I’m developing some broad themes and lessons about collaborative innovation by analysing programmes that I’ve been involved in, and other case studies. First:
David Wilcox David@socialreporter.com September 2008
In autumn 2007 Matthew Taylor, the new chief executive of the 250-year-old RSA, launched a progamme called RSA Networks under which the 26,000 members (called Fellows) would become more central to the work of the organisation.
They would have have greater opportunities to network among themselves, contribute to long-standing programmes of research and development, and also become an outward-facing network for civic innovation. “Thought leadership” would no longer be confined to the high profile contributors to RSA events and publications. Action for social good would no longer be limited by staff resources and partnerships. The RSA would become a new-style think tank and incubator of social innovation.
The programme was launched through a highly-successful open space event for 250 Fellows in November 2007, and supported by an online platform for communication and collaboration. Hundreds of Fellows subsequently participated online, and generated scores of project ideas. Staff were trained as facilitators.
The programme was supported by an investment of £100,000 from the Government-backed innovation organisation NESTA. However, as an interim evaluation report subsequently showed, it proved difficult to realise a vision that required change on so many fronts at once. After one year few of the projects have any clear outcomes, discussions online have died away, and a robust version of the online system is still some way off.
While online interactions have been problematic, it was clear Fellows were keen to meet, and a range of London and regional events have been highly successful. It seems likely that these have helped build some networks, and perhaps some projects - but it is difficult to know without some better central communication system. In addition, the programme provides many lessons for programmes attempting collaborative innovation using a mix of online and offline methods, harnessing skills and commitment across different disciplines.
Staff and Fellows are meeting on how to take advantage of lessons learned for next stage development, with new senior staff appointments in place. More here
A group of three social entrepreneurs, disatisfied with the ability of conventional charities to use new technologies for social innovation, secured funding from NESTA for a Social Innovation Camp over a weekend in London in April 2008.
The aim was to bring together those who were working at the sharp end of social problems with web designers and developers who could help create solutions.
Their call for ideas produced 77 project proposals, which the organisation cut back to 20 for submission to an advisory group. From these six projects were chosen.
Over the weekend some 80 people worked together to produce prototypes, which were presented at a Show and Tell session. One winner and one runner up were given prizes of £3000 and £2000. An additional project was developed during the weekend, and accepted as part of the process.
The weekend, and the overall process, produced enormous energy and connections going beyond the two days. In September four of the seven projects were still under development. NESTA is funding a further SI Camp in December 2008. The organisers have set out their thinking about web-enabled social innovation, and put out a call for ideas. More here >