What might things look like on 30 April?

The City

David Wilcox and I met up for a face-to-face in London yesterday to mull over progress made to date and contemplate what we may end up with when this exercise completes its first phase on 30 April. David will pitch in with further insights, corrections and clarifications.

Our objective at the outset of this commonspace exercise was to develop a funding bid to help membership organisations exploit the opportunities and deal with the threats emerging as the next generation of internet technology (aka Web 2.0) becomes more and more pervasive. We think that there are three threads emerging:

1) A research thread
2) A strategy thread and
3) A products and services thread

Sophia has already made a significant formal contribution to the first thread and, in addition, the publishing of the evaluation of the RSA Networks initiative on this site is also really helpful (download this here - PDF 119KB). And, in a way, all the exchanges on this site so far help to inform the 'research thread'.

There would be two elements of the strategy thread. On the one hand you have all the Web 2.0 technology (which brings with it opportunities and threats for membership organisations) and on the other you have the missions of membership organisations. The strategy thread should bring these together and support membership organisations in stating their strategy and marrying this up to the Web 2.0 tools at our disposal. Maximising opportunity and minimising threats. This might also include an awareness raising element which would seek to get over the message that doing nothing is not an option or at least that doing nothing may seriously harm your membership organisation!

The final thread, 'products and services', may not need any funding from the project at all. The project might simply seek to maintain an awareness of the online products and services available and thereby help create a market for them rather than fund their development and delivery.


re: what might things look like on 30 April

Simon - thanks for taking on the report back! As you say, we have set ourselves the target of April 30 to bring together a first set of project proposals to take to funders and collaborators.

After a deliberately messy start followed by some getting organised we are now becoming creative, and ready to move to production of work packages.

That's possible because different people's contributions are coming together. This was always meant to be a collaborative process - and it is working.

Sophia Parker has provided us with first research thoughts, and also led the way on openly sharing the issues that arise within organisations by publishing the RSA Networks interim evaluation. I see that as a real breakthrough: I hope other organisations will follow suit.

Megan Griffith has followed up first ideas on a guide with a more detailed outline that pulls together threads from the blog items that I and others have been throwing on to the site. Phew, glad it makes sense!

Peter Day has offered ideas on participatory learning workshops, and Steve Dale offers community of practice facilitator training. I'm meeting up with Drew Mackie on Monday to develop more ideas for a workshop game that we will run at the NCVO membership conference on April 22. We'll also be drawing on the products and service development work Simon's team are undertaking at Ruralnetonline. Dave Briggs continues to develop the etoolkit which we can link to the social media wiki.

I think all that will fit into the framework emerging:

Research: I hope Sophia and others can develop further the ideas around what she has called "the journey from 'membership' organisations to 'movements', and what that means for the nature, structure, purpose, and business models of existing membership organisations", and turn those into a potentially fundable proposal. You will eventually find those summarised here.

Strategy: this is where we will address how membership organisations can mix their overall organisation development strategy with technology development informed by the issues Megan is outlining in the guide. In practical terms that will mean developing the guide a wiki/booklet linked to the workshop game and other methods to help organisations plan their futures. I think there's lots of scope here for working with consultants, trainers and others in the field.

Products and services. Developing these will involve a mix of new items developed from strategy work, and assembling what people have on offer at present. Simon and I will be working on that over the next couple of weeks - with input from anyone else interested.

So what next?

  • I'll endeavour to turn this analysis into a clearer invitation/proposition to put to additional potential collaborators.
  • We'll use the NCVO conference on April 22 as an opportunity to pull ideas together and test them on just the sort of organisations that we aim to serve.
  • We will aim to organise a get-together of people who would like to form a core group to help take things forward.

Meanwhile, if you want to contribute ideas, offer products or services, do pitch in with a comment or get in touch directly.

David Wilcox

Developing the research strand

Hi Simon, Hi David, thanks for summarising your conversation, it's really helpful to see it all laid out like this.

A couple of further thoughts/things to note:

Megan from NCVO and I are meeting next week to flesh out the research angle a little more and we will ensure that we post the results of that conversation here.

I am keen also to follow up the discussion on the RSA networks platform here, and meet a number of membership organisations operating at a large scale to understand how they are tackling the 'membership to movement' shift. So far we have Amnesty and the Labour Party on the list. I think it would also be interesting to speak to some of the newer 'coalition campaigns' such as Make Poverty History and End Child Poverty. I'd welcome further ideas from others about who else we might speak to.

And finally, I'm pleased that sharing the evaluation of the RSA project has been of use. Here at the RSA we will be aiming to do a further piece of evaluative work, in collaboration with Nesta of course, for somewhere around the middle of June and I hope that I can continue to share progress through the medium of this project as well as the various other channels we're using.




re: developing the research strand

Thanks Sophia - On a slightly different front I'm doing some work with Community Housing Cymru, whose members are housing associations. They want to connect better with their members - both staff and  Boards of housing associations - and help them engage better with resident/customers. They are willing to discuss openly some of the cultural issues that arise.

 I've also bumped in the National Coalition for Independent Action, who don't like the way that the community and voluntary sector is going in public service delivery:

The Coalition is a new alliance of organisations and individuals who have come together out of frustration and anger to object to the state of UK Voluntary and Community Sectors. We believe there is a crisis in our ability to act independently from Government and other powerful interests, and to be part of the checks we need within our democracy. This threat to independent action will, unless challenged, undermine our civil society, our political health, and the capacity of communities to get what they need for themselves.

As you'll see here Stephen Bubb, chief executive of chief execs organisation acevo doesn't like them for challenging his and the government's agenda.

I mention these because it could be useful to get quickly some different perspectives and figure out a framework to map the issues arising.