The RSA’s new website, Fellows’ database and community platform – what’s happening when?

February 14, 2013 by · 10 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

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

With that in mind, as the Chair of the Digital Engagement Working Group we are pleased to update Fellows on the new Digital and Technology Programme, which will be rolled out later this year.

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)

This phase is almost complete.

  • 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, Virtual Coffee House ( 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.

Charlotte Britton
(Chair, Digital Engagement Group)



The fortnight in Fellowship [somewhat squared]: news, events, networks aggregated…

July 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

#TheRSA student design winners receiving their awards from @clivegrinyer and Dinah CassonHere at the RSA and across the 101 countries where we have Fellows there is always something interesting going on.

Just one example is tonight’s Student Design Awards, now in their 88th year – making for the world’s longest running competition for emerging design talent – alumni of which includes Sir Jonathan Ive of Apple fame and others.

Next year it is kicking off in a localised version in the US – part of the growing internationalization of the RSA’s work thanks to the leadership of our US board (and a bit of help from Catalyst – and there’ll be more about going global from my colleague Josef Lentsch in a future post).

It can be difficult to keep track of it all. You may find part of the solution here…

Our head of technology, Clive Holdsworth, is leading a stream of work – involving the Fellowship Council’s Digital Engagement Group as well as Fellows in general – mapping out how digital tools might help solve some of those problems over time. One of the key recommendations to emerge from this so far (and from the Fellowship Survey earlier in the year) is the perhaps not surprising requirement in this LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter-driven age: provide Fellows with an activity stream-based place that aggregates activity – news and updates on events, networks and projects – that is relevant to them together in one place… Our hard working Online Community Manager Matthew Mezey built a basic prototype as part of his 7 ways to become an online RSA Fellow. There is much more to be done though.

We’ll invite Clive to guest blog here in the near future to talk more about how this work is in progressing, but in the short term I’d like to plug the gap with a simple hand-assembled approach – looking at what happened in the last two weeks – and the two weeks ahead. The fortnight in Fellowship; somewhat squared.

I actively invite you to help make it better over time by adding your comments to this post / putting the word out about it on your favourite social platform so other Fellows, and those inspired by Fellowship activities, can find it.

The fornight in Fellowship [somewhat squared]

Top of the agenda at the moment is the elections for the Fellowship Council which includes vacancies for Regional / National Chairs, Regional Councillors and a number of At-Large Councillors – Adam Lent made a compelling call to action earlier on today over on his RSA blog, mixing Marvell and Murray (highly topical at the time of writing). The deadline is this Friday so get the vote out if you haven’t already.

The elections are RSA Fellows’ chance to decide who will shape the future of their region and the future of Fellowship itself.

Those elected will take office in September – with the first Fellowship Council of the session being the 20th of September. After the Trustee board has reviewed the latest Fellowship Council Impact Report we’ll be updating this post with a link to it (and if you subscribe to the RSS feed or via email and you won’t miss a thing).

The seed-bed: a selection of lectures, events and networks leading to new connections and collaborations

The following are just a few of the events that took place in the last two weeks and are coming up in the next two – to see the full list of what’s just passed and crucially, what is coming up in London, around the country and around the world, check out the Google Calendar on the where you are pages on our website.

Coming up!

There’ll be Twitter-reporting from tomorrow’s fully booked public lecture with cutting-edge behavioural economist Dan Ariely – it is titled Free beer: The truth about dishonesty and will be worth watching live online – and if you want to to ask a question at the Q+A please start your tweet ‘Q and be sure to include the hashtag #RSAdishonesty too.

In the next couple of weeks, RSA Fellows are set to meet in Cambridge, Glasgow, Manchester and many more cities – and linking to tonight’s event in the Vaults here at the RSA with Esther Rantzen talking about philanthropy and the value of older people, Fellows in Surrey will be exploring ‘some of the critical and increasingly significant issues of an aging population and the impact of changes to financial support through the Supporting People programme and other welfare reforms’ – check out the Google Calendar on the where you are pages on our website for further details for that and other Fellow-led events.

Slightly further out than two weeks but worth mentioning is a workshop in Wales with Catalyst Programme Manager Alex Watson. The RSA set up Catalyst to support new, innovative ideas to tackle social problems. We provide grants and staff help to mobilise Fellows to support ideas helping people become more engaged, resourceful and pro-social, whether through new technology, the arts or social enterprise – and this is a good opportunity to come along and learn more.

Just completed – check out the social coverage and discover new connections

You can find the latest summaries compiled by Fellows and staff by searching for #TheRSA on Storify – and you can of course also add your own – and indeed share pictures from RSA public lectures, Fellowship events and other undertakings by adding them to our growing group on Flickr or by adding #TheRSA to your Twitter / Instagram / other social posts.

Last but not least, the latest on the Fellowship blog in case you missed it earlier:

  1. Project Engagement Manager Sam Thomas interviews Catalyst project winners Laura Billings and Carmel McConnel about an initiative providing free breakfast in 200 primary schools in Central heating for kids, community learning for everyone
  2. Director of Education Joe Hallgarten kicks off a Fellowship guest blog with “One of the unwritten conventions of working at the RSA is that, if a Fellow calls…” – read more in the unusually titled: Mental health, hidden wealth… of cabbies?
  3. Regional Programme Manager Alice Dyke shares her insights from her first 100 days at the RSA – hopefully useful for the interviewing kicking off tomorrow in order to grow the Regional team further

That’s it for this round – check back in two weeks for more – and if I missed something out or you think the above could be improved, let me know through the comments – or perhaps a timely heckle on Twitter.

Michael Ambjorn is Head of Fellowship – Follow @michaelambjorn