Tag Archives: live blog

Live blog: How GitHub Makes Working Remotely Not Suck

I’m live blogging one of the morning keynotes at this year’s Devs Love Bacon conference. Coby Chapple of online developers’ forum, GitHub, is talking about Remote by Default: How GitHub Makes Working Remotely Not Suck.

As you may well know, I’m not a developer. I don’t even come near being one. But Mint CEO Cameron Price told me about GitHub a few years ago, and I’m interested in the way it works as a remote platform for its employees: it’s a flexible working thing, and that all feeds into my interest in how technology enables us to work differently, the way we want to (see the Beach with Wifi blog for some examples).
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From shorthand to live-blogging: my Liebster Award (part I)

That's shorthand for...
Thanks so much to the fabulous Events Northern for nominating me for a Liebster Award. The Liebster award is a peer-to-peer award passed around the blogging community. And there’s nothing like a bit of appreciation from your peers – Events Northern, you rock!

Here’s how the Liebster Award works:

Thank the person that nominated you and link back to their blog
– Display the award “badge” on your blog
– Answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you
– List 11 random facts about yourself
– Nominate up to 11 bloggers and let them know you have nominated them
– Set 11 questions for the bloggers you have nominated
– Post a comment on the blog post of the person that nominated you so they can read the post

So, first off, here are my answers to Events Northern’s questions:

1. When and why did you start blogging? I started blogging in 2005 when I was commissioned to write Monkeys with Typewriters. The thought of writing 80,000 words terrified me so I had the idea of interviewing people and writing up each one in a blog post. The blog posts became the first draft of my book.
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Live blog: Doug Kessler on “cutting the crap” from content marketing #SMM13

I’ll be live blogging some of the key talks from The Social Media Marketing Conference in London today. Please keep refreshing the page for updates.

Doug Kessler is a B2B marketer. He kicks off by reminding us that content marketing started out as a business to business thing – then the consumer marketers got hold of it. Now everybody’s doing it. And as content marketing goes mainstream it stops conferring advantage.

Content marketing is becoming increasingly about “home run pieces” – the stuff that really resonates with your target audience. You want to give your audience goodies over time. And you want to throw a few “home runs” in there. You want to get onto a home run path. Building a great content brand.

Why hit home runs?

1. They earn disproportionate goodies.
2. They improve the performance of all other content
3. They create engagement through shares
4. They give you shot at overcoming the biggest obstacle: inertia

Clearly there’s no formula for producing home runs – but you can create the right conditions to produce it. Here are some tips:

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Live blog of “The Elephant In The Room: Social Media in the Enterprise”

11:10am It’s a great panel line-up here at Hub Westminster with Will McInnes (Nixon McInnes), JP Rangaswami (Salesforce), Barney O Kelly (Fresh Networks) and Tejal Patel. Chair: Michael Chiu (McKinsey). This is a live blog so please keep refreshing the page for updates.

JP: Social media is intrinsically human – satisfies a human need.

Will: We need to think more about how we can pipe social tech and more about what business will become. When I wrote my book last year a big theme is change velocity: when you look at how Netflix destroyed Blockbuster and how Amazon destroyed Waterstones and Barnes & Nobel. The faster you can orient yourself, the faster you can observe what’s going on, decide what to do, and then act – the better: an approach taken from fighter pilots. We talk about social technologies but it’s like looking at communication purely through words when 90% of communication is through body language.

Barney: The sooner businesses start thinking about the next level of social, where social can take them in terms of recruitment etc, the better.

Tejal: At Nokia, we’re thinking a lot about e-commerce, such as how do we start converting fans into sales. There’s also a big focus on ROI. We have an internal tool called socializer, developed with Dachis, which

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RSA Fellowship Council Meeting 11 – follow the live blog here #RSAde

This is a live blog of the 11th meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council, starting at 1.30pm today. The meeting will be led by Bob Porrer (Chair) and Irene Campbell (Deputy Chair) – pictured. Keep refreshing the page for updates, and please use the hashtag #rsafc if you’d like to comment or ask questions via Twitter. 

