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RSA Fellowship Council – live blog of fourth meeting

I’m at 8 John Adam Street, London, liveblogging from the fourth meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council. Please keep refreshing this page for updates.

13.08: Zena Martin and David Archer (Fellowship Council members and Trustees) are about to present their perspective on the Fellowship Council’s relationship with the RSA Board of Trustees.

13.10: RSA Trustee & Treasurer of the Board, Lord Best, gives short speech: I will give some background on what the board does. There’ll always be people who champion and cherish the organisation and people who champion but want to change things. It’s all about striking the balance between those two groups.

Issues include: lack of transparency about what the board does. We’ve now got Zena and David to transmit the sometimes dull aspects of board work back to you. I chair the audit and risk committee. (If you think the board minutes are dull, you should try those minutes!).

There is also a lack of clarity about your own role (as fellowship council). Some lack of clarity is good. Some tasks are set, eg: you’re going to look at the new charter and bring back new ideas to us. The review of the regions is also very important.

Thank you all very much for agreeing to take part.

1314: David: Zena and I now feel fully a part of the board and are grateful to them for welcoming us. As the fellowship council, we need to deliver on the fellowship charter, the regional development and projects work. If we can do that, we’ll gain even more trust and responsibility in future. It’s still early days.

Any questions?

Question from floor: What’s been the most interesting thing about joining the Board?

Zena: the board just has some amazing people on it; it’s great to get their perspective. The RSA has gone through lots of change in past few years and seems to have been flexible enough to, for the most part, embrace that change.

Question: in current economic climate, one issue is resourcing – how much has been set aside to fund the fellowship council?

Lord Best: Fortunately, The RSA is not in financial difficulty. But going forward we see our income from the house and restaurant to fall as people cut back. Fellows who are on pensions now, etc, might want to begin to put a line through something that costs £150 a year. But the money for the fellowship council is ring-fenced. Admittedly, RSA projects have taken a bit of a hit. Projects used to take the lions’ share of the money. I see ourselves as a centre that gets people talking, rather than having one or two big projects.

Question: when you’re talking about “regions”, what do you mean?

Lord Best: I think the global amount is going to be constant, but how we play that will be looked at.

Matthew Taylor [RSA CEO]: Over past three or four years, the House has maintained contribution to finances; is having another difficult year this year. Projects get some seed core funding but have had contribution cut. Nina has less staff here than she used to. Despite that, we’ve become a global brand. Fellowship has been going up, year on year on year. Fellowship management and Catalyst Fund have come in, so now much more money that comes from Fellowship has been reinvested back into Fellowship. Now we need to see key outputs: (1) numbers (2) fellowship activity in world. I need to see proof that our investment is getting results and then take that to the board.

Matthew: Most charitable organisations take money from their funders and use it to do charitable work. Our aim is to give that money back to our Fellowship so they can do the good work.

13.27: Tessy Britton (RSA Fellowship Council chair): the next hour will be the mini-review. Our strategy was very much an emergent model, to create working groups, to focus on specific activities. It’s been going on for seven months and we’d now like to review it. We’d like to create some concrete outcomes and get some new ideas, as well as appreciating what we’re doing right.

We’ve got six groups:

1. Fellowship Council remit: Andrew Chidgely and Alex Watson
2. Working Relationships: David Archer and Sarah Tucker
3. Roadshows: Andy Kirk, Helen Wostrop
4. Fellowship Engagement: Andy Gibson, Vivs Long-Ferguson
5. Encouraging Fellows’ projects: Rebecca Daddow and Graham Sprigg
6. 21st century enlightenment: Julian Thompson and Frances Gallagher

I’m going to try and liveblog a bit from each group.

13.37: Sitting in on Working Relationships with David Archer and Sarah Tucker:

Sarah Tucker: from RSA point of view, a big issue is knowing there is lots of talent on the Fellowship Council but trying to extract all that talent as effectively as possible; especially as the FC are all volunteers.

Comments: might be good to do a skills audit, a time audit and know people’s communication preferences.

Comment: We all need more online profiling.

Comment: perhaps a buddy system?

13.48: Roadshows: Andy Kirk, Helen Wostrop
Helen: So far we’ve three main issues/ objections: awareness, confusion (what are they?) and re-commitment.

Comment: don’t make this seem like a public relationship exercise. People need a place to congregate and deal with issues. You’ve got the RSA objectives but why do people want to come together. it should be about reciprocity and not about marketing.

Comment: don’t want them all to be the same – choose different venues, different formats, different timescales, eg: Pecha Kucha?

Comment: Open Space event in Manchester was very boring. Topic was: how fellowship should network.

Comment: need to be participatory.

14.00: Engagement: Vivs and Andy
Andy: let’s be positive to start, in what ways in the RSA engaging with its fellowship effectively?

Comment: love the events programme – great way to get to know other fellows and connect with those you already know who are also attending the event (via Twitter as well as drinks afterwards)

Comment: don’t live in London so difficult to attend events but Twitter and the Ning have been a useful way to connect.

Comment: maybe we need to have more focused FRSA engagment; the region I’m in, it’s just a few dreary meetings in a dreary local pub. Not very exciting.

14.14: 21st century enlightenment: Julian Thompson and Frances Gallagher
How does the RSA contribute to 21st century enlightenment?

Julian: how does the RSA actively contribute? What can the RSA do to actively contribute?

Comment: again, the talks programme is really crucial. It should be something like TED. At the same global level as TED; the same level of brand recognition. Debate; promoting debate is really important.

Comment: if people are going to be unemployed and not having any self-worth – how can value be added outside of a job title? Social entrpreneurship?

Comment: The fellowship council itself, and the way the RSA is trying to become more networked, more open, more tranpsarent (live blogging!) is hopefully setting an example.

Comment: everyone on the council should be digitally engaged, they should be engaging with other fellows.

Comment: micro-contributions and co-learning should be encouraged; it’s not all about experts participating.

14.26: Fellowship Council remit: Andrew Chidgely and Alex Watson

Andrew Chidgely: so far, this seems to be first, relaying what the Fellowship wants to the Trustees and secondly, going out to the Fellowship and talking more about what’s going on within the RSA itself (ie: staff).

Alex Watson: digital engagement important.

Comment: I can’t find any way to act as the ears and eyes for my region because I don’t know how to connect with them. The ones I might want to connect with don’t go to the regional meetings and the ones that do, aren’t the sort of people I feel like connecting with.

Comment: The new Fellows’ directory should help with that. You can search for Fellows by region and interest. You can search within a specific radius (eg: five miles).

Comment: are the channels people can use to get in touch with each other, easy to identify and use? I’m sure each of us as fellows aren’t engaged on a regular basis with very many other fellows. Can you move people up the chain in terms of involvement? If 1.7 million people are watching an RSA lecture, then how can we use those people? Rather than having a surgery here and there that 5 people turn up to?

14.38: Encouraging new fellows: Rebecca Daddow and Graham Sprigg
Graham: feedback so far has shown that we need to have more project case studies: not only projects that have worked but projects that haven’t worked. We’ve had a lot about maximising RSA brand. Money’s a big issue – do RSA projects always need funding? Although simply having some funding can often be a motivation to help move a project forward.

Comment: how about an annual projects award ceremony?

Comment: the Ning (RSA Fellowship) and new Fellows Directory should be useful tools to motivating new fellows – if they sign up they’ll be able to see the conversations that are happening.

Comment: how about a mentoring/ buddy scheme for new fellows so they can have an experienced fellow to go to for more info, to answer questions etc.

[This last mini-review session was cut short because we've run out of time - lots to get through in the agenda today!]

14.43: Coffee break – facilitators and scribes get a chance to write up their notes.

14.57: Back from coffee. Tessy: We’re running 30 mins late but somehow we’ll make up time!

Improving relationships (David Archer): some people say, best relationships I’ve had anywhere I’m working as a volunteer with staff. Others say they find it a bit distant, bit controlling. Those that have been actively working on working groups seem to have had the best experience. Main issues/ goals

- transparency of roles, eg: all members of staff and regional committees having their profiles on the Fellows directory
- keeping momentum between meetings by using technology eg: existing social networks, Skype calls. Tech not very good at present.
- buddy scheme: for each FC member, could there be a member of staff who was able to help them with ways in/ contacts etc. Developing personal relationships with a presumption of positive intent.
- finding out where FC members expertise is best placed? Perhaps having that on new ellowship directory?
- we’ll know relationships are really good when deliverables from the council are all joint deliverables (council and staff)

15.03: RSA Roadshows (Helen Wostrop): the biggest issue of all is over what these roadshows are and what they are trying to achieve. The very name “roadshow” seems to polarise views – what does it mean? There’s a need for awareness – raising awareness about roadshows, what they are. A need to raise enthusiasm.
Charles: is it a recruitment objective, is it about engaging existing fellows, is it marketing etc? The broad message of the RSA should be there, as well as examples of RSA activity, but there should definitely be a local focus.
Helen: also, we don’t want it to look like the RSA coming in like a great big bus and stepping on the toes of local committee activity.

Comment: if we’re going to use roadshows to acquire new fellows, there has to be a percentage who’s not going to make it, then those people will be left disappointed. Surely it’s much better to use the facilities we’ve got to deal with new fellows.

Comment: roadshows per se are a very good idea. A good way to make the fellowship more diverse.

Comment: do you get fellows in their own region to decide what to do, or do you have a toolbox to help people?

Comment: people who do enquire locally about becoming a fellow should be pointed to a local fellow who can advise them what to do.

