Our Big Question: what to say to the Cat

Alice and the Cheshire CatAlthough we started this project by Throwing mud at the wall, I think we are coming to the point where we need to address the Cat Question, from Alice in Wonderland:

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

In other words, what and who is this project for, in the digital wonderland. We have said that it "explores how the social web and other factors are changing the ways in which we may belong to groups and organisations" - but we'll need to be more specific if we are to engage people, as we hope, in a collaborative exploration that produces something useful at the end. I've found two main strands emerging: one with a research focus, and the other around products and services. I think we want to end up with:

1. Ways to understand better what membership and belonging may mean in a networked world. That ties in well with the research (here and here), and Guide proposed by Megan Griffith of the NCVO Foresight team. I think it may also interest our partners at the RSA. We are meeting next week to see how, among other things, we best draw on experience from the RSA Networks project that helped inspire this project. The RSA is a particularly useful testbed because its 27,000 members get a mix of services, recognition (through being termed a Fellow), and opportunities to work together on socially-useful projects (that's the RSA Networks strand). I hope we can get more reflections from Paul and others on what members of organisations really want - and what they may contribute.

2. Ways to help membership organisations - and people seeking to organise without with organisations - embrace a mix of new online and face-to-face methods for consuming, communing and co-creating: getting information and services, connecting with others, doing good stuff together. On that front I think we'll be concentrating on what you can do with a mix of free or low-cost tools. New heavy-duty online systems will be needed in many cases: but if we are examing the challenge that social media brings to organisations - because members can start doing things online for themselves - then it makes sense to focus on the low cost tools. It also means that we can develop some products and services that will provide direct benefits to individuals and organisations. Prototyping those will be a great way to explore what works and what doesn't, in what circumstances. Simon Berry has given us insights into how that might work.

If we have some idea of "where do we want to get to", how do we get there? When and where? In order to put some drive into the research and tools development, I think we need some energising milestones along the way. We have some small events in mind - about which more later - and I'm very hopeful we will soon hear more about a London event this summer to rival Reboot (Copenhagen) and LIFT (Geneva). I hope that could provide us with a face-to-face festival where we can find a small corner for the ideas that we are developing here, and at least a partial answer for the Cat.

Oh, I almost forgot. This is a collaborative process. Do you think that's where we should be going?

What? So what? Now what?

Very useful summary, thanks David. I like the combination of the research and the practical stuff. In Foresight we think about What? So what? Now what? We need the research (what? so what?) to then help people respond (now what?) Equally we need the practical stuff to bring the research to life and make it useful to people.

Who is it for? For me, the primary audience is people involved in membership organisations (what's our definition - what's in and out? - we still need to pin this down). We want to target the people playing a 'strategic' role in these organisations, which doesn't necessarily just mean chief officer - it includes anyone interested in achieving more, developing new ideas and services, moving the organisation forward.

A secondary audience is probably policy makers. Who else?

Who is this for?

Megan - I agree in seeing a core set of participants as people in membership organisations who are interested in introducing social media to their communications mix to move forward.

Could we identify some enthusiasts for small get-together, to sharpen our ideas and build the core group? Any chance of doing something before the April 22 membership conference?

Can we start some mapping of who's who on the landscape that could be interested: front line, networks, and research?

(Anyone interested, please drop in a comment)

Identifying enthusiasts

Hi david

Argh - I wish I could dive into this properly but I'm on leave next week and struggling with year-end stuff at the moment. It's frustrating, but until I get my team on board (end of May) its going to be hard to spend a lot of time on this, but I'll do what I can. When are we opening up this site? The first thing I can do is put a call out on 3s4.org.uk. In the first week of April I can get some help in to scour our contact lists for membership organisations and send them individual invitations to join us here, and I can probably also get a list of the people booked on so far for our session on the 22nd and contact them too. How does that sound? A get-together might be trickier to organise, but shouldn't be beyond us.

On the research side, we have that excel sheet I did of literature (and therefore interesting people who did the research!) Is there somewhere on this site I could start to put that?


re: identifying enthusiasts

Hey Megan, your encouragement is brilliant! We'll get more too :-)?

Those ideas sound fine. Although we haven't promoted the site, word is spreading. What do you think is needed before opening up/inviting more formally? I wondered about firming up the research and product and service ideas more, with explicit invites to join in ... but don't want to be too directive. How do you (or anyone else) think it would currently look to voluntary sector visitors - a bit messy?

On the research side, we could publish what you have done via Google docs and see who might contribute.

On meeting, it could be useful to have a core group get-together open to anyone keen to get involved at this stage. Fairly informal, get to know each other, so no great prep.

I would also like to organise something around where bottom-up meets top-down: what are the new roles and structures, inspired by Clay Shirky etc. May be further down the line.

Interesting aside: for the Open Innovation Exchange we had a private online system for the team using Basecamp. Here we are doing it via comments plus the odd email and call. It'll be interesting to see how that holds up, or whether it will make things too busy here once we get into detail. Or we can have different spaces for core team.

Promoting the site

I think that before I send this to VCOs the site needs some clear summary pages about aims and potential work packages. I think we pretty much have these? I think the site might seem a bit messy to some newcomers who aren't used to this kind of site - it took me a while to work out the navigation!

Core group meeting, great idea, shall we think about dates?

The research list is already on google docs so is it just a case of putting a link to it from the summary page?

I think we need to go back to using basecamp...

Right, I'm off on leave now, back on the 31st!



Interested - Yes!

re: meeting

Hi Paul - see discussion with Megan. What would be useful to you, ICT champions, Circuit Riders, others at this stage? Meet up for a coffee when you are in town anyway?