If you’re a Fellow, please participate if you can – the more interactive and representative the Council is, the better for Fellows!  

The highlights from today’s agenda include:

  • Announcement from RSA Fellowship Council Chair Bob Porrer re resourcing for the regions and nations
  • Presentation from RSA Head of Technology, Clive Holdsworth, on the RSA’s Technology Strategy 2012-15
  • Review of how the Fellowship Council is working (or not!) led by Irene Campbell 

1330: Bob: Welcome everyone to the last meeting of the current Council. If you’re thinking of standing for election to the new Council, please ensure your nominations are in by midday on the 30 May [more information about upcoming RSA elections]. It’s been agreed with the trustee board that I will stand on with Irene as Chair and Deputy Chair for the first meeting of the new council in September.


As you know there was a working group established to look at resourcing across the RSA. It was agreed there should be some contigency allowed to make it possible to do things fairly quickly. I’ll discuss that in more detail later. The working group had very detailed discussions with all stakeholders. Conclusions? Inevitably we came up with a lot of operational issues, eg, understanding of developing support systems. The reoganisation of the Fellowship Dept is progressing well but lack of capacity is causing a slow service response in contenxt of growing activity in the FEllowship. We saw a need to support governance changes and formulation of the new regional/national teams.

We felt that if changes introduced this autumn were not resourced properly there was a big risk of failure. We suggested two additional programme/ regional managers (formerly known as network managers). We recommended £40K in 2012/14 budget for support against development, and to enhance Catalyst with an additional £15K for admin and to encourage match funding; also leadership training etc.

Our recomendations for future review include that the progress on above changes are reviewed and adjustments made (FC working group can monitor), also that we review the formula for direct funding of regional/national teams in March 2012, also more transparency in resourcing.

What I want to emphasize is that there will be improved resourcing for regional/national teams in teh coming year. So that’s a really positive outcome.

[Missed comments here because Posterous was playing up – running very slow]

Data protection

Bob: a new legal agreement has been approved. And regional/national chairs will now have access to email addresses in their area once they have signed the agreement.

Comment: consideration should be given to the fact that regional/national fellow databases should only be given to the incoming chairs: what is the point of giving them to outgoing chairs?

Bob: We’ll pass that comment on.

New working groups

Fellowship Council members are as follows:

Regional/ national teams: [sorry missed members will have to insert later]

Thematic networks: Wiard Stark, Ann Packard + Ruth Jindall

RSA Technology Strategy

1350: Clive Holdsworth: Hello I’m the RSA’s new head of technology. This presentation is the same as the one I gave to the trustee board. Reid Hofmann who set up LinkedIn and other venutres made a quote about “It’s not an IT strategy, it’s a technologys strategy”. We already have an intelligent organisation, it’s about making it work better in a more intelligent way. There are six key issues:

1. Most of RSA’s current technologies outdated. Lots of duplication of effort. Many need to be replaced or updated. But the strategy is about better business processes: how do we want to work both now and in the future, rather than let’s just get some cool technologies.

2. The technology strategy supports continuous improvement in how we work. So our intention is to avoid “big bang” approaches and instead work through better business processes. New CRM systems, social CRM systems as they’re called, are far more open and available to everyone. As a “do tank” the RSA doesn’t always have a very efficient way of organising things. We do some good stuff on the nings etc but whether it’s Catalyst project etc we need a better way of doing that.

3. The delivery of the new environment will be done progressively.

4. All of the benefits to fellows which were to be delivered by the former fellowship platform will be delivered by the new strategy, and more. The fellowship platform was built on getting information from our old CRM and that was always going to be a problem.

5. User-centred design (UCD/UX): this is a concept very close to my heart and is all about if you want something to be useful to users then you bring users in early on in the process. One thing we’ve done around that, because you can spend a lot of money on that, we’ve bought in external consultants as well as setting up a user-experience group. The work with Dachis Group is a three stage process. We started off with initial work internally with staff; we’ve just completed a series of behavoural interviews with fellows: how they want to work, why they want to be involved, we’ll publish that. And the final piece of work is looking at fellows collaboratively: we’re following one particular project in Kent. Again, it’s a continuous process.