Comment: we need to run a few pilots.

Comment: we could set up a Fellowship Council working group to take this forward.

15.13: Fellowship Council relationships: (Alex and Andrew):
Alex: on one hand the FC were champions of what the RSA and Trustees are all about, on the other hand, they should relay what fellows want back to the “central” RSA [at John Adam Street]. Everyone accepted that nine years down the line the FC was still growing into its role. The worry is less on the council side but more on how difficult it is to access fellows and what they want – how difficult it is for them to get out there and champion the fellowship experience.

Andrew: concern that the pool of people in this room (approx 40) is not that diverse or that representative of the 28,000 Fellows out there. A big question over whether Ning is best way to connect fellows. If at one point 2.7million people are watching a lecture, how do we spin off from that? Another big question is, does the Fellowship really understand what the Fellowship council is? Could we do more work individually and collectively to let people know we’re here? Eg, more ways to let people come to us, eg: MP style surgeries?

Comment: what a terrible idea! Who said that?!

Andrew: I think the main message from this discussion is about scale: how do we scale up the communication we have?

Comment: This language of surgeries and representation is slightly wierd: I think we’re here to “lead” the Fellowship in service.

15.22: Encouraging Fellows’ projects: Rebecca Daddow and Graham Sprigg
Graham: it was unclear to several people what a project might consist of. Access? There was a polarised view on the application process to RSA Catalyst: from let’s scrap the whole idea to the best thing since sliced bread. Money was also an issue: is it always necessary? But at least it encourages people to apply for projects.

Secondly, the RSA brand. How does that interact? What does that mean to a project?

Thirdly, a buddying/ mentoring scheme to help new fellows get involved with projects.

Fourth, the idea of “non-projects” – good to see some projects that didn’t make the grade. Part of what we can do as the RSA machine is provide opportunities for the Fellows to talk to each other, eg: at a regional level. Idea generation doesn’t necessarily ahve to equal a project.

Fifth, output: case studies very useful here: database of best practice (and worst practice maybe?!). Another idea was the ideas annual – each year publish a yearbook showing all the ideas that had been through the system. And the possibility of an annual awards maybe?

Comment: this issue of brand is very important. The RSA brand needs to be much stronger locally.

15.29: 21st Century Englightenment (Julian and Eileen):
Julian: five points came out of our discussion:

1. There seems to be a really strong consensus about what this means, ie: realising human potential through the RSA. We looked at not just wealth creation but happiness and sustainability. That’s good. We’ve got a good base to work from.

2. Matthew’s speech: there’s a danger we look at this argument specifically from a western paradigm: the human as central, linear idea of progress etc.

3. How do we apply those principles of autonomy, humanism, universalism etc? RSA fellows should be the change they want to see in the world: ask difficult questions, lead by example, raise our own game. If we are to extend our capacity for empathy, we have to experience the “other” in a much more visceral way than we are already doing, eg: what it’s like to be homeless, be drug-addicted etc, rather than spend time with people who think like us, act like us. Be wary of being pious, too much paternalistic lecturing – we don’t want to wear this too heavily.

4. Underlying principles across all activity, eg: lectures: need to be more interactive; have a range of people from all walks and backgrounds; avoid groupthink.

5. Activity: raise importance of micro-acts: a tiny contribution, eg: a single tweet – to have a stake in what’s happening. Public engagement: fellows need to be more involved in their local community/ otherwise the RSA is elitist and divorced from reality.

1539: Fellowship engagement (Andy and Vivs):
Andy: staff collaboration: it’s easy for us as council members to get to know staff but harder for wider fellowship. Also, the directory came through as something that would be really important in helping fellows connect. From a digital engagement side, simplification and clearer signposting on website. On the plus side, lectures, 21st century enlightenment vision, the journal and RSA animate have been a great way to spread the word about what RSA is doing.

15.43: Tessy: I think that was really worthwhile and I’m sure the facilitators will be able to write up some great reports for the next meeting.

15.45: Bob Porrer: update on review of the regions:
We’ll be starting our formal consultation soon (July). Aim will be to collect as much information as possible. We’re going to try to reach as many fellows as possible, including those who are less active. We need to challenge our preconceptions. Not sure if we’ll have complete report in time for AGM in October.

15.48: Jemima and Vivs to present on digital engagement: follow #rsade on Twitter for updates!

[Update: obviously I couldn’t live blog my own presentation, but the slides are here for anyone who’s interested]

16.03: Nominations Committee: feedback from Irene:
We’ve had four resignations. We’d like to re-fill those places. As it happens, the four people who’ve stood down are all trustee-elected. We will go ahead now and start the re-election process (trustee elections).

16.06: Fellowship Charter (2nd draft): update from Laura Billings:
We’ve had ten meetings with 150 fellows, we’ve sent emails; I’ve had 53 direct emails or phone calls. The biggest chunk of comments/ emails were supportive. The second biggest chunk was suggested changes. I got back to everyone individually. A small amount of suggestions were negative. The positive comments we got back were mostly about the consultative process. Suggestions for change were mainly that the version was still too long; that the language/tone was too arrogant, jargony and marketing-y. But in comparison with September, when we did the first draft, the majority of comments were around language being used, rather than content.

We did another sweep for plain English and ways to shorten, we’ve rejigged the introduction to clarify about shared ethos and aims, not altering founding principles. “Confidence in ability to effect change’ and ‘willing to lead by example’ seen as arrogant. ‘Harnesses the power of many minds’ seen as too marketing-speak. ‘Projects’ too limiting.

Many wanted to remove the process of ‘signing up’ individually – could be signed by tri-partate of the Executive, the trustees and the Fellowship Council. We can’t list all the things the RSA does in the charter, but we can reference them visually in the accompanying illustrations.

We are hoping to get an A4 printed version (which can go out in new fellows packages) and an RSA Animate video. The charter is part of a package: website navigation, welcome and orientation to new fellows etc.

The charter was designed to reaffirm common aims and values across fellowship and organisation, has it made a difference? Examples include the NCVO Future of membership project, regions working group mapping and social impact report.

Comment: I really recommend everyone looks on the website to see the changes that have been made, and how the whole consultation process has worked.

Comment: Just want to say that was a great presentation and thanks for all your work in the process of reviewing the charter!

Comment: unless anyone has lodged an overwhelming objection to any wording on the charter by the end of this week, I would propose through the chair that we endorse the charter and the work that’s been done to date.

Tessy [asks for show of hands].

The vast majority of hands are raised.

Tessy: great, motion passed!

16.25: Tessy: Let’s wait for full notes from discussion to come in before we agree goals. It was agreed that we should have a process for chair and deputy chair. We need to start that process in advance of October. Please think about standing for either of those roles and let me or Paul know. I get a lot of emails across a lot of working groups and I’m so impressed with the amount of dedication and the amount of work that’s been going on. If you feel you’ve been slightly on the edge of actitvities, please give me a call and let’s see how we can redress that. With regard to Catalyst Fund, I’ve been so impressed with way in which it’s been managed. It’s becoming a really open process. The amount of detail and care that’s been taken is incredible. I’d also like to thank RSA staff because there’s a real, genuine wish to co-design. Co-designing is new for all of us. The climate we’ve created through council has been really fertile ground for all of that.

Paul: I’d just like to thank Tessy for all her hard work. If it wasn’t for her, we’d probably still be wondering what to do at the next meeting.

[Everyone thanks Tessy]

16.32: Meeting closed – just two mins over :)

[Please do let me know if you've found this liveblog interesting and/or useful and of course, if you have any comments and/or questions - it'd be great to be able to pass any comments on to help with the RSA's digital engagement process - many thanks]

Social Media Influence – live blog

I’m live-blogging from the fifth annual Social Media Influence conference at The Marriott Hotel, London. There are two tracks: “Social Media Influence” and “Social Business Design” – I’m starting out in the second track but aim to move between the two. Keep refreshing this page for updates.

9.15am: Headshift’s Lee Bryant kicks off with an intro – we’re told we’re in the serious track – “far more intelligent than the fluffy bunnies next door (but please don’t tell them I said that)!”. Poor Lee. I guess he has to say something as there are only about 20 of us in here – the rest have been lured by the bright lights of the larger ballroom.

9.19: JP Rangaswami: the business value social media creates for the enterprise – the assets. (2) the business models themselves, rather than just talking about the ROI. (3) the context in which we operate. What a social network actually is within the enterprise. (4) The dimensions. The A, B, C and the D!

9.25: Social media starts with the address book. The telephone companies were sitting on these assets for ages – they had the directory, the classification and the modality for communication. Why did it take somebody like Microsoft to see that if you had everyone’s contact details on your database, you can enable them to schedule events between them? Why did it take companies like Microsoft and Bloomberg to add the ability to schedule?

9.29: the reason wikis and blogs worked when the original intranet didn’t is because intranets were put together by a limited number of people with already out of date information. Who knows my address or my condition better than I do? Who knows better than me than to describe my status as “it’s complicated”? It’s taken a long time for us to realise that this type of descriptor is useful in an enterprise context.

9.38: Expert systems and KM failed because they were all good ideas, but we always focused on the “where is the value” argument – this deflected from the fact that they were simply every day work. You can’t use terms like Yammer and Jabbr and Twitter – they don’t sound businessy. They don’t have the gravitas of Microsoft Powerpoint. Your first response when trying to design for value in the enterprise is: this is not anything new.

