The art of sharing ideas, or, how I learned to stop worrying and love crowdsourcing

April 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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I’ve recently been playing a lot of The Great Brain Experiment: an app created by UCL and the Wellcome Trust. It’s a crowdsourcing game in which users (or players, or participants, or bored commuters – take your pick) do a series of brain games, which then get fed back into a research project. It’s a great game – it justifies my timewasting by feeding into research and allows me to develop my response and memory skills (by which I mean feeds into my competitive side by seeing how I do versus the average user). 

Whereas previously you’d identify an issue, try to solve it in the lab or officespace with people who also work in the same building, now you can use the power of the internet, for information, communication and interaction.

Crowdsourcing like this has been around for a while, with the internet speeding up the process and influencing areas beyond plain research. It can go wrong – Reddit, the user-generated content sharing site recently got it very wrong by incorrectly crowdsourcing the identity of one of the Boston bombers. It’s not without criticism either: if you crowdsource business ideas, you rely on free labour to develop a potentially profitable idea for very low cost, perceived as a cheap person’s idea development.

However, crowdsourcing also has huge power. Whereas previously you’d identify an issue, try to solve it in the lab or officespace with people who also work in the same building, now you can use the power of the internet, for information, communication and interaction. Wikipedia is crowdsourced. Crowdsourcing health research means that cost-ineffective R&D can be opened up to a global audience. The Guardian uses crowdsourcing techniques to process large publications, for example when records of MPs expenses were released. Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter are changing the way that entrepreneurs finance their project.

Here at the RSA we love a good idea, we love good people working together on these ideas and we want to support you with this. Our Catalyst fund offers financial support to start-up ideas from Fellows, but also we work to put you in contact with Fellows who can help with the expertise you need. We’re doing a series of Catalyst roadshows around the country, for people to promote their idea. I recently went to one in Bristol – there were some really strong ideas, and it’s amazing what having an audience can do to help refine your idea, build new connections and open up new channels of thought and support. If you live in the South Central region, why not pop along to the Catalyst event in Reading?

A similar event coming up in the London region is the Reboot 3, led by Fellowship Councillor Roxanne Persaud. Part speed-networking, part speed-ideas-sharing and part pitching, it’s a really good way to have, shape and develop an idea – find out more about how it works and how to run one.

I’ve been working at the RSA for nearly six months and this is my very first blog; every time I tried, I found myself sitting in front of a computer screen, mulling over the same problems. Then I spoke to colleagues, and found that through conversation an idea grows and develops, and suddenly you hit upon a solution. I love ideas, and much like a school of fish, I think that they work better together.

To find out more about how you can engage and develop your idea with us, check out our four ways to engage. For more information about local ideas-sharing activities in your region, keep an eye on the website, and to find out more about Catalyst visit the web pages.

Joanna Massie is Fellowship Programme Coordinator. You can follow her on @joannacmassie.

Stimulate, Amplify, Expand…Reboot

April 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Across the world Fellows are working together on innovative new approaches designed to have a positive impact on the communities they live and work in. One new idea which has recently been attracting a lot of interest is the RSA Reboot events which are designed to support Fellowship collaboration and networking. Intrigued I caught up with Roxanne Persaud (RP) @Commutiny, Fellowship Councillor for London, who developed the Reboot format, and Alex Dunedin (AD) @RaggedTalks, a Fellow from Scotland who has recently been working in London and attended the second London Reboot, to find out more.

Jamie Cooke (JC) – So what is Reboot?

RP – Reboot is a series of free, lively evenings where Fellows can meet each other as ‘professional friends’ to share their work and interests. Last year I worked with Jemima Gibbons (former Chair of the RSA Digital Engagement Group) and came up with the idea of ‘rebooting’ the local network. We know that face-to-face meetings are the foundation for building productive networks and that the online reports are very helpful for people who can’t make it to events – they can still get connected. So it’s important that we have a lively Web presence and we encourage Fellows to join in. The pilot event was very successful so I’m now putting one on every other month as part of the regional programme. You can see the summary of the first Reboot here and a great roundup of last one here– as an eclectic and energised room of social media savvy people, the tweets were flying thick and fast!.

