coffee will be available.
Online Twitter discussion, 2pm onwards
Fellow Friday will culminate in the afternoon with an online discussion and case study of projects, both at the RSA and in the Fellowship. You’ll be able to discuss how social change starts at the RSA, with Fellows who’ve led Catalyst projects and researchers from our project teams available to answer your questions. If you’ve ever wanted to know how you can make a contribution to the RSA’s mission through the Fellowship, this is your chance to find out. Follow the discussion at #RSAFriday.
You can sign up for the events here: fellowsfriday14sept.eventbrite.com
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Matthew Mezey is Online Community Manager. Twitter: Matthew Mezey.
It’s been a particularly rewarding few weeks for me, where I’ve had opportunities to learn much about the kind of role that social media can play, and is playing, in community organising – the approach to change that gained attention because of the key role it played in Barack Obama’s own political development. (And was later embraced by David Cameron, to support the ‘Big Society’ agenda).
Social media for social entrepreneurs
But before diving into community organising, I must mention two other recent social media events I found inspiring: firstly, a really enjoyable RSA Social Entrepreneurs Network breakfast (last Friday of every month, 9am, Gerard Bar, RSA) which focused on how to use social media effectively in social enterprises.
It was a great smorgasbord of experiences, challenges and insights – and even a kind offer (from Trudy Thompson) of a two-hour training session for interested Fellows on getting the most out of Twitter and social media.
IBM’s Global jams + and RSA ‘Digital Champions’
Secondly, Jemima Gibbons (of the Fellowship Council’s RSA digital engagement group) and I organised a first event for the growing network of RSA ‘Digital Champions’ – who are dedicated to moving the digital agenda forward at the RSA and helping Fellows to be more effective in using appropriate digital tools. (The ‘Digital Champions’ network is listed on this page. Let me know if you want to join the network).
The event (see Robin Houghton FRSA’s blog report here) packed a room at the RSA and also involved ‘Digital Champions’ in Yorkshire, Rutland, Newcastle, Lincolnshire and even Boston, USA – all meeting up via video in an enjoyable Google Hangout. The speaker was IBM social media evangelist Stuart McRae – who talked about the ‘Blue IQ’ programme that empowered and inspired practical social media use across IBM.
Jams are really powerful when they are used for cultural transformation, organisational transformation. A jam across all the Fellows is not inconceivable.
- Stuart McRae
‘Jams are really powerful when they are used for cultural transformation, organisational transformation’.
‘A jam across all the Fellows is not inconceivable,’ added Stuart.
Of course, he’s still trying to encourage further cultural shifts at IBM: ‘If a conversation doesn’t need to be internal, we’re trying to persuade people to consider having them externally’.
Social media training starts for 5,000 Community Organisers
In a fascinating development, the first 10 of the Government-funded ‘Community Organisers’ have started their 6-month training – as an optional module during the second 6 months of their year-long programme.
The aim is ‘to understand how a whole range of digital tools (from Skype, to the humble spreadsheet and “traditional” social media tools) can be used to make community organising more effective, more efficient and more impactful… in short, how can digital contribute to the task of the Community Organisers, which is moving a community to action around the things they care about,’ explains the course’s trainer Thom Townsend, of Izwe.
‘It’s not social media training as perhaps that’s generally understood,’ he adds, ‘rather we’re working with them to answer the question, “how does digital make you a better Community Organiser?”, so that can be anything from obvious social media skills to learning how to interpret and display community data or open data in ways their community would find useful, or would bolster their community organising work.’
‘For example, we’re exploring with one of the cohort how they can get data on community owned assets and display that the community to demonstrate the possibilities of creating a youth space in the town… ie linking an advocacy programme to open data.’
‘Digital and Social Media fit into the Alinsky-ite model – used by the Government’s Community Organising partner Locality/Re:Generate – to help speed up, strengthen and make more efficient the creation of the networks which feed through into offline action which is the key,’ Thom explained.
Locality itself calls their approach to supporting these 5,000 Community Organisers ‘a “forced organic” grown-from-the-ground approach’.
Izwe hope to be able to train a couple of hundred of the organisers over the three years of the programme.
Challenges include skills deficits, digital exclusion in communities and how the online work will continue after the year-long employment of each Community Organiser has ended.
Getting social media right in the fictional town of ‘Slapham’ – a workshop
A wide range of community organisers – including the RSA – recently came together for a well-crafted workshop (led by David Wilcox FRSA and Drew Mackie) to investigate how community organisers can make use of social media.
Rather than jumping in with the latest social media tools, the workshop first spent time developing rich pictures of the assets and challenges around the fictional town of ‘Slapham’, and of the community organisers being recruited in each of its four areas.
Your model needs to have the organisers emerging, not appointed by an external organisation
- Eileen Conn
It then moved to developing timelines for action in each area – and only then were online tools for listening, getting organised and building online communities chosen.