9.40: Business models: I hate the phrase ‘business model’. Peter Drucker used to say, “people make shoes, not money”. There is always a market for what you are good at. Do what you’re good at. A lot of business models are “pay per drink”; others are “eat all you can”; the third model is “somebody else pays”. Generally, either a transaction model or a subscription model.

9.46: How many of you remember using internet when there was only ISDN? Tendency was to get on there, do something very quickly then get out. Human beings dont’ like the concept of leaving the taxi meter running. In late 1990s UK and Europe were held back because we had ‘pay per drink’ internet and not ‘eat all you can’ (like the US).

9.49: we are building these [social business] services every day, we just don’t realise it. It wasn’t that look ago, when finding the email you wanted was impossible. We’ve got better because our kinds are more likely to be online than offline; storage is so cheap. The relationship we have with data is so much better.

9.51: Terms like ‘cost centres’ and ‘profit centres’ are all lies: the only revenue is when someone outside the firm pays money for something within the firm. Someone like [Facebook's] Mark Zuckerberg really understood that the thing that we value as we move into the 21st century is: RELATIONSHIPS.

9.53: All business is about conversations (not just marketing). I’m glad Euan is here because the first time we met on stage was when we were discussing the impact of the Cluetrain Manifesto [update: you can watch that conversation here]. It’s the way we always did business: directory, modality, record changes, means of scheduling…the tools we used were the same, it’s just they’ve got better. Thanks to Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law etcetera. We must each remember: I’m not doing anything new. If we do that, we get rid of so much of the noise that holds all this up.

10am: Now up, it’s a panel discussion chaired by Euan Semple. Panellists: Steve Perry, Sonia Carter and David Christopher.

Euan: I’m a bit uncomfortable with the word “design” because it doesn’t convey all the messiness and guerilla activity that is really driving social media in business.

Steve Perry (Knowledge and IM advisor): I was working with (leading London-based law firm) Freshfields focusing on improving collaboration. We had an ‘aha’ moment when we realised that the Confluence wiki could be the intranet, because the intranet is simply a series of community spaces – the previous intranet was very static, very dry and boring. We wanted partners, everyone to start working ‘in the flow’ and contributing comments, insights as they were working. If you can do that, the end result is much more shared collective intelligence and knowledge.

10.04: I came up with an approach called ‘tight/ loose’ – we used standard branding: company name etc, but the feature I really wanted them to use was ‘latest news’ – gives it a blogging feel.

10.07: I wanted to get people out of the habit of using email, and revising documents using email. We got people to start creating their documents in the wiki. Getting them out of email and into the wiki was the crucial thing. The other thing was getting them to use the discussion forums. I got the US partners to start using these for strategy work.

10.08: A couple of things we would have done differently: (1) build a coalition: get other departments on board: risk, finance etc. We had budget approval but we came up with a lot of objections from other depts that I should have dealt with at the beginning. (2) initiated more two-way communication between users and the central team. I should have done more work running workshops, spending face time with other users. (3) identified more busines processes which would benefit from the wiki. (4) agreed earlier how to measure and monitor usage. (3) planned content migration in more detail.

What worked well? The “tight/loose approach”. the fact it was a clear business need and part of firms’ strategy. Did not over promise (so we exceeded expectations). Earlier with KPMG we pitched a project very high, so perception was that it didn’t deliver.

10.13: overall result: increased intranet use and particpation. One example: The Frankfurt based Porshe team: they were wrestling with a legal issue with Porshe. Someone in London added a point [to the query posted up on the wiki], someone in New York built on it later that day, the guys in Frankfurt woke up the next morning with two or three real nuggets of good ideas that they could take back to Porshe. This was a job worth 100s of 1000s of £ to Freshfields.

10.16: Sonia Carter, AXA UK: if we can make these things succeed in a company that’s very conservative with lots of employees very demotivated (in current climate), then its a great example of social media. How do we do things? Sometimes by stealth. Also, sometimes we’ve been able to piggy-back on a big project. Where we’ve hit challenges is in the huge amount of process being involved – this can drive costs up exponentially. Security, IT, procurement, legal etc can add months and months on. Bigger projects where we’ve taken waterfall approach and crossed every T and dotted every i take months and months. The agile approach works better.

10.20: employee engagement is quite fluffy in the nicest sense: no-one’s too interested in measurement, people have a gut-feeling as to whether it’s improved or not. There have been a few projects in AXA that have focused on employee engagement and we’ve piggy-backed on the back of them.

A lot of our innovation has started internally – we’re still rather nervous about engaging directly with customers, mainly because of compliance and legal shackles. We have a lot more free rein within the firewall.

Our journey using social tools for employee engagement started 2 and a half years ago. Huge employee engagement initiative getting employees to understand importance of customer. We do act in a very silo’ed way – not great for customer. They talk to someone about pensions and want to talk to that same person about healthcare. After this initiative had run a few months, people were coming back from training very engaged, but we didn’t have anythign to facilitate that. There wasn’t any forum, just email and clunky old directory all very top down. People were coming back very fired up and nowhere to channel that excitement. For a few hundred pounds we built a system called “Ourspace” – incorporated Dell’s Idea Storm – a while back, not too many people had these internal ideation systems. Used WordPress and a load of plugins to build it. We rolled it out in six weeks. Only people who’d come back off the customer-centric training could get a log-in. We were very light touch, with an acceptable use policy which we tied into other workplace policies. In two years we’ve only removed four or five posts. If people post using their own name, you don’t need to give people reams and reams of usage guidelines. These forums have now become an intrinsic part of the business. Example: the news broke that a buyer was interested in buying the company, within 24 hours we had the CEO of the business concerned on the forum answering everyone’s questions. Everyone felt unhappy they hadn’t known about this but this turned the situation around.

10.28: Something called “Red button” – we got users to put up a red flag to mark anything that was confusing or hindering the customers. Now brokers let us know what’s not working in the sort of policies we offer them. Also “Blue button” – in insurance we have a very engaged CEO who really loves social tools so makes pushing anything forward there very easy. Something with Headshift: “You Prove” – we got employees to make videos about how they were fulfilling various corporate values – in a much more engaging way, eg: “When was last time you made customer smile?” This has worked very well.

10.35: David Christopher, Oracle / Founder, stop!thinksocial: shows Slideshare presentation Social Media In Business: it’s just a bunch of tools, right?. His mantra is simple: It’s not about the tools, it’s about the people!

He advocates the POST process designed by Forrester analysts (as recommended in the book, Groundswell).

David finishes with his five top tips:

1. Find the hook (eg: I can reduce your email by 50%)
2. Start small: quick win, big impact
3. Be creative – use social media to demonstrate the power of social media
4. Be passionate
5. Stop!thinksocial – before you send off that big attachment, stop and think is there are more social way of doing this?

11am: Break for coffee.

RSA Fellowship Council: live blog of third meeting

1315: Here we are at the RSA again for another Council meeting. It’s been a slightly late start but we’re kicking off now. Please hit refresh on your browser for live blog updates.

Chair Tessy Britton is running through today’s agenda.

1317: Tessy Britton: a quick look at “accelerators”: these include a high level of support from John Adam Street, high levels of energy amd enthusiasm, the collaborative partnership we’ve established with JAS staff leading groups in conjunction with dedicated Fellowship Council members.

Tessy shows graph representing how working groups are developing: this is already online so I’ll find link and update later.

1320: What’s making stuff slower (“brakes”)? Geography – FC members are very spread out and Time – FC members very busy.

1323: Word of caution: we have to reasonable about what we can expect from other fellowship council members: two members are currently pregnant, for example. We can work flexibly if any lack of activity is temporary (eg: 2-3 months) and if the percentage of members unable to contribute doesn’t exceed a certain level. it is the responsibility of both the individual member and the FC to find a way of contributing.

1325: Comment: there’s always the point in the evolution of a team where we shift from everything being really exciting and new to maybe a little less engaging. It would be good if we could look at ways of to avoiding any inertia. For example, what advice is there for people who haven’t got started on their working groups yet?

Comment: it helps if there is more than one person driving a group forward.

Comment: what are the questions that each working group is trying to answer? Once I know the questions, I might be able to help.

Comment: all of this is pretty experimental at present. We’d like as many fellows and fellowship council to be involved in the work. We need to manage the dynamics, we can’t all be highly involved all of the time.

Tessy: 778 people on the Ning. Membership up 83% since 1st January. More people participating: adding blog posts, commenting, adding videos, events etc. It’s still emergent, unpredictable, fellow-led and complex.

1330: Tessy summary: there are signs of growing confidence in the possibility of seeing some progress, particularly on complex issues and that dialogue is proving to be helpful. Co-creating and mutuality are important: we’re not a rubber-stamping dept; we need to create a balanced picture: make space for everyone; ensure that fellows are at the heart of all conversations, make it relevant and practical; create new opportunities and pathways where possible – make it easy!

Comment: could you give examples of some of the more complex areas?

Tessy: for example, the project framework and the regional review.

1335: Bob thanks Tessy for all her hard work in getting things started. He’s about to give a “whistle-stop” tour of the FC Review of the “Regions”.

Firstly, makes it clear that this review only looks at UK regions.

Review is really about getting the most from the RSA fellowship across regions. Relationship between regions and RSA House has not always been easy. Aim of review was to assess the RSA’s current regional framework and exploring regional representation for the future.

1338: How do we ensure that the RSA derives max benefit from geographically based structures and support and from combining the energy and commitment of unpaid volunteer fellows in regions.

Primary focus points: transforming the fellowship, more equity (geographically), how should resources be administered? what’s the role of the FC? How do ensure democratic input from Fellows in regions and responsiveness to national/ regional/ local needs, need for flexibility and change, yet meet charity regulations.

