Posts Tagged ‘RSA’


lessons for networked innovation

January 10, 2009

I’ve just noticed that NESTA has published the report E and I did on the RSA‘s journey to becoming a ‘network for civic innovation’. Read it here; I’ve pasted our summary of the lessons below (also at the front of our report), and you can  comment over on NESTA Connect’s blog. There are some great videos to accompany the text which have been loaded up here. The technology is still making it hard to find a way of splicing the right clips with the relevant text but hopefully we’ll get there…

I’d be lying if I said that the early stages of the RSA’s transformation were easy, but it is exciting and inspiring to see the energy and progress that’s been made recently. Go RSA!

1. Start with relationships, not transactions
If the goal is to encourage people to work together on issues about which they feel passionate, organisations need to provide platforms for people to meet, build relationships and earn one another’s trust. This approach, centred on building relationships, will be more fruitful in the long run than thinking in terms of new products and services.

2. Be clear about the invitation

Even when the focus is on building relationships, there needs to be a clearly stated invitation that explains to people what is on offer, how they can get involved, what is being asked of them, and what they stand to gain from becoming a participant. This can take time to develop, but it is well worth the effort: an unclear invitation creates anxiety and frustration, which in turns leads to disengagement and disillusionment.

3. People need to be seen and heard

When people do decide to get involved and give freely of their time and energy, this effort needs to be recognised. In the culture of networks, such recognition can come in the form of a thank you as much as a paycheque, a new set of connections as much as a job title. Generosity and mutuality lie at the heart of networks and failure to ‘see and hear’ people will result in the failure of any network-based initiative.

4. Follow exciting leads

The best ideas can be found in surprising places, and networked innovation is not a linear process. There should always be space in the plan to follow unexpected leads, and it should be made as easy as possible for people to bring in their own connections and networks to increase the chances of a new idea emerging.

5. Understand an online presence as integral to the mission
Online spaces for networking don’t work unless they are clearly connected to a wider set of activities that mix face-to-face meetings with virtual discussions. Once created, sites need to be easy to amend as people’s requirements change. If they are for a large and diverse audience, the needs of both the intensive and the occasional user must be catered for in equal measure.

6. Understand patterns of participation
Any organisation that sets out to get everyone participating all of the time is doomed to fail.Participation needs to be understood in terms of when and how, rather than as an either/or question. This is an important principle and must be reflected in every aspect of the change project’s design, including its success criteria.

7. Not every networked idea is a good idea, or appropriate
Networks are not the same as a free-for-all where anyone’s idea carries. There is still ample room for judgement in networks: the difference is that the criteria for judging are shared, transparent, and consistently used. Networks centred on innovation need to allow for the fact that ideas arrive at different states of development, and therefore there should be a number of ‘ways in’, depending on how developed the idea is.

8. Revel in reflected glory
The most successful networked approaches to change think about their mission, not their organisation – and this in turn requires a degree of humility and a willingness to share in success rather than claim it all to the organisation. Commitment is what drives people on to achieve social change – and people are more excited by missions than by organisational goals.

9. Let networked innovation models change the hierarchy
The true potential of new networks will not be realised unless they can be integrated with the hierarchy, rather than be grafted on to it. The goal is not necessarily to eliminate the hierarchy altogether – but it does need to change if it is to successfully and meaningfully support the action being carried by new networks. This can be challenging work.

10. Don’t lose the human touch when going to scale
Networks are based on relationships and trust, both of which still require a ‘human touch’. Scale can only be achieved organically, and from the ground up: a decree from head office will not create a sustainable model. Networks need to be imagined as a series of connections or nodes, rather than one central hub around which everything else revolves, and this must drive the growth strategy.


statistical geekery

November 10, 2008

I spent an enjoyable evening at the RSA last week. I am seriously beginning to wonder whether they aren’t the most interesting thinktank in town at the moment – never thought I’d be saying that two years ago, but I think it has a kind of energy and verve (and, dare I say it, playfulness) that is sadly lacking elsewhere currently.

Anyway, I was at a debate involving the ominpresent MORI guru Ben Page, Brown’s pollster Deborah Mattinson (can’t find a link for her that I don’t find mildly offensive), academic Paul Dolan and RSA chief exec Matthew Taylor, and they were discussing why the Brits are so privately optimistic and so publicly despairing. As ever, Ben reeled off some great stats which I’m sure I’ll find a use for at some point… for example:

Fear of crime in London is equivalent to fear of crime in Sao Paulo – but stangely, when quizzed about fear of specific crimes rather than a general worry, no one is particularly anxious

Two thirds of Brits think that Britain really is broken, a la IDS and Cameron – and only a quarter share Boris Johnson’s view that this thesis is piffle

33% of people think conditions will improve in the future, 32% think they will stay the same, and 19% believe they will get worse. No idea what the remaining 16% think.

77% think that in order to change behaviour on environmental issues, the law needs to be changed; and 77% of people think that green taxes are a cynical government ploy to top up taxes

Deborah Mattinson talked a lot about the ‘I’ve been lucky’ syndrome to account for why, despite having positive personal experiences of public services, 70% of people still think the country’s going down. The most interesting thing I thought she said was about what factors determine how people rate an experience of a service. First, the emotional always trumps the rational; and second, people remember two key moments of any experience – its peak, and the closing interaction. (although anyone who’s been through the Pizza Hut training could have told you that).

Paul Dolan basically said that all the polls tell us is how people react to pollsters. He argued we should look at how people really live their lives, rather than looking at what they say to pollsters (vive l’anthropologie!)

Matthew Taylor decided to turn the basic premise of the discussion on its head to argue that it is precisely because life has got better that we feel worse. In this he referred to many of the themes I’ve been exploring so far on this blog – about the need to look for meaning beyond consumption and a growing interest in new forms of collective action to counterbalance the deeply individualistic modes of interaction that have defined the last generation of politics.

Last thought based on the discussion of the evening: as well as understanding what people say to pollsters, I’m interested with how they *act* on their views: if they think their kid’s school is crap, do they have a good moan about it, or do they make a move and do something? It seems to me that we need to believe in our capacity to act – individually and collectively – and that finding a way of measuring this sense of agency would be a very interesting project indeed for the pollsters to take on.