6. Final point is setting some governance to this: we have a technology stragegy programme board – this acts as a way of scruitinising the project: we have to deliver a business case, show user evidence etc.

[Clive shows a complex, brightly coloured diagram of how he sees the technology strategy working, with around a dozen independent circles describing the current tech situation and a smaller number of inter-connected circles describing the future situation]

We have some quick wins that we’ve put in place to keep our energy and enthusiasm going.

[Clive shows an even more complex diagram]

All of the different services have to work for everyone. In the centre is our social business technology hub: what you can do is connect different parts of this technology together to deliver different services. These are all examples of the types of different service we do, eg: ‘core 1’ is managing our membership. The big piece of work is around workspaces: delivering projects and that s where we’ve got a couple of quick wins: we’ve been using Basecamp and have campfire in the middle (a collaborative chatter environment). We are trying it out: it’s rented software. One of our key strategic points is rent, before buy, before build. Then if it’s not what we want, we haven’t wasted 1000s of £ in investment. Basecamp is like that. The other pilot we’re running is Huddle. They’re a great UK company based on Silicon Roundabout. Michael wants to introduce Huddle for doing stuff around the Fellowship: offers more features than Basecamp and is very good on delivery.

A couple of other things around this is that these tools talk to each other. It’s a much richer source of data. Fellows can choose what information they want other fellows to see. You can take info from here and create a completely dynamic fellowship directory.

We had an endorsement from the trustee board and now we need to build a more detailed business case. Will present work around the first stage, the CRM, to the next programme board in June.

[Clive shows this most complex diagram yet: this one shows the complexity of social business technology board choices]

You can see how much choice we’ve got out there – it’s like Tesco’s!

Trustee comment: We did endorse this programme and one of the reasons we endorsed it was because Clive just kept on talking about connecting.

Comment: one of the things that’s frustrated me on this council has been the lack of facilities for us to network with each other. Could you tell me what’s happening on that?

Clive: I will certainly look into that.

Comment: If we’re looking at things like Catalyst bids, Huddle and Basecamp may be a bit of overkill.

Clive: We’re asking, what are the better ways of delivering projects? Are there any templates we can use? It’s all about ways of working, finding the best ways of working. Better reporting. We need to know which projects are successful. Huddle is good in that because everything can happen in a larger workspace.

Comment: Thank you it’s a real pleasure to hear a tech strategy that doesn’t want to re-work the internet. And can I have a copy of that last graphic?

Bob: You’ll all get a pdf.

Comment (cont): Is there a way of converting people who are members of the general public? Think about it in terms of converting people?

Clive: We can track behaviours and spot people who might be worth approaching.

Comment: I’d like something really simple. What if I’m a Yorkshire fellow and I want to see something happening in Yorkshire? What I find difficult about current situaiton is we haven’t got that.

Clive: Well, that’s something we hope to change with this strategy.

Bob: thank you very much Clive [applause]

Fellowship Council review

1420: Irene: I remember what was here before. We had an advisory council, that didn’t last long. What we have now is so much better.

Matthew Taylor: and much more influential…

Irene: yes. And through us the fellows’ voice can be heard. The trustees ask for things to be sent back to us. We started with a blank page. Now in quite a good place. A new council starts in September and I think it’s a good time for us to take stock. it would be good to pass something onto the new chair saying this is where we are, this is where we’ve come from. Could you have a think about what’s worked and what could be improved.

[10 mins discussion]

1440: Irene: OK, so let’s feed back: what have we done well, what have we acheived in the last 3 years?

Comment: I’ve been involved for 18 months. When I started, the FC was seen as a talking shop, and since I’ve been involved the FC is now seen as affecting the future direction of the whole organisation. It seems to me.

Irene: so, do we feel we’re representative of the fellows?

Comment: No! As the years have rolled by, we’ve had less space to initiate our own agendas and have been more and more responding to presentations set on powerpoints. We don’t have a real opportunity to set our own agenda.

Irene: There’s two things here, first for the future, we could have more interaction together. For the last few years we’ve done an awful lot of process, but that was important because we’ve influenced the future governance here.