1340: Outcomes of first meeting: confirmed aims and objectives; agreed timescales – final report to be transmitted to Trustee Board ahead of October 2010 AGM; underlying principles include involving all fellows, being bottom-up rather than top-down, it’s not something where a clique of the few are doing everything; collecting evidence: we want to know what all regional committees are about, eg: what are their objectives etc; some key words: permissive and flexible framework, light touch, one size does not fit all (use different modes of operation), bottom up not top down – how can democracy be made to work within the fellowship – in the right way, to actually deliver something?

1345: Any questions?

Comment: it seems right that strategy should vary from one region to another.

Comment: there’s some evidence that bottom-up doesn’t work, but that a “customer-centric” approach does.

Comment: with regards to Wales, we do need a structure that’s open, accountable and transparent. There’s sometimes idea that regions provide a sort of impenetrable layer. I hope work we’re doing with projects framework will help create more transparency.

Bob: each regional group will have to have very clear objectives about why it’s there, and be complimentary to other RSA activity. It’s like a lot of concentric circles. We should be working with, not against each other.

Matthew: it’s inevitable that organisations should constantly be re-organising themselves; in trying to create a way of working that fits these criteria (flexibility, openness etc) – if we did this and we got it right, it would put us right at the heart of vanguard thinking. This is an institutional attempt to produce an organisational form that fits in the modern world.

Comment: lots of organisations get very hung up on who’s in which region. We don’t need to have this dialogue about what’s this region doing and what’s the centre doing, but more interchange between regions with each other.

Bob: we need to get the information out so people can cross the articifical boundaries that have been established.

Ann Packard: I’ve been charged with producing a questionnaire re regions – does anyone here have a question they would like to be included?

Bob: please email me if you have a question you’d like to be included: porrer [at] blueyonder [dotcodotuk].

UPDATE: PLEASE EMAIL ANN DIRECT: annpackard_pppt [at] onetel [dotcom] – be sure to use underscore not hyphen, suggested email subject field: “RSA: F/C regions questionnaire draft question”

1355: Jocelyn Cunningham: review of project framework.

David Dickinson: Factors to be considered: (1) differentiation – what is the nature of an RSA project (2) Adjudication – what are the criteria by which a request for RSA resources might be judged? (3) Equivalence – should the same criteria be used to evaluate ALL projects?

1358: Differentiation: what’s the USP? What makes an RSA project different from, for example, an Arts Council or ESF-funded project? We feel the clue is in the RSA name: “encouragement” – so we may finance projects that are already funded.

1400: David shows two slides representing spectrum of RSA projects, currently moving between those that are fully fellow-led and those that are fully staff-led (will try to get links).

Suggested criteria for fairly determining resource allocation: RSA alignment, quality assurance, unique contribution, managed risk (eg: impact on RSA brand), feasibility, replicability, scalability, dissemination, viability, time-bounded. We’ve seen examples of projects which weren’t replicable, weren’t scaleable – we have to ask how useful these really are.

Equivalence: we feel that right across the spectrum, all projects should be assessed using same criteria.

1406: Jocelyn: scoping the objectives. How can we make this as easy as possible? I’d like to pick up on the term “light touch” – we’d like to minimise bureaucracy while enabling as much as possible. Next steps? We’re looking for input on idea and tools so would anyone like to contribute?

Comment: Michael Devlin [missed this - will have to update]

Comment: sometimes projects don’t need money, they need other types of support – eg, validation. We can say these are things we think are good, for example. Can we embody values of RSA in ways we support projects – can we ask all projects to open source their learnings etc?

David: yes, we could say, we’re not directly supporting this project but it’s an interesting one run by one of our partners

Comment: we need to look at the consistency between a proposal and what the RSA stands for. The other thing was making sure the evaluation process adopts the most sopisticated evaluation technologies. For example, there is almost always a vast under-estimation of the timescale needed to make any kind of social change. Most of the long-term impact is on the lives of the people taking part in the project – even if a project is short-lived, the impact on the lives of people is not necessarily picked up. How you frame the evaluation is very important.

Comment: the RSA should have a default position of not funding any projects directly. We should seek external funding (?) We have an organisation whose projects are very suited to peer review. Peer review should happen before and during the time a project is commissioned. I’d like to hear a lot more about diferentiation: anything that isn’t replicable, highly original or likely to have a deep impact on making society a better place…let someone else do it.

Matthew: as they say, the future is out there but it’s not evenly distributed. If it’s not new, but it’s new to Bury St Edmunds, then we should probably do it. Whatever system we’ve got, ultimately it will work. People at all levels will have to be able to take risks. These systems only work if you keep proselytising.

1420: Successful social entrepeneurs never need to have their hand held. I don’t think things should be too easy. Fellows should strive because part of the journey is striving and part of the success is striving.

1423: Tessy thanks Jocelyn and David and adds: we need to make sure we don’t have very simple ideas being passed through a very simple system.

1424: Vivs Long-Ferguson: Seed fund update.

[a paper on the fund is circulated: this can be downloaded from http://www.thersa.org/fellowship/fund ]

We’ve wanted to create a seed fund for fellows for quite a while. Some of the regions already have their own. We took this idea and wanted to develop a central one. We’re ready to soft launch in April with formal launch in June. We’ve got £60,000 allocated. This will be allocated (£500-£2,000) every month. There will be a bigger allocation (£5,000 quarterly) which will be announced in June. There will also be a skills bank – this will tap into fellows who don’t have a big idea but want to collaborate with other fellows. There’ll be a collaborative online space – we’re not quite sure how this will look as yet.

Comment: you said this is for Felllows who don’t have a big Matthew Taylor idea – but we’ve just been talking about a project assessment process that applies the same criteria to every project. If we’re going to have one process, I have to say I feel rather uncomfortable with the way this is being developed separately. These appear to me to be two parallel but inter-related tracks. Can someone reassure me this is not the case.

Belinda: I appreciate this feels disjointed but please believe me they are being developed in line with each other.

Comment: can we be sure that the same principle of innovation is applied to the seed fund project?

Belinda: Yes

Vivs: Rather than do one first, we decided to develop the seed fund at the same time as the project process.

Belinda: your project will go on the website and you’ll have to report on progress.

Comment: just want to come back to the value and criteria for this project/ seed fund. At the moment: positive social progress and aligned with the RSA values isn’t enough. Do you have any more on articulation of values etc? Im not clear. What’s the distinction of this fund as opposed to the many others out there? What’s there to say, don’t go to UnLtd (for example), go to the RSA? I just want more information so that we on the RSA Fellowship Council can act as ambassadors for this fund.

Comment: the key thing I’ve heard is that we’ve not got to put too many barriers in people’s way. Fellows always think they need money but we have the opportunity to maybe offer something else – legal or planning advice, for example.

Comment: is the fund available to fellows overseas?

Vivs: yes, it’s international.

1437: Tessy: thanks Vivs let’s take a break.

BREAK

1450: Matthew Taylor: RSA update

I’m so impressed with the work you’ve all done so far. Now to update you on RSA, we’re in the middle of a soft rebranding process: you’ll have seen the tagline: 21st Century Enlightenment: I’m trying to write an extensive essay on what we mean by that. I’m going to do another post after this meeting. I’ve had some great comments so far. I’m trying to open source as much as possible.

We’ve got new flyers which will be on tables whenever anyone has an event, telling you about the RSA and what it does. We’ve got a new coffee stand (21st century coffee shop); we’d got a revamped journal. More and more people are watching our lectures online. We’re working on a real focus for our projects – eg, Prisons Project, our Peterborough Project launched two weeks ago. Last week the publication of the 20:20 public services commission report was announced here. We want to see what really works in terms of fellowship engagement: we had a conference where we told fellows how much we loved them, let a 1,000 flowers bloom – about 60 flowers bloomed and then fell over two months later. Now the challenge is to say, what really works? Let’s develop a toolkit, a set of insights. I want the RSA to become a radically different organisation from the other organisations I’ve come across. I hope you’ll see over the next few months a richer account from fellows of what really works for them. We wanted 2010 to be our greatest year. The steepest bit of the hill is next to come.

1458: Paul Buchanan opens floor for questions.

Comment: what exactly do you mean by ’21st century enlightenment’?

Matthew: I wrote a blog post last week and had around 40 really great comments. I don’t want to go back and reclaim the Enlightenment, or say that we need another four principles. I’m trying to use the Enlightenment as a kind of metaphor. What should we be against now? Firstly, I’m against blind progress – we need substantive progress rather than progress for progress’ sake [Matthew talks at length but you can read more about it on his blog].

Comment: I’m interested in how this council can go along with this debate but in a sort of parallel way? At a council level, is there an intellectual function for this council? There seems to be, because we are constantly talking about what are the values?

Comment: What you have to be careful about, is the idea of a 21st century enlightenment. You don’t want to do what John Doer (?) did. You don’t want to give an American 20th Century view of the enlightenment (which you’re in danger of doing). You have a fantastic body of expertise in the fellowship – how do you make the most of that?

Matthew: You can see all these potential streams where our energy and thoughts might flow but there hasn’t been a lot of water falling into them for a long time. You have to combine ideas resources, commitments and values. I really feel that’s beginning to happen.

Comment: maybe we should have a working group on how we take 21st century enlightenment, the new RSA brand forward?

Matthew: Nina and I need to come back to a future FC meeting and talk about the whole re-branding process. There’ll be all sorts of different perspectives to try and bring these ideas in line.

