Our partners, the NCVO Foresight team, and RSA Networks, will be taking a lead on research. See initial blog posts below from Megan Griffith of NCVO and Sophia Parker of RSA, and set of resources here already identified by the team.

 Initial thinking on 'packages' of primary research include:

These dimensions of the work will then feed into a more collaborative and participative futures thinking exercise, involving membership organisations themselves to reflect on how the world might be, and what membership organisations need to do to prepare for future scenarios.

In terms of funding, we need to seek some money to cover the costs of conducting the core dimensions of the research. We would like to develop a funding model whereby membership organisations themselves contribute some support for the early research, in order to secure a place to participate in the futures thinking exercise. We'd welcome thoughts on where else we might attract funding from.


How is membership changing - research ideas (1)

A good way to help people think about what the future might look like, say in 10 years, is to ask them to look backwards over the same period - the point is to emphasise how fast things can change. So... if we want to tell stories about what membership may look like in 10 years time, it might be nice to publish some stories about how membership has changed over the last 10 years. I'm thinking about a set of case studies based on in-depth qualititative interviews with a range of membership organisations. Perhaps after taking them through a reflective process we could also help them think about the drivers shaping the future (using the membership game?) and write help them write some stories about what that might look like.

How is membership changing - research ideas (2)

Following on from my last post, it might also be interesting to look at how membership is changing by looking at membership data - so, membership numbers and who members are, length of membership etc. etc. Organisations will not want to share this data without clear benefits - so we could help them to benchmark themselves against other similar organisations. Certain analysis could be available only to participating organisations, whilst other analysis could be published more widely. We could use a pledgebank model to encourage enough organisations to sign up.

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."


Participatory Learning Workshops

Peter Day wrote in a comment

Participatory Learning Workshops (PLWs) relate to the community ecology in which particpants live, work and/or are active in. Particpants chose, through previous dialogue - usually some form of needs assessment and asset mapping - which technologies they wish to engage with initially. Workshops, which can be static (e.g. based in an ICT suite); mobile (using portable/mobile technologies); or scenario-based (participants collaborate in order to address a particular need - preferably identified by the community themselves), provide facilitated 'training' in which participants start to engage with their chosen technologies. Space is then provided for participants to reflect on what they've learnt and discuss how this might be applied within their own community contexts.

Research proposal

This is for further development of research proposals

Research thoughts

I really hope this posts in the right place of this site as I'm finding it a little hard to navigate!

 At any rate I wanted to add some thoughts from the RSA's perspective about what we'd like to see from this project.

 I suppose the trend that all this discussion is trying to capture is the journey from 'membership' organisations to 'movements', and what that means for the nature, structure, purpose, and business models of existing membership organisations. No mean feat to cover all of this and as someone with a thinktank background the breadth of the issues being asked here makes me a little nervous.

 So I'd like to propose that alongside all the ongoing work around products, services, consultancy and the rest that we generate through this process, we should actually invest in a research phase, in the sense of both desk-based and action research work.

 For me I would like this phase to cover the following questions:

These kinds of questions are part of some work that's important in any futures exercise, which is understanding the drivers for changes in society. It would be interesting to think about the full range of drivers that are having an impact on the world of membership organisations. Clearly social media is one example of a really important driver; what are some others?

Then there's another part of the research which is more about describing the world as it is now - for example who's joining membership organisations, how are they working now, what do they do to engage their members and so on.

 I will think further about how we might structure some research along these lines, but in the meantime I'd welcome comments from others participating on this site...