Matthew: I think it’s really really important, there was a report produced that came to various conclusions: memberships down, not sure what role was, governance a nightmare. Many orgs have stopped operating because of those goverance issues. Fellowship council is growing in its influence; one of the battles we have on the trustee board is that we shoudl look into this or that, but we can say don’t worry, the fellowship council is looking into this. The fellowship council needs to be in charge of fellowship matters but not always second guess the trustee board. Doesn’t want to emulate the trustee board. Wants to focus on matters relevant to fellowship.

Comment: activity has shifted to various working groups and thats a very positive shift. The more active council is outside of these meetings the better.

Irene: there’s something here about we dshiudl be more acitve outside of these meetings that I’d like to pick up.

Comment: one of developmetns is when there’s a sub-committee set up, the question is always, who’s the fellowship councillor on this group. Taht;s a good thing.

Comment: I’d disagree with not being able to set agenda. I always assumed that if I talked to Bob and Irene about what I’d like on the agenda, I could.

Comment: that’s not the point I was making.

Irene: Can we stay with this a bit longer?

Comment: If you look at the working groups on this agenda, they’re always at the tail end. Many of us don’t even know who’s on the working group. We should have been passed the technology strategy paper beforehand.

Comment: In terms of future there is scope for newsletters and journal etc is to make a bit more of the fellowship council.

Irene: yes I hope that will happen.

Comment: we started off today by looking at the improved deal in the regions and that wouldn’t have come about if the FC didn’t exist. That has come about because of this forum. Not just a talking shop.

Comment: we should congratulate ourselves on gettigng through the quagmire of governance

Comment: we feel at our table that Catalyst has just gone unbelievably well. And there has been more regional representation and inclusion.

Comment: I’ve been able to go back to my region and say, you’re not alone! And I’ve met some great people through the council.

Comment: The digital engagement working group has worked really closely with staff like Michael and Matthew Mezey and I think made some real changes. The new head of IT and the current technology strategy wouldn’t be happening now the way they are if it wasnt for fellow involvement (through RSAde) in the early stages. We’ve also now got a network of regional digital champions.

Comment: [sorry I missed this].

Matthew: future nominees to the trustee board should be engaging more with the other trustees.

Comment: Is there a chart that shows which regions have been visited by which trustee in the last 12 months?

Matthew: I could show you a list of Dutch mountains…no that’s not not true, Don Pinchbeck has been very good.

Comment: we need now to move forward on sharing best practice and focusing on projects.

Irene: we’ve discussed before acting as conduits for projects.

Comment: we actually don’t talk about what’s happening in the regions. You pick up information over coffee or lunch but that’s it.

Irene: maybe a written report from each region/nation?

Comment: I’m a bit worried about the amount of work we expect from people. Being chair is a lot to ask of people: both Tessy and Bob have put in a tremedous amount of work. Otherwise we’ll see people backing away from RSA saying they dont’ want it to take over their life.

Comment: is there any reason why fellowship councillors can’t see all 14 newsletters?

Comment: with Huddle etc all this can be possible.

Comment: how about a paper from Michael saying these are the highlights from the regions.

Comment: I’d like to defend Don Pinchbeck. He’s been splendid in Yorkshire and is a model that other trustees could do well do follow.

Bob: It’s been a hell of a lot of work for me as chair because of governance stuff. I hope not so much for the next chair. We’ve been successful and we get an awful lot coming to us and that clogs up the agenda. The new council needs to have more discursive stuff and also be careful that we don’t get nittygritty practical stuff coming up from the regions. I think we have achieved a great deal. A little bit to my surprise. WE’ve had a hell of a lot of change in a couple of years.

Irene: We get 3 hours here – would you make it into a day?

[Resounding yes]


1520: CEO’s Report

Matthew Taylor: 5 or 6 years ago the organisation was very well managed very sound but not achieving as much impact as we wanted. We now have lots of numbers but I think the real place for us to improve in the next two years is an emphasis on quality. One of our big challenges together is working with the fellows – make sure the support we give is around those projects which have a game changing capacity. It’s really great when we see Catalyst projects getting third party funding. Three years ago it was kind of anything to get noticed. Now our uber criteria is to pass a technology strategy which can be used by Yorkshiremen.


