Interim evaluation of the RSA networks project

Hi all

I've just posted the interim evaluation I wrote for the RSA networks project on the networks platform - see here.

Here's what I said - and for ease of access I have also attached the file to this post.

"I've attached here the interim evaluation I wrote for the RSA networks project at the end of February. Thanks to the RSA's partnership with Nesta, we have been able to evaluate and document progress towards the vision of the networks project as we go along.

I'd welcome comments and reflections on what is said here. Please do bear in mind that (a) this is an interim evaluation - the final piece of work will be done in april/late may, and (b) i have been honest, in the spirit of inviting constructive engagement with some of the issues I outline here.

As the project has unfolded I have been impressed - and sometimes overwhelmed - by the scale of ambition at senior levels of the organisation for the RSA networks project. As I say at the start of this evaluation:

"It is nearly one hundred years since Schumpeter wrote of firms as the primary agents of production and economic progress, and many of our business models and value systems continue to be governed by his worldview. And yet, new technologies are creating opportunities for collective action that have never before been imagined. Notions of membership, identity and belonging are changing dramatically, with people increasingly reporting a search for authenticity amid a world of brands, competing messages and demands. In Ulrich Beck’s words, ‘people demand the right to develop their own perspective on life and to be able to act upon it’.

We need to understand much, much more about what this ‘new collectivism’ might mean for organisations of the future. The mediating role that they have played in our lives is looking increasingly redundant as each of us as individuals find tools to work together in new ways. Current business models, governance, and patterns of organisation will be challenged by these developments in a way that has not been seen since the emergence of the mass production model at the start of the 20th century.

How organisations respond to these shifting patterns of allegiance, underlined by new modes of connection and engagement, remains an uncertain question. In this context, the RSA’s desire to remodel itself to be fit for purpose for the 21st century should be celebrated; and the RSA networks project should offer a rich seam of learning to the many other organisations that are beginning to wake up to the need to reflect new realities in the ways that they operate, and the ways that they engage people.

The RSA networks project was conceived of as the engine of change for the whole organisation. Our ambition was that through the learning of the project, we would have a clear sense of how to make the RSA a modern, exciting and dynamic catalyst for civic innovation – and to be some way down the road in reaching that destination."

I hope you enjoy reading this. And do please drop me a line or comment here if you would like to talk to me in advance of the work I'll be starting on the next evaluation report in a month's time."