This draft strategy has been developed by Dave Briggs and David Wilcox
for the new RSA Digital Engagement group - draft Terms of Reference
If you wish to contribute to drafting the strategy you can can ask to join this wiki - see above - or comment on the RSA DE group page - archive links
The internet offers a wealth of opportunity for any group committed to
doing social good. As documented in a number of books, articles and web
pages, the ability for people with common interests to self organise to
get things done presents a major shift in the way civic activity is
This has repercussions for a number of actors within society, not least membership based organisations such as the RSA. If people can congregate around an issue by creating a group on Meetup, or Facebook, or by simply using a common tag on Twitter, what is the value-add from having to pay an organisation to be a member?
The RSA corporately is figuring out this conundrum under the banner of 21st Century Enlightenment, and is engaged in using a lot of online technology, such as blogs, Twitter and Ning groups to spread the word about its activities and to encourage new fellows to sign up. There have also been attempts to provide platforms for fellows to connect with one another and to organise into groups on the basis on issues or locality.\ In addition to this, a group of web-savvy fellows created an informal group called OpenRSA, with the aim of exploring how far self-organising could go for fellows, and how online developments affected the relationship between the RSA and its fellows.
The result of all this activity was the creation of several groups, mostly location based, using the free Ning platform. There is also the RSA Fellowship Council Ning site, which has the vast majority of activity. The proliferation of these free networks have demonstrated both the clear need fellows have for places where they can network online; but also the difficulties of managing multiple online spaces and keeping everyone up to date with their content.
This is a digital engagement strategy for fellows, and not for the RSA as a corporate body. This strategy identifies the challenges facing fellows in their attempts to use the internet to help them communicate and collaborate with other fellows, and then sets out what needs to happen to meet those challenges. This takes the form of activities and roles.
This strategy is for the fellows, and not for the RSA as a corporate body. Therefore, it is not concerned with explicitly promoting the RSA, it’s activities or fellowship (although those things may be by-products of this strategy). It also does not cover technology issues which are the responsibility of the RSA and which could not conceivably be undertaken by fellows alone - such as the membership directory project, for example.
This strategy sets out how fellows can use online technology to complement their activities and to create more connections and conversations between fellows. The strategy will enable fellows to play an active and influential role in the virtual communities which are growing in importance throughout civil society.
To meet the challenges, fellows need to achieve the following
- To ensure all fellows who wish to engage online have the skills to
feel comfortable in doing so
- To identify a suite of online tools that can help facilitate
fellows’ online activities
- To ensure fellows can play an active part in the various ongoing
civic digital initiatives
Any technology solution for the fellows needs to incorporate the
following features. This not not need to all be in the same platform.
Instead, a variety of tools could be identified for fellows to use to
ensure all needs are met. Some of these, on reflection, might not be
needed at all!
- Fellow profiles, listing details like name, contacts, interests,
skills, knowledge etc
- Themed discussion areas - Collaborative authoring - fellows working together on online
- E-learning - sharing skills and knowledge online with other fellows
(and indeed anyone else)
- Online conferencing including live audio, video and text based discussions
What’s more, the technology used by fellows should, where possible, be:
- Sustainable - it should be low cost or free, and likely to remain so
in the future
- Scalable - it should be able to cope with large amounts of activity
and users, etc
- Replicable - where a technology works well in one scenario, it
should be easily replicated to work in others
- Open data - it should be easy to extract user data and content from
the technology to set up elsewhere if necessary
- Open source - it is preferable to use open source technology where
possible, especially if using a self-hosted system rather than software-as-a-service
- Here Comes Everybody - Clay Shirky
- We-Think - Charles Leadbeater
- The Virtual Community - Howard Rheingold
- Causewired - Tom Watson
- Social by Social - Gibson, Sample-Ward and Wilcox
- How to engage with RSA (Google Doc by David Wilcox and collaborators)