We need to try to spot the links between debates. There’s been a lively arguement on LInkedin about whether we should do more in manufactures and commerce. Thats a valid argument. We do have a lot more business speakers. But maybe not enough. These are genuine issues. We dont’ have much of a legacy in manufacturing. Five years ago the projects were funded by trustees and the fellowship team was five people. Adam Lent has to raise money for projects. it woudl be great if you could sometimes go into debates and make those connections. The more fellowship councillors could join those debates and make themselves available, would be great.

Any questions?


Report back from Trustees

David Archer (Trustee board Fellowship Council rep): most of the things we discussed have already been covered. Trustees very keen that if there’s more funding, we should get more fellowship councillors involved in the Catalyst working group. Also, the rennovation of the House is continuing apace – both Andy Gibson and myself ahve been in there with our hard hats – all Fellowship Councillors will be invited to grand re-opening. Finally, Luke Johnson’s time as chair of the RSA comes to an end at the time of the AGM this year. We’ve appointed some headhunters (Veritas) to both sift applicaitons from fellows and look for potential outsiders. Don Pinchbeck is chairing the committee that runs the process. If you want to see the ad straight away, I believe it’s on the Vertitas website now.

Comment: Will the Great Room still be available for Fellows’ use once a month?

David: yes, it’s hoped so. A regular timeslot every month, eg: first Tuesday. There should be time allocated for fellowship use and its up to the FC to work out how that’s managed.

Matthew: we’ll charge thousands of pounds for the Great Room and need to make sure that fellows’ priviledge isnt’ abused. For each event, there will have to be really clear positive outcomes for the RSA rather than just a jolly.

Comment: you said something in the paper about increasing the number of Catalyst bids? I don’t think it’s a quality issue I think it’s a quantity issue.

David: Fellowship councillors should help on both counts but especially helping with the quality of bids before they get to the submission stage.

Bob: thank you and now over to Adam.


1535: Adam Lent, Director of Programme: there’s a lot going on but if I don’t mention it, doesn’t mean we’re not doing it. I’ll very quickly look through the three main areas of work:

Firstly, enterprise: we’re trying to get a major project off the ground around innovation in employability  – noone at the moment is looking at that range of innovation and how to learn from it. We’re looking at schemes going on around the country to see what we can learn. We’re looking at RSA Premiums (prizes for innovation) with Google.

Michael Ambjorn: that last one actually came out of the RSAde group attending a hackathon so another example of how the FC has influence.

Adam: We’re looking at manufacturing and technology. As a design led project, we’re looking at closed loop (no waste) manufacturing – potentially turning the UK into a centre for no-waste manufacturing. We’ve also got relatively smallscale projects around useful investment. Finally, probably at the earliest stage of investment, is doing a lot more work alongside young entrepreneurs. This is about mobilising the RSA’s assets and networks to support a whole range of young entrepreneurs (under 29) – giving those people access to a whole range of wise older heads.

Re education, we now have three members in our family of schools (academies). We don’t want to grow too quickly. Probalby the best thing to come out of our family is that one of the outstanding schools is now helping another school which is struggling slightly. There is a new blog for Opening Minds.

Comment: Wales is very interested in using the Opening Minds curriculum.

Adam: Thanks that’s great. The Academies Commission is going to report by November – we want to report as quickly as possible – it will be looking at how the rapid expansion of academies across the UK can be managed. Finally in July we’ll be publishing a report on the so-called Middle Tier – with a lot of schools becoming autonomous (academies), there’s a big debate in govenment about how this shoudl be managed.

Community and public services: West Kent recovery capital. We’re looking at how you drive up public sector productivity at a time of austerity. We think you need to be much more strategic and thoughtful about how you apply cuts. Citizen Power Peterborough will be ending in July – the final report from that will be published in September. We want to develop an RSA understanding of what citizen engagement means. We’re also looking at how social networks can drive local enterprise (Networks and local enterprise).