Guest blogger Anthony Eldridge-Rogers FRSA, organiser of the The Coaches Lunch, shares his impressions from their recent lunchtime session at the RSA on ‘Coaching the System’ – with guest conversationalist Martyn Lowesmith – as well as news on RSA coaching initiatives for RSA Catalyst project leaders and for the RSA Recovery project.
This could be a heretical statement in some quarters but at the last Coaches lunch at the RSA this became a prevailing perspective. A fellow observed that most coach training programmes focus almost entirely, if not completely, on the individual being coached and do not adequately contextualise the pursuit of individual aspirations and goals within their systems.
It seems somewhat obvious to state that all of us are individuals embedded in a system or series of nested systems (family, work, club, politics, and wider society) but it can’t really be said enough. There are prevailing attitudes to self development and achievement that define the success of reaching personal goals as an act of individual heroism despite the system. This can be heard in the use of language where certain words seem to support this ‘overcoming the system’ idea.
It may be this way for some people; that personal fulfillment in whatever realm has to involve escaping the orbit of difficult and entrapping relationships but the apparent difficulty organisations and people seem to experience with implementing even the most basic of changes invites us to consider it differently.
Martyn Lowesmith, who led our conversation, set out the idea of focusing as much on the systems of the individuals as on the individuals themselves. This bears fruit in many ways.
First there is the unique imprint or character of the system itself (think of the ‘feeling’ or ‘atmosphere’ of a family get together) and what the system has to say. How it wants to change can be discerned when you listen carefully.
It seems somewhat obvious to state that all of us are individuals embedded in a system or series of nested systems (family, work, club, politics, and wider society) but it can’t really be said enough
This idea of the system having a collective voice of its own led to some nervousness as we sailed close to a new age wind, but the construct does allow us to do some things as systems coaches that would other wise be impossible. I think, most usefully, it allows the individuals freer rein to state deeper truths about their place in the system and express the system itself at one remove. This in turn allows individuals a deeper sense of understanding of the system itself and to be clearer about their part in it, or even if they want to be in it at all.
This process is directly relevant to the development of any project.
RSA Catalyst coaching
The RSA Fellows’ coaching group hopes to offer RSA Catalyst winners coaching as they step forward into the next stages of their projects. These projects are new systems being developed inside the creators existing ones. Bringing as much awareness to bear on how this process is happening and what these fledgling systems need to prosper is a crucial part of making them successful.
RSA Recovery Projects
And it’s no different in another of the RSA’s work, in Recovery. I work as a recovery coach and coach trainer and hold recovery as a community (systems) endeavour. The systems people are in can play a huge part in defining the success or not of the individual recovery process.
Guest blogger Toby Procter FRSA helped to organise Bristol’s RSA-sponsored mayoral debate – which saw 440 people pack into Bristol City Council House’s hall. He reflects on the upcoming referenda in English cities on whether they want a directly elected Mayor.
Today there’s a Westminster event bearing on the referenda to be held on 3 May in nine of 10 English cities whose citizens are being offered the choice of a future directly elected Mayor or the status quo (Liverpool’s councillors recently jumped the gun, and elected to have a mayor on their own account). Those referenda are barely more than a month away, yet it’s doubtful that many of the electorates concerned have been made fully cognizant of the choices before them.
the more lasting contribution of the project may prove to be the RSA having shown its mettle as a proactive collaborator with other local bodies in fostering local debate on issues of national importance
It was to bring the alternative futures of local democracy into a clear, non-partisan focus ahead of this referendum that I put my hand up at a Bristol RSA network meeting to organise a debate on the mayoral referendum issues in Bristol. The debate took place in February with a near-capacity audience at the city’s Council House, and spawned a good deal more local activity intended to engage the city’s voters in the issues, particularly among the business community and local media. But the more lasting contribution of the project may prove to be the RSA having shown its mettle as a proactive collaborator with other local bodies in fostering local debate on issues of national importance, as a progressive but essentially non-partisan catalyst for ideas. Some years earlier, RSA volunteers in Bristol provided a similar public service in gathering experts to present information and opportunities for debate on the now-doomed Severn Estuary tidal energy schemes.
a progressive but essentially non-partisan catalyst for ideas
The Bristol mayoral debate took 10 months to bring to fruition, and would have been impossible without the active, practical collaboration of the RSA staff, Bristol University’s Centre for Public Engagement, the local branch of the Institute of Directors, the director of the Bristol Festival of Ideas, and as chair of the debate, Bristol-born broadcaster Chris Serle.
I hope networks of RSA Fellows elsewhere may find similar opportunities to foment fresh thinking on topics that transcend the usual partisan barriers, by mounting public events that need little more resources than the goodwill of effective local collaborators. And I hope they may have a lot of fun in the process, as we did.
Toby Procter is a freelance journalist and member of the Bristol RSA Network steering group.