A lot of energy amongst the attendees

A lot of energy amongst the attendees

AD – Very simply, the evening starts out with a light conversation and people pottering in; everyone tries to bring a nibble or a bottle of wine etc; then, over the night, three rounds of ‘micro-presentations’ go on where a clutch of fellows get to ‘sound bite’ what they are doing to everyone in the room and invite input. This is casual, and after each short session, there is speed networking swaps going on where we find out who is in the room and where their interests lay.

JC – Why is that attractive for Fellows?

AD – As a relatively new fellow, this was the tonic I needed to put a face on why I was a fellow. As we all know, the web-side of the RSA is being revamped and there are plenty of formal events which are staged but, for me, there was a great need to be able to connect with and meaningfully communicate with other people in the collective. It is implied in the word ‘fellowship’ and it was the community which attracted me to the RSA; we need to reach out across our silo walls.

Seems Reboot was a hit with attendees!

Seems Reboot was a hit with attendees!

RP – There are more than 8,000 Fellows in London with an inspiring diversity of projects we could be connecting to in order to make a difference in society, develop new ways of working, and more. But we’re mostly missing out, especially if you can’t get to the public lectures or easily participate in the online networks. The feedback we got showed that Fellows enjoyed the events enormously and described them as stimulating, interesting, inspiring, useful and fun.

As a relatively new fellow, this was the tonic I needed to put a face on why I was a fellow

JC – What sort of topics were covered at the recent event?

RP – The programme represents the diversity of Fellowship and alternates between rapid presentations and facilitated speed networking sessions. The first one had the theme of ‘Positive Deviants: how left-field thinking solves problems’ and the featured projects included Jubiloo, Voice of Freedom, 3Space, Bloomsbury Babies, Street Doctors and Full Fact. 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. In February we heard about Lightyear Foundation, Project Access, Metro, Costume Institute of the African Diaspora, 3-2-1 Ignition, #KnowYoureSkilled and Alex Dunedin’s Ragged Project.

AD – It was also a useful opportunity to engage with the work of the London Regional team. Roxanne took the chance to present on the Rolling Development Plan of the region. This allowed for a space for participants to give feedback and input to the Plan, surely a sensible way to ensure that it is relevant to Fellows across the region.

JC – So you’ve fired me up, and I want know more. How can I get involved? And could I run my own Reboot event in another part of the world?

The networking kept up to speed with the input of a vuvuzuela

The networking kept up to speed with the input of a vuvuzuela

RP – If you’re in London look out for announcements in the regional mailing, then sign up to attend or use the ‘contact the organiser’ button if you want to speak (like the RSA public events team we use Eventbrite as it’s free and easy to use). If you can get to London events easily, ask your regional team to put you on the mailing list. We don’t tend to set up the programme far in advance so there’s always the chance to speak. We even manage to slot in an open mike session for Fellows who get fired up during the event and want to present to the whole crowd. Reboot is ‘open source’ so we encourage everyone to adopt the format. A great place to start is Jemima’s blog about the pilot event which includes a lot of practical tips. Reboot has also been shared as ‘best practice’ at Fellowship Council so your elected representatives should know a bit about it. We’re always looking to improve so use a very light touch yet very important evaluation process – if you Reboot your local network it would be brilliant to compare notes.

JC – Any last thoughts you would like readers to take away about Reboot?

This is precisely what being a FRSA is about for me…It stimulated, it expanded, it amplified – I want more!

RP – In London the events are always well supported by Fellows who generously provide meeting places, who bring food and drink to share and who come with the objective of making the most of the network. The next step is to run events in partnership with the Fellowship thematic networks (Arts, Social Entrepreneurs, Catalyst Winners…). I’d like Fellows to make Reboot their own and move on to finding new ways to link up and support activity in the region. We have almost a third of the Fellowship – the possibilities are endless!

AD – This is precisely what being a FRSA is about for me. Come along to the next one for a successful, accessible, fun, interesting and constructive evening – I recommend it. It was a chance to clarify how many people share common goals and meet together in Fellowship. It stimulated, it expanded, it amplified – I want more!

Jamie Cooke is Deputy Head of Fellowship, with responsibility for the Specialist Programme team. You can follow him @JamieACooke or connect with him on LinkedIn

How to run an FRSA ‘Reboot’ session – guest blog

November 30, 2012 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

Jemima GibbonsSixty 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.

The venue
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.

Lee Hazzard tell Fellows about his project, Game Plan

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…

The format

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.

A Wordle created from Fellow's feedback on the event

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.

Lightning talks
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).

Collaboration huddles
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).

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