Experiences working for membership organisations

Hi all

In the last ten years I’ve worked for membership organisations. I can see that all three would really benefit from using Web 2.0 technology. Many organisations still think that tangible membership benefits like journals and other publications are their unique selling point. In reality, when you talk to members they invariably join for professional recognition and contact with like-minded people.
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Case study: New technology, traditional approach

Rural services OnlineRural Services Online, www.rsnonline.org.uk, the new website for the "Rural Services Network" was launched last week. Although it is implemented in Joomla (open source, web 2.0 etc) it takes a very traditional approach. Non-members can only see the news from the last 7 days. After that, all but the headline and opening sentence disappear behind an ID and Password.

There's also an 'Analysis & Comment' section, a Forum and Document Store for members only. Anyone can read the events calendar.

The journalism is very good and is by Johann Tasker of Ruralcity Media but will this site help organisations part with the £400+ membership fee? What do you think?


Organising without organisations: maybe

Clay Shirly book jacketClay Shirkey's new book Here Comes Everybody is about "the power of organising without organisations". In it he says that Web 2.0 changes everything:

Everywhere you look, groups of people are coming together to share with one another, work together, or take some kind of public action. For the first time in history, we have tools that truly allow for this.
In the same way the printing press amplified the individual mind and the telephone amplified two-way conversation, now a host of new tools, from instant messages and mobile phones to weblogs and wikis, amplify group communication. And because we are natively good at working in groups, this amplification of group effort will change more than business models: it will change society.

On the other hand I found some scepticism about adoption of new tools among Circuit Riders at their recent conference as I noted earlier. I've now posted video from the conference sessions in which Circuit Riders talk about whether the tools for change are available - and whether they have the skills to use them.

There's a video of Clay speaking recently here, and you can see him in person at the RSA on March 18.

Re-thinking organisations as networks

Ncs08Covermd-1I originally published this at at Designing for Civil Society. The ideas seem so central to this project I thought worth having on this site for reference.

Michael Gilbert launches the first edition of The Journal of Networks and Civil Society with a suitably provocative article on The End of the Organization?

In this he ponders whether the growth of internet-based communications means our traditional ways of organising for social good will change dramatically.
Michael's argument is that nonprofit organisations are in large part set up to fit in with past and current ways of raising funds, meeting government regulations, employing people, organising volunteers. We then end up with a hierarchical system of trustees and staff.  read more »


Membership and relationships

Mock up or ruralnet|online v1Sorry I've not been more active over here but you'll see more of me now that the ruralnet|online co-design process is well underway.

This process has been really enlightening and, as usual with the open innovation process, we are not where we thought we'd be when we started!

We've hit a bit of a watershed and our findings are relevant to this project, I think, so here they are.

Drawing everything together and injecting Paul's and Duncan's excellent work this week with Wordpress MU the image to the left is an attempt to show the status of our current thinking. Click on it to see it full size (it's on Flickr).

A focus on relationships between people and organisations rather than 'information'. A focus on 'services' rather than 'content'.

In summary, it's a graphical RSS aggregator, maybe Google Apps For Your Domain(?), with WordPress (organisational websites and individual blogs), Drupal (Experts Online), Gmail (for those who want it) and other things sitting behind it.

Although we've been focussing on ruralnet|online here, the system could be replicated for other networks using the Networks Online philosophy.

This is an Aunt Sally for everyone to have a go at. I'll be really interested in any comments and feedback.

Key questions are: What's the business model? Do we need a forum facility? What about shared file storage?  read more »

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