Comment: A lot of us struggle to understand identity: what exactly the RSA is and what is it trying to do. But I like the fact that there isn’t too much definition. I don’t think there’s necessarily always benefit in being too definitive and too prescriptive.

Comment: with the use of web 2.0 you find you quite often put your values out there, people will start taking them apart again quite quickly. We need to think about how we introduce these new ideas.

Comment: why can’t we just use the original Fellowship Charter?

Belinda/ Laura Billings: because the language is too archaic.

Matthew: first 100 years dominated by prizes, second 100 dominated by learned lecgures, last 50 years have been more uncertain. So the RSA has always reinvented itself.

Michael Devlin: I see we want to raise the level of debate, raise involvement. I think the easiest way is to join this particular debate (what do we mean by 21st Century Enlightenment?) on Matthew’s blog.

Paul Buchanan: Thank you Matthew, now for report back on gender group.

1515: Laura: women currently make up 22% of fellows – although proportion of women joining has really increased in recent years. We’ve got a series of events. The launch event will be here next Tuesday 30 March: over 150 women are coming, including around 75 non-fellows. Katie Moore especially has been building links with women’s networks. We’ve been building up an archive exhibition – which will also be viewable online. We’ve had posters printed out which will be at events. There will be two further events in Bristol (led by Katie) and Milton Keynes (Olivia). We’re also actively promoting Ada Lovelace Day (24 March) by encouraging people to blog about female RSA fellows who are/ were outstanding in science and technology.

[NB: If you’d like to blog about a woman in science and technology for Ada Lovelace Day tomorrow, you might like to take a moment to sign the pledge]

1520: Zena Martin: update on Terms of Reference. Feedback from last RSA Trustee meeting where two fellows, Zena and David have now being co-opted.

[Paper is handed out with revised version of draft terms of reference for the Fellowship Council - this paper will be available online when official minutes are published - I'll update here as soon as I have url].

Comment: Some of the wording here is rather outdated, for example: “becomes incapable by reason of mental disorder” talks about a mental illness and therefore could be seen as discrimination.

Comment: I would feel a difficulty personally and professionally signing up to some terms of reference which included discrimination against people like this. Is this clause really needed?

Comment: Have only two council members been co-opted to Trustee Board – when will third member be co-opted?

Zena: There are three places but we are waiting to appoint a third when the required skillset becomes clear.

1535: David: The fellowship council is an important new bit of government and one of the important bits is how the FC ties in with existing governance. Zena and I attended our first meeting the other week and I’m delighted to say we were really welcomed in. Before each trustee meeting Zena and I will meet with FC chair and deputy chair to agree which points the FC would like to raise at the next Trustee meeting, so if you have anything you’d like raised, either approach the chair/ deputy chair or talk to Zena and I at any time. [David runs through key points covered in Trustee meeting: including RSA re-branding, review of budget - it's healthy, apparently - and that membership fee will remain unchanged next year].

Zena: just to add that the Trustees are really supportive of Fellowship Council and really interested in what we’re doing.

Comment: would it be possible to see the agendas for Trustee meetings?

Belinda: agendas are confidential but we can certainly make you aware of any items that are directly relevant to the FC.

Comment: I can understand that papers or content might be confidential, but the notion of an agenda being confidential seems a bit strange. Secondly, I guess it takes time to align these things, but we need to know exactly what decisions are being made and when, eg, in relation to the seed fund.

David: yes, we need to decide the sequence of things.

Comment: I would really appreciate it if confidentiality of the agenda was raised as a key issue.

Belinda: we know there’s a communications gap and we’re looking at ways of taking this forward.

Comment: in the old days there used to be something that came out of the Chairman’s office highlighting key content from the Trustees meetings, and this information would then be disseminated through the regional network.

Comment: there’s a feeling that the FC has been mildly disempowered by the Trustees – for example, deciding the budget for the seed fund.

David: I absolutely hear that in terms of budget timescale, that was the meeting at which budgets needed to be approved.

Zena: my feeling is that we (the FC) are more advisory than governance.

Comment: I would like to feed back to the trustees that there is a really powerful role that the FC can play if we are involved more fully in decision-making.

Paul Buchanan: Both sides are making noises about working cooperatively. I’m sure as feedback is circulated and the year progresses, this will work even better.

1546: Tessy: thanks David and Zena.

1547: Tessy & John: Fellows Education Network: update

Tessy: we had a meeting/ discussion and highlighted four key areas. (1) supporting RSA initiatives, (2) sign-posting to Fellow educational events, (3) designing new conversation-based events (4) high level educational forum to informal policy.

Tessy: 20% of fellowship are working in education to we should find ways of helping these fellows work together, finding connections. The discussion we had was around (1) taking education out of the policy world and involving parents and children and (2) looking at a trans-educative forum which would impact on policy in some way. For me the most exciting thing was this idea that the fellowship can be a way of distributing ideas. We don’t always have to be coming out with new ideas. There might be fellows who want to get involved in a very lightweight way, for example hosting an event or debate at their school – we might have 100 debates around the country on 5 or 6 subjects (maybe 21st century enlightenment could be one?). One thing that’s struck me today, we’ve deconstructed a lot of things and actually we need to start drawing in some ideas.

John: One of the key things we need to do is decide on a formal agenda which we can then put out to the wider fellowship, get the feedback in. Discussions don’t have to be on a regional basis, they can be international. We’ve got an education charter which I presume is non-political with a big ‘p’ and we have a fellowship charter, so why can we not have a policy forum, a standing forum, using the educational charter and the fellowship charter as a background?

Tessy: I’m keen that we stay focused on taking action. The gender group is a great example of that. The scope of education is enormous but I think we need to focus on a few ideas and just get cracking. Another great idea is the social innovation network which is nothing to do with council, it was launched by a fellow last week.

Paul: okay let’s stick to time!

Michael: I would advise against launching another newsletter. We already have a newsletter.

John: okay.

Michael: finding issues that excite people at a local level is key to action.

Paul: also the central dichotomy of getting caught in our own navels with the intellectual pursuit of something, we need to also translate it into action.

John: I’ve been promoting the idea of a cross-party forum; it’s been promoted today by Tim Brickhouse in the Education Guardian. The RSA is in the ideal position to define a prototype of that.

1600: Paul: thanks John & Tessy and introduces the “Road Show”: presentation and idea generation.

1602: Michael: presents new idea of RSA roadshows. Idea behind roadshows is to go out to the regions and showcase new opportunities and new messages, to encourage involvement and an attempt to show that the RSA is not London-centric. RSA wants to reach out to fellows who aren’t necessarily engaging online.

Content for the roadshow includes enabling fellows to register for new Fellows directory which is being launched; to help people sign up to Ning online networking; to raise RSA profile and recruit, to run informal events in the style of the New Fellows Evenings which take place in London, to run charter development workshops, to meet fellowship council members and local FRSA leaders, to run project workshops or ideas surgeries and to promote the seed fund. Should events be big or small? Any questions?

Comment: what’s time scale, how many have been decided?

Michael: A budget has been ringfenced. We still need to decide exact format and schedule. I’d like to kick off roadshows as soon as possible, and involve fellows as much as possible.

Comment: are you envisaging that events could be tagged onto existing events?

Michael: yes

Comment: from the EasternRegion point of view, there’s a very elaborate programme of events that this could be tagged onto. What is the consultation process going on with chairs of the regional committees?

Michael: you (the Fellowship council) are the first step!

Comment: we don’t want to demonstrate and unconscious incompetence.

Comment: I’m more optimistic about this. I like the idea of people coming from the RSA to the regions. I live in Yorkshire and I like the idea of the RSA running ‘intellectual rock concerts’!! There’s a real hunger for this in the regions. I think the RSA could draw on its network of big names who reallly have something to say. Around that you can have the stalls. The last thing we want to do is attract people who like joining committees. Do one in Leeds, I would support it!

Comment: why don’t you run them along the 21st century enlightenment theme?

Paul: let’s take a vote on the format:

Big: 8 votes
Small: 1 vote
Both: everyone else!

Paul: thanks Michael and I think it would be good if everyone commits to helping out with roadshow events in their region.

Jemima: just to say that we’ve convened a group on digital engagement. Vivs is the RSA staff representative. We don’t want the group to be all social media luvvies so if you’re a bit of a cynic about all this stuff we’d love to have your voice. Please have a think and contact me afterwards if you’re interested.

1625: Finally does anyone have any feedback on the meeting today?

Comment: I think we’d like to have some time to reflect on that and get back to you.

1630: Tessy: We’re doing great work and thank you all for your active involvement today.

RSA Fellowship Council: live blog

13:09 Live blogging was the first item on the agenda today and I’m starting a few minutes late because of that. But I’m thrilled to say that the Council has voted by a large majority to allow live blogging to go ahead, as long as general comments are under the Chatham House rule (ie: not attributed) and people give permission to be named/ quoted. This seems fair because (as one Fellow pointed out), people may feel inhibited from saying what they really think if they know they will be referenced.

The meeting has kicked off with a summary of responses to the feedback questionnaire which was circulated by temporary chairs Bob Porrer and Tessy Britton a few weeks ago.

13:29 A discussion about the key activities of the Council led by Tessy Britton: we’re in a development phase as a new council. We don’t know what the plan will be. Maybe we can review what’s working best in six months time. Which model should we adopt, centralised or distributed? The overall emergent strategy was along the lines of leadership being “distributed and co-ordinated, promoting high levels of activity and developing a flexible structure to support this activity.