Projects relaunch: interim paper has been approved by the board. We need to come up with a new name. Hoping to get a group of marketing and branding experts together to help me. Launch event in September.

Fellowship involvement: We;re develping a clear strategy and process about how to get fellows more involved in projects. A key factor is that project staff work incredibly hard to run the project, raise money etc, and need to communicate with fellows in that context. We’ve created a new post for someone in the networks team to implement this strategy. I’m convinced doing that properly is a full-time job. We’ve appointed Sam Thomas to that role.

Profile and influence: our work on education is clearly leading the way. Our report on police got lots of media coverage and broadcast. Shows we can do a lot with something small but well-timed and focused. It’s good: our early stage projects are getting a lot of interest from government and the media.

Comment: many thanks I thought that was very valuable. A lot of educational activity in the RSA seems to be focused on influencing policy. You’ve got to involve civil society more generally in the educational discourse and not simply respond to the policy-makers’ agenda.

Bob: And that’s another reason why we need to take these projects out to the regions.

Fellowship survey report

1600: Josef Lentsch: as you know 22% of fellowship responded to this year’s survey. The RSA is in a fairly good position – our members are relatively loyal, but things can and should be improved. This includes things like the Skillsbank and Fellowship directory. We need to look at how we can further tailor fellowship journeys according to your motivations. Some fellows want to engage. Some simply want to support. We need to look at ways of making the website more informative, for example. The regional data is quite sensible.

Comment: when’s this going to be made public?

Michael: we are holding the newsletter for this so very shortly. But the regional data will not be published – it will be given to the regional teams.

Meeting of Regional/National chairs

Keith: We had a very good turnout. As Irene says, Alan Bossley from the West said it wasn’t going to be a sit around and chat so they did this good way of working and we all had a really good time: what’s the role of the regional chair, how should we be etc. We had quite a wide-ranging discussion. We were all in danger of having a good time and agreeing with each other. Which is not like the RSA at all. There was a great feeling of unanimity that we were all moving forward together after a time of great wrangling. Sharing experiences in public was a very worthwhile experience.

Comment: It was a very safe place.

Irene: Is it possible that we could circulate the paper? (on the outcome of what the chairs feel they can contribute in their role in the new governance structure in the regions).

Comment: can I just ask who’s thinking of standing again?

[Around half the room – 20 people put their hands up]

Comment: thanks to Jemima for all her hard work in chairing the Digital Engagement working group.

<< blush >>

Michael: The international working group has set up a group of connectors to help fellows connect to each other in regions outside the UK. You can see who the connectors are here.

[Big thanks to Matthew Mezey for getting the connectors’ page up and running and also for the list of Fellowship resources ]

Comment: I’d like to thank Bob and Irene for all their hard work in chairing and co-chairing the council.

[resounding applause]

Bob: thank you. I think we have moved on quite significantly and I’m very pleased. I’d like to also thank Michael, Lou and the whole Fellowship team – amazing to see how hard they all work. And I thihk that’s a good point to call this meeting to a close.

Meeting closed.

RSA Fellowship Council liveblog – how do we measure progress?

1330: The seventh meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council has just kicked off and there are 12 apologies – clearly some members prefer to be outside in the glorious spring sunshine 😉 I’ll be liveblogging the whole meeting here so keep refreshing the page for updates.

Matters arising

1335: Irene Campbell (FC deputy chair) on what we should actually be doing as a Fellowship Council and whether we are actually achieving it. She says this is an issue that’s been taxing her a great deal over the past two years. There are four bullet points on what we do: house-focused stuff (we spend a great deal of time doing this); regionally-focused; liaison role – reporting back from individual Fellows and administrative.

1336: I don’t think the regional focus has developed very much at all. Our liaison role – sharing the best practice from the regions so we can learn about them here at the FC; hasn’t been going on at all. We do also represent the individual Fellows in our regions. How are we doing that? How are we speaking to them?

The final bullet point was an administrative one, how should we be logging the achievements (or not) of the Fellowship Council. I don’t think we’re doing this either.

How about we actually have an away day – or away session – where this stuff is discussed, outside of the House?

1340: comment: I doubt the fellows in my region even know who their representatives are.

