Reflecting on the RSA Networks experience, and what might be needed for next steps:
An agreed purpose that motivates people to get started and defines what we are trying to achieve (in the case of the RSA, is it civic innovation projects, or more general networking among Fellows that may or may not be related to civic innovation)
In the case of RSA, does this lie with staff (the current position), with Fellows (implied on the new online system “This is your community and we are hoping that it becomes a self-governing site.”) or jointly. Governance and management arrangement, and intellectual property rights, should reflect ownership.
To establish or negotiate the levels of control different interests may have, the protocols of behaviour, and to manage the overall development process (can this be undertaken by RSA staff, by Fellows, or a mixed group?). Leadership will be closely related to ownership.
Through a range of methods appropriate to the purpose (could include events, informal get-togethers, use of the existing online system, and/or other online tools)
Ways of deciding priorities among projects, judging how far the programme is succeeding, learning along the way. (This might be done by independent assesment, or collaboratively in a central forum).
Benefits for the key interests, both in terms of transactions and outcomes. (this would depend on the purpose, and would be negotiated with those involved).
I’m doubtful whether it would be possible to negotiate all these complex issues within the structure and culture of the RSA at present. I think that in this case Paul Birch and Paul Miller’s message that innovation is really difficult within existing organisations rings true. However, to be positive, I’ve suggested in this blog post how RSA might both develop an internal system and collaborate with others on web-enabled social innovation.
There’s been a lively discussion on the OpenRSA Google group, including a suggestion that a group of Fellows might keep the older Drupal-based networks site running as a testbed for evolving ideas, topics and projects with those people keen to experiment … a sort of innovation community within a wider community for all Fellows.