Comment: we don’t want to set up a whole raft of things and have most of them burn out quickly.

Tessy: maybe we should make a decision about a broad way forward and discuss the detail later.

General opinion in the room is that the emergent strategy outlined above seems reasonable.

13.38: Point 2 on agenda: what should be the difference between elected and appointed Councillors?

Matthew Taylor: It’s right that elected and appointed reps should have exactly the same status. Ultimately, ideally, everyone will be elected. We are at a transitory stage where the RSA is trying to respond to the complaint from Fellows that they are not listened to.

13:45: Summary from Bob: all elected/ appointed reps from each region/ nation should co-ordinate response/ feedback to that region between themselves.

Item 3: Do we need a chair and deputy chair?

Overall vote: yes.

Discussion about how long these roles should last. Generally agreed that a year seems right in principle with Deputy chair automatically becoming chair after one year. Thereafter elections would only be held for deputy chair. Discussion about whether chair and deputy chair should automatically become trustees (there are two vacancies on the Trustee Board). General consensus is that they should be separate/ “uncoupled”).

13:51: Comment: I’m a bit worried about complete lack of reference to regional chairs. Will regional chairs be feeling a bit marginalised?

Bob: The exact nature of the regional network is being reviewed at present and we would hope regional chairs are actively involved in that.

Comment: do we vote for Council chair/ deputy chair by show of hands or secret ballot? What if incumbent isn’t working out?

What should the election process be? Proposal is that FC members should self-nominate. Today we hope to have the chair and deputy chair elected, and the two nominations to Trustee board decided. Michael explains the election process (which will be proportional representation rather than first past the post).

14:00: Three minutes per descision.

Co-ordination and advance preparation for meetings? Yes; papers to be circulated 2 weeks in advance.

Transparency: unconfirmed minutes will be made available on RSA website to all Fellows within ten working days of meeting. Minutes to be confirmed formally at the next FC meeting.

Live blogging: already addressed at start of meeting.

Comment: Issue between live blogging and confidentiality still not resolved.

Should future meetings of the FC be observed? Suggested that current situation of live blogging with non-attributed comments and people flagging up confidential items beforehand, plus minutes available on website, is a good middle-ground; agreed that we could try live streaming if there is genuine demand.

Tessy: if young people want to come and observe meetings at later date, that should be an option at chair’s discretion.

Comment: we don’t want to be in danger of taking ourselves too seriously!

Bob: to conclude, live blogging and open minutes are acceptable for now as we are in development stage, but this could change at later date.

Comment/question: is there information that the trustees have that the council should also have access to?

Discussion: Trustees have a governance role but Fellowship Council is different.

14:12: Communications between members of fellowship council: proposal that we have a regular email newsletter: all agreed.

Problem of people hitting ‘reply all’ button in communications: Andy Gibson pointed out that Google groups or Yahoo groups where people can manage their own settings might be a better way of communicating.

14:17: Frequency of meetings: agreed that three meetings in 2010 would be better than two. Possibly March, June and October (as opposed to April and October)?

Fellowship Council meeting attendees (from RSA) will include CEO, Director of Fellowship, Head of Fellowship networks, COO, Director of external affairs and Director of projects/ research.

Fellowship council operations – contents of slide tbc.

14:35: Break

14:45: Nominations for Chair and deputy chair.

Tessy Britton nominated for Chair – uncontested.

Tessy Britton elected.

3 candidates put themselves forward for Deputy Chair (everyone wants to work with Tessy).

5 candidates have been nominated for 2 positions as RSA Trustees (1 withdraws due to clash of interests – sorry, not sure what, I think they’re also standing as deputy chair maybe?)

14:50: 4 candidates for Board of Trustee nominations give reasons as to why they should be elected; elections held for Board of Trustee nominations.

14:57: 3 candidates for Deputy Chair give reasons as to why they should be elected; elections held for deputy chair.

15:00: Networks, groups & projects
How to use issues, interest forums/ groups and projects to engage and communicate with Fellows, knit the network and activate fresh activity. Julian Thompson, new director of projects, will give some ideas to open/ stimulate discussion.

Julian: RSA projects aim to achieve and realise human potential. Broadly, current projects focus on:

1. Learning and education
2. Enterprise
3. The arts and design as creative tools that help us reconceptualise the world and act in the world
4. Ideas around communities and citizenship: how to live as social beings

There’s an exquisite tension between keeping projects on right track and being creative.

Transformation of fellowship and transformation of projects are implicitly linked.

Examples of some recent RSA projects:

1. Redesigning support services for people with long-term drug problems.
2. Network maps: mapping bonds between people in a community: showing people where their local connections are; proving to them that there is a network (despite the fact that sometimes people feel alienated/isolated within a community) and showing that there are opportunities/ ways to get things done.

RSA projects going through stage of consolidation and transition both at same time. Reaching conclusions on several big, important projects, but also trying to engage more with Fellowship.

Ideally Julian prefers hub and spoke model: hubs of activity around the country; becoming more self-sustaining, and developing spikes of activity around each one.

15:21: comment: a seamlessness in projects sounds heartening but I don’t hear much about the regions. It seems there is a separation between regional committee projects and there are central John Adam Street projects. I’m in the London region and there’s a slightly semi-detached feeling for the regions. It’s not so much about establishing the hubs as about making sure the connections are there.

15:23: Bob: Yes there has been a disconnect, I agree. But communication is key in changing that.

Julian: I’d like an online space where we could connect better with fellows.

Vote for open forum rather than group discussion (as a time-saver).

15:28: election results: Paul Buchanan voted Deputy Chair

Nominations for trustee board: Zena Martin and David Archer

15:30: Discussion around achieving the aims outlined by Julian. How do we create very local interdisciplinary forums?

Comment: yes, you need an “aims” framework, but that should come out of interaction with the fellowship.

Julian: we’re doing a formal evaluation of the Open Minds project but in terms of learning from past projects, I don’t know how easy that is to do. How much cultural memory of projects is there among fellowship, for example, and how do we capture it?

Comment: in terms of knowledge management, managing knowledge is incredibly different, but people need sense of who’s the right person to ask. (Back to ongoing issue of the fellowship database and how great it would be to have one…Belinda promises this will happen at some point).

Comment: We need more benchmarking, especially now that we’re seeing a blurring of boundaries between public, private and third sectors.

Julian: all our projects are online; you can dip in and see exactly what we’re working on at the moment.

Comment: we need to find was of being more motivating; encouraging fellows out there to get involved in the JAS projects; and vice versa; there needs to be some other way than going into all the regional Nings. Is there a forward plan of project priority areas? The fellows and regions need to have some influence…we need more democracy and citizenship and joined up-ness, and some serious mapping of who the Fellowship is (in Wales we have very incomplete and outofdate information).

Comment (Stephen Coleman): great mistake is to separate communication from the project itself. The way you make things work is to have a communicative infrastructure. You need to have evaluation built in from the beginning. Topics don’t need to be *either* regionally-based or topic-based – can be both. How should we approach this? (1) describe problems in a way that neither the media or existing government would describe them (2) decide how to generate/ facilitate discussion effectively between 27,000 fellows of RSA – in a way that nobody else is capable of discussing this (3) inclusion: how do we include people affected by projects in a way that respects them and listens to them? If the RSA can work out ways of doing that, that would be incredible. These are three principles of an approach to projects that I would like to see.

Comment: a lot of lessons came out of RSA Networks project. What are the terms of engagement on RSA projects? These still aren’t clear. If I have a project I want to take to the RSA, how do I do that? Where is the transparency around RSA research?

15:50: Can’t we use the RSA lectures/ talks in a more dynamic way?

Belinda: in the new year, as well as fellows database, we are looking at doing a much more comprehensive mapping of the fellowship database. Next year we will have a seed fund to give money to fellows’ projects, which will be a great way of testing a lot of these issues.

Julian: important that everyone should note that the RSA no longer funds projects. All projects now are externally-funded – central government, private sector partners etc.

Comment: fellows want to meet local fellows – that’s the biggest thing that came out of a recent south-west regional meeting. Many fellows see the regional committees as blockers rather than enablers.

Belinda: fellows are starting up their own networks all over the world: we’ve had a group start up in Singapore, for example.

15:59 Discussion around views on new fellowship charter.

Laura Billings: the biggest thing about feedback has been the lack of feedback, the lack of engagement; there’s been confusion around the purpose of the charter; on the plus side, we’ve been consistently told by fellows that they want a charter; my main reason for bringing it back to Council is that the charter is really important in embedding the current cultural shifts within the RSA. We need to take it forward to present to the AGM in 2010; it needs to be redrafted. It does need to be a spur to action; we need to find out what works for fellows; is there anyone who wants to form a smaller working group?

Comment: there really is too much confusion about what this fellowship charter is. We’ve got a royal charter. What’s this one for? I personally dont see why we need a second charter, we have a charter, and we are quite adrift from that charter already. The project we should be doing as a council is the RSA – what is the RSA? This should be our first project. And from that project, other projects should emerge.

Matthew: we have a Royal Charter that was written 255 years ago. We have tested our current work against that charter and it is broadly in agreement. The Fellowship charter is a way to be clear about what fellowship means and the expectations that fellows have of each other. The Royal charter is one that is difficult to change; the Fellowship charter is expected to be a living document.

Comment: is it a cultural document, intended to inspire, or is it an operational document, that will be used, for example, to exclude fellows, to tell them why they’re not being funded etc?

Comment: I think people think, well, this all sounds very well, but what does it mean in operational terms.

Matthew: We’ve been engaged in this process for some time; many years ago fellows said that they felt they weren’t being asked to do enough; there was a feeling that fellowship should be a richer, thicker, more content-full thing; the idea of a charter emerged organically from that; fellowship is a donation, not a fee.

Comment: can we call it something other than a ‘charter’?

16:13: Working groups: everyone is asked to (preferably) volunteer for at least one of the following:

1. Regions
2. Charter
3. Project framework
4. Fellowship (supporting/ connecting/ mapping/ specialist networks)
5. Developing partnerships
6. What is the RSA?

+some further issues eg: gender balance, digital inclusion which are to be discussed.

16:25: Meeting is about to wind up and as Bob very firm about 16:30 finish, I’m about to log off! Just wanted to say that this seems to have been a really productive, action-filled meeting and Bob and Tessy have done fab work in setting a great agenda and driving decisions forward. In fact, it’s all rounding off with a big applause for Bob and Tessy’s excellent facilitation!

Live blog: RSA Fellows’ Council meets




RSA HQ, John Adam Street

Originally uploaded by Grievous Angel

Last July the RSA held elections for a brand new Fellowship Council – the work of this council should mark a change in the RSA’s history. The RSA has around 27,000 Fellows worldwide and a central aim of the council is to form a conduit of communication between the Fellowship and the people who actually run the RSA on a day to day basis (ie the board of trustees, CEO Matthew Taylor and all the full-time staff).

It’s a grey Wednesday afternoon in October and the inaugural meeting of the new council has just begun. Most people have got the train or flown in from various parts of the UK this morning. We’ve been fed a nice lunch of beef bourguignon and butternut squash pasta, and had a bit of a chat, and everyone (I spoke to at least) seems very up for this idea and keen to get going.

14:30 Nearly all the newly-elected council members are here (around 35 people or so), plus key members of RSA staff, plus of course, Matthew Taylor, who is speaking at the moment. Taylor is talking about the ways in which the RSA has been trying to open up the organisation: projects like OpenRSA, RSANetworks etc (I’ll put in links to these later).
14:47 Debate about the nature of civic activism. Taylor gives example of “Opening Minds” – an initiative of the RSA now being taught in schools, but says it’s a shame that few RSA fellows are aware of this (especially if it’s their local school). RSA wants to give people support individually for the stuff they want to do in the community.
14:50 Stephen Coleman (Yorkshire) We tell everybody come and join get involved and then we bore them to death as soon as they walk in the door…we need to address this repeated failure to engage people.
Unknown (Scottish lady): We have to remember it’s a global network we’re dealing with (The RSA)
Dave Clarke: Online tools are a great way to engage fellows. It’s important to keep looking at the forest and not the trees
Taylor: The RSA is fundamentally about enhancing human capability: more engaged, more self-reliant and more altruistic – that’s fundamentally what we’re about
Ken: Matthew, you’ve said various things and honestly, you can’t deliver them – I think you’re raising expectations that the house can give help – it can’t! You’ve said there’s £100,000 venture capital available. It’s not venture capital. It’s seed capital. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver. You should be telling Fellows to set up their own activities, to do it themselves. We set up something called Shoot the banker – but no bankers turned up.
Taylor: I think it’s a false dichotomy. If people turn up here with good ideas we’d like to support them. Can we do an article in the journal? Can we film that event? Can we add a bit of money? Are there other fellows who are expert in this area that can help? Belinda can go through the list of fellows and find ones who can help you.
John Bale: reputational risk is a problem. We were right to sponsor one academy rather than many. It’s best to have one or two exemplar type projects in many diffierent categories.
Gerard: I don’t think failure is always a bad thing. We need bold endeavour.
Outgoing chair: The place is littered with RSA projects which didn’t succeed.
Matthew: The first three attempts to organise a Great Exhibition foundered. The fourth succeeded. You learn from your mistakes.

15:00 Man from Scotland: We need to look at communications and share best practice.
Lopa Patel: I’ve never spent an afternoon just talking about social change with like-minded individuals. But social change has to come from ground up and we need to make sure that we are representative.
15:05 We are becoming more representative: younger, more women. it is slowly happening.
Long-haired man: Where should the RSA be in five years time? We’d like to be able to say there’s an engaged fellowship and a real potential to exercise social change. This council could be an absolutely pivotal point in the history of the RSA. The council is here to build bridges – if we build bridges, the resources will be there for the things we want to do.
Anne: We need to find out what else is going on that can tie into the fellowship council.
Matthew: we’re carrying out various bits of research that will be fed back to you. At the moment it feels like it’s only meetings but that’s because we didn’t want to overwhelm you. We found groups of fellows who were acting together had hidden because they didn’t want the regional committees to close them down!
Rosie Ferguson: it seems to me that we need to be really clear about what’s on offer. All the talk is about groups of fellows coming together but how about fellows inspiring non-fellows? if so, that needs to be made more explicit. Don’t spend too much money in mapping and organising social change. Put resources into doing and enabling rather than organising.
15:10 Matthew: The govt had a ‘new deal for new communities’ programme but activism from community actually went down in the areas where this programme was implemented – so yes, I agree. All our fellows, because they’re fellows, are doing things, they’re already connected to the world. We’re not here for people to take their pet idea and push it through. It has to be a collaborative progress. This council is going to be an intellectually demanding process.
15:15 break for tea

15:35 back from tea break
Belinda Lester: talks about the Exhibition: a graphic illustration of the RSA’s draft Fellowship Charter. It looks very beautiful and detailed but I haven’t had the chance to have a look at it yet. One of the jobs of our council is to finalise this charter (from what I understand it’s so far all been put together by fellows). Three main elements: to inspire, to support and to enable. The exhibition itself will change over time, but the three main elements will remain the same.
Long-haired man: you need to look at the text in context of the international fellowship.
Bob (Scotland): I look at documents like this and I say ‘so what’? We need to think of ways of strengthening it. How do we make this ‘real’?
Andy Gibson: I think two of the areas of work could be almagamated – they’re the same thing. Also, what’s the difference between ‘support’ and ‘enable’? I think just ‘inspire’ and ‘enable’ is really strong.
Laura: Enable was meant to be a practical toolkit
Andy: Maybe connect a better word
15:45 Kevin: How come the fellowship charter is already in draft form? This is the first I’ve heard of it! A lot of fellows haven’t been involved. Why was there no letter? We’re going to do a new charter etc. How does this charter fit in with the RSA’s Royal Charter?
Man in pink shirt and stripey tie: Isn’t empower a better word than enable? Building social capital needs to be represented. It’s very London centric.
John Bale: people are from very broad range of backgrounds but have a common commitment to these three goals. We must be careful not to raise expectations.
Andrew: I like it. I like the three words. I think very often you have an over strong message. I think this sets expectations perfectly.
Frances: I like the fact its not a set text page, there is creativity, there’s movement…but I think it’s a shame there’s not the global dimension there. Congratulations for doing something different.
Zena: I think the exhibition is beautiful. But there is a perception of the loftiness of the RSA – but no reflection of the society that we are trying to change. It’s very much about ‘us’.
Lopa: There’s a few things missing for me. The word ‘action’ for example. It would be good to see a timeline. We’ve got the street view and above, but what about the basement view? Children down coalmines, people working in their garages, basements etc?
Gerry: we don’t want to create a whole load of structures, bureaucracy as I said earlier.
Belinda: I want to spend a good 20 mins in our groups chatting about what’s possible. What is it that we can unlock? What are the practical actions we can take? How can we help fellows talk to each other? How can we evolve the fellows charter?
Matthew: this is an enormous organisational change for us.
1600: group discussion

16:30 Feedback: Big themes of group discussions included: how to get grassroots projects off the ground in local communities, how to identify great projects, how to simply structure and application processes (RSA has pot of money it distributes every year – a chunk of this is traditionally allocated to regional committees but this is now being questioned as it’s not always clear where money goes) and how to deal with obstructive fellows (eg a member of regional committee who refuses to work with a project that hasn’t come through his/her committee), also communication between fellows is key and one point (made by Andy Gibson) that we should have some kind of ‘parish newsletter’ for Fellows Council so we all connect better between meetings. Rosie Ferguson points out that RSA seems quite elitist and on the illustration of the RSA fellowship charter there is no ‘door in’ to the organisation.

16:45 Belinda and Matthew say thanks. Now we get a 15 min break before AGM starts at 5pm.

Nice ideas to come out of discussion include ‘bring a friend’ events where fellows always try to introduce a potential fellow to the RSA when they come to events


In Blog we trust


Arseniy Rastorguev (known to his UK friends as Archie) works in the Moscow office of MMD, a leading corporate communications firm for central and eastern Europe. Clients include IBM, Visa and HSBC.

MMD’s regional director in Moscow, Stephen Locke, is ‘a big fan of social media’. Archie started as a consultant with MMD’s technology team two years ago. He’s now working across corporate communications, charged with masterminding MMD’s embryonic social media arm.

I met Archie at Tuttle last week, but now we’re sitting in The Hospital, having a chat about the social media scenes in our respective cities.

Archie says local firms in Moscow tend to be very ‘top down’ and that he’s found a big difference between dealing with the straightforward pyramid hierarchies at home and the more matrix-ed multinationals: “In Russia, the CEO is very much ‘in charge’; with international companies it’s a very complex chain of command”.

Whatever their structure, all businesses show a similar caution when it comes to participative media:

“Companies perceive social media as too risky and too freakish. They see it as a nerd sitting there with a computer.”

In contrast with what most people might think in the UK, Archie cites Starbucks as one of the first companies to ‘get it’.

“Starbucks attempts to be a good company. It was one of the first companies (with www.mystarbucksidea.com) to understand that there isn’t a difference between PR and how your company really operates. Everyone loves Starbucks in Russia because the local coffee shops have bad service, terrible coffee and terrible food. We hope that Starbucks will kick out the local coffee shop owners.”

When most companies decide they want to do something with social media, says Archie, it always has to be on their terms:

“I like what Olga Rasulova of Edelman says (at least, I think it was her idea), that building your own social network is the equivalent of building a beautiful boutique in the middle of the desert. Many kilometres away, on the edge of the desert, there’ll be whole cities with streets and shops and ports and people. Your boutique may look amazing, but what’s the point? You need to go to where the people are.”

Archie knows all about where to find Russian consumers online. He’s been a paid-up member of the Russian blogosphere since he first got an invite code to Livejournal six years ago.

“My first degree was in political science. When I graduated, I got a job as an assistant to the director of the Higher School of Economics. At the same time, I was doing some writing for an educational journal. They were putting together a board of experts and invited me to join. This board based all their discussions on Livejournal.

“Livejournal is the core of the blogosphere in Russia. For four reasons, firstly, you can have a friends feature and can read all their blogs [similar to RSS]; second, you can have a closed community – post private posts to friends only; third, comments are threaded – this leads to an instensive and structured discussion, fourth, Livejournal is based around user communities. In Russia it’s the communities that are important rather than the individual bloggers themselves.

“The blogging community in Russia has grown up not around geeks but around the intelligentsia – academics and political commentators. Blogging gives people a way to express themselves outside the boundaries of traditional media. Since the press is not very opposition friendly, the blogosphere is the main outlet for opposing viewpoints.”

Blogging is so popular in Russia that Yandex – the leading Russian search engine – lists the top-ranking blogs on its home page every day – having your blog featured here, says Archie, is the equivalent to having your by-line on the front page of a national newspaper.

So, how about business? Why does he think blogging has great potential for business in Russia?

“Before Glasnost there was obviously a lot of propaganda but now the business press in Russia is pretty impartial. Journalists have mastered the art of the non-biased report. People are bored with the bland, balanced, two sides to every story approach.

“In the blogosphere, you don’t have to pretend to be impartial. People express their opinions – and then get corrected if they’re wrong. The press journalist won’t write a piece about a company putting out a crappy press release or a company’s PR representative constantly phoning him or her, but the blogger would. The blogger is much closer to the consumer.

“This is not really about ‘new’ media. It’s the normal human conversations we’ve always had but they’re now accessible.”

“With old style PR, as long as you were nice to the press, you’d be fine. Today, everyone is a media outlet. Companies are having to become more and more genuinely transparent. PR and corporate social responsibility are stretching from being a business function to being an integral part. And, more than anything else, the blogosphere is a stock-market for trust.”

The Moses Method (not)

I’m back from the break at Social Media Influence 2010 and this’ll be a blog of the last few sessions of the day.

Adam Brown, Director of Interactive Marketing Communications, DELL, is on stage, talking about storytelling (not directly connected to the London 2012 presentation, but stories seem to be a popular theme here).

15.45: Adam: Some stats I pulled on the airplane yesterday: mobile web will be bigger than desktop web by 2015; The UK spent 65% more time onljne in April 2010 than they did in April 2007, more time on social sites than on search; 79% say they rarely click on display ad; 25% of search results for top 20 brands are user-generated content. All this tells us we must get our stories into the social stream.

This is why authenticity, transparency and disclosure are so important. Example, every blog post should begin with: “Hi my name is [Adam] and I work for DELL”. This is not the Moses Method (Moses didn’t conduct focus groups when he was revealing the 10 commandments).

Through the eyes of our audience, our home page isn’t Dell.com, it’s Google.com. The primary source for people looking for information about Dell is Google (I said this two years ago). Today you could add Facebook, Twitter etc to that.

15.55: There are four steps to social media outreach: Review what’s being said, respond appropriately, record your message (1bn videos are being served up every day online) and redirect your audience.

16.00: “Fish were the fish are” is the mantra I have on my office wall: look for opportunities in the communities where people are already talking about you – these may not be in communities you control or communities that you own. We have to realise that we are not the key keepers of the brand – the brand is in the eye of the consumer. Social media is not a broadcast medium. It’s a narrowcast medium.

16.05: How do we get management buy-in? The holy grail is attributed sales. We can now attribute over $6m worth of sales to our Twitter handle. (We were able to include cookies and codes in our 140 character Twitter messages.) Net promoter score (?), brand value, sentiment and cost avoidance (in other parts of the organisation) also matter. Cost avoidance is probably the one that’s easiest to implement.

Sentiment? We ran two days at Dell: one when we invited in 15 people who ranted about how they hated DELL; another when we invited in people who raved about us. Some things came from both our ranters (detractors) and our ravers, so when you hear an issue coming from both camps, you know you need to do something about it.

Be a data junkie: there’s a lot of data out there and you just have to learn to track it.

[Note: After Adam’s slides there was a talk by Jeff Dachis and a brief closing discussion about social business, but I’m afraid I was flagging by that point – as I think were most people – and although Jeff gave a great pep talk I’ve heard him speak before on this topic a few times – as compensation for the lack of live blog, here’s a taster of Jeff’s ideas on social business design.]

Be the change you want to see

Continuing my live blog from Social Media Influence at the Marriott Hotel, London. Lee Bryant is up, talking about “Social business inside and outside”.

12.17: If you take the ideas of Christakis and Fowler’s book, Connected, and look at how individuals are impacted by their personal networks and the people attached to the people they know, then you will realise how powerful social networks are in a business. Zappos is a great example of a company which appreciates this (a shoe seller recently bought by Amazon for around $1bn)!

12.24: What if internal practice just can’t change? This acts against talent and initiative: Tall poppy syndrome + the Peter Principle = talent dampener.

12.27: questions for oubound social initiatives:

1. How does customer feedback really change the product?
2. Who actions market intelligence?
3. Can you respond to issues in close to real time?
4. Do marcomms, operations and IT collaborate?
5. Who acts on listening data? Just marketing?
6. How vibrant is your wider ecosystem? (look at what happened when BP forgot that!)

“As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product” – Jef Raskin.

12.30: Some useful social business accelerants:

1. Healthy internal, external social networks
2. Super-simple collaboration tools
3. Open data and knowledge flows
4. Sharing as a byproduct of doing work
5. A culture of getting things done together

Why the inside needs the outside:
1. Social customer, market intelligence
2. Create a place to co-ordinate action
3. Expose employees to the fresh air of real time customer feedback

Why the outside needs the inside:
1. A staging post for external campaigns
2. Plan and monitor comms actiivty
3. Connect customers with real sources of internal value deep in the business (people crave authenticity)

Uses a nice image of a made-up pig (“lipstick on a pig”) to show the danger of just using social media as a sticking plaster – of course, social media needs to be all the way through a company, (rather like a stick of seaside rock).

Customers don’t ♥ campaigns

I’ve moved over to the other stream at the Social Media Influence conference in London and continuing my live blog: this is the main conference stream (entitled “Social Media Influence”) – focusing on marketing. It’s not necessarily my main area of interest (nor that of this blog) but I’m interested in the crossover between external and internal comms, especially when it comes to management behaviour. Also, I really want to hear Anthony Mayfield talk as we were meant to meet up yonks ago when we were both writing our books, and didn’t manage to get it together.

12pm: Antony Mayfield and Ruth Speakman are on stage talking about “Beyond Campaigns”. This session is structured more as an informal chat than a panel discussion with presentations. The theme is down to the fact that while advertisers and marketeers might see their work in terms of campaigns, customers don’t see their relationship with a brand that way. Anthony: more people turn up to the M&S fan page on Facebook because they love the brand rather than down to one particular campaign.

12.05: Antony: The sound of an industry that is dying is when it keeps saying “we’re not dead”. You look at the cost of one TV spot and think what else you could do with that money.

12.14: Antony: social media is natural, human and a good way to experiment. It’s very unambitious.

[Close of session - sorry I only got the last few minutes of that one!]

It’s not ROI, it’s ROA!

Continuing my live blog from Social Media Influence in London. We’re back after the morning coffee break and I’m back in the Social Business Design stream. Up on stage is Julien Le Nestour, formerly of Schlumberger. He is going to tell us all about his idea of ROA (Return on Attention).

11.40: Julien asks us to solve a problem: the issues are framed slightly differently in two differently worded questions – they are essentially the same problem and the same choice of solution. Our reaction to the two questions shows us that “choices involving gains are often risk averse and choices involving losses are often risk taking”.

11.43: Macro-trend: attention is an increasingly-scarce resource. An organisation is not like “Care Bears” community – some people are going to hate you.

We need to understand ROA at individual level: Employees are putting up their own goals, based on their perception of the organisation. People are going to pursue their own goals, whatever they are. “The physical effect on the individual of the idea of death suggested by the collectivity”.

Usage, adoption, value creation through social media is simple: the employee will use it if he gets return on attention (as part of a defined workflow or not). In a lot of organisations, the hardware is often the weakest link. The ROA for the employee checking emails with Microsoft browser is worse than for those using Blackberry and iphone. In terms of management, what we should use is the aggregated and weighted ROA.

We should base the business case for social media on ROA not ROI.