Comment: all these issues seem to be around engagement and we do have a “digital engagement” group but that’s only focused on engagement digitally (obv.)

Comment: a lot of discussion over governance and a lot of changes, I don’t think the structure is quite clear yet.

Comment: are the emails of council members on the FC members page? So people know how to contact them.

Discussion about emails and email addresses with no clear outcome.

Comment: re the recent fellowship survey, we should look at how fellows are engaging now and where there are gaps and how Council can fill those gaps.

Comment: we spoke about doing an induction session for new fellows in specific areas (I’m from Bristol) but nothing has materialised.

Comment: in South Central we run induction evenings for new fellows. They’re actually quite a useful retention device.

1347: Irene: all these are really good ideas and I’ll pick them up from the minutes (or liveblog).

Comment: new fellows get a welcome letter, but then nothing happens. The most common question is who’s a fellow locally?

Matthew Taylor: first of all there’s been a major shift in how we recruit fellows: most fellows are now recruited by other fellows, or because they approach the RSA because they are fans of its work. So that’s helped becasue we’ve got fellows coming in with a better idea of what the RSA is.

One idea being floated on the trustees is that every new fellow has an induction interview where we can find out what they’re expectations are and try to meet them. Using this group to bounce ideas off would be great.

Comment: this would be great. In Scotland we’re developing an induction pack for all fellows which we;re sending out prior to the Scottish AGM. It’s a two-way street. I think that message should come from the central body. I like Matthew’s idea about having a conversation, face to face or otherwise.

1350: Irene: thank you very much. I can presume you’re all in favour of me looking more into this and I’ll take it forward.

Bob: it is moving forward, perhaps not as fast as some would like. Okay, on to the next item.

Governance Advisory Group

1354: Just to remind people what the GAG [pronounced “Gee-Ay-Gee” people, not the other way] is actually all about: it looks at the composition of the trustee board, including sub-committees etc. [Note: sorry there was more on this slide but I didn’t get it]. The GAG It needs to find the right balance between proper representation of the Fellowship, efficiency and effectivesness in manageing the RSA and its resources, meeting the requirements of the Charity regulators, minimising bureaucracy, developing a governance structure that best reflects the purpose and aims of the RSA.

We need to think about a communications strategy – David will update:

David: we’re keen to ensure that FC, fellows etc have a say in proposals. Aim is to get a draft out to fellowship council and regional chairs around 7 May. Get it out to fellowship via website by 7 June. With feedback gathered back by 4 July. We’re conscious there’s a lot of different people to reach. We have to think about what goes on paper, what on the website etc.

Anne: we felt it was important for individual fellows to have their own chance to respond, not just through their committees.

Comment: we need to come together to discuss this. It’s a fairly significant piece of work. We need to discuss and then vote on the proposals. As a body we should endorse or not.

Bob: it would be useful to have an open discussion.

Comment: theres the possiblity we make this an over complex consultation.

Comment: maybe a wiki would be best for the fellowship council.

Comment: some fellows aren’t even on email.

David: we’re mailing papers to the fellows who aren’t on email.

Comment: I’m not in favour generally of wikis but in this situation it might be the easiest way.

Comment: I think we need a proper meeting of the Council to discuss this. We need to give it the gravity and weight it deserves.

Comment: we’ve already had a great deal of discussion around this issue.

Bob: I am sensing we should do this electronically.

Comment: if we have to vote, I’m not sure how we do that electronically.

Is the draft report going to go to the Fellowship Council before anyone else?

David: no it will go to the FC and the regional chairs at the same time. Otherwise we won’t have time to finalise it before it needs to be included in the papers going out for the AGM.

Comment: it’s right to talk about the right structure but surely it’s up to the GAG to make the final decision. It shouldn’t need a substantial amount of input from us.

Comment: our role is to advise. The question is, are we content to put in our input as individuals or do we need to come together as a group?

Comment: I feel that if possible, there should be a collective view from the Fellowship Council prior to the AGM. Either we develop a collective view electronically or we have to have a extra-ordinary meeting of the FC.

Bob: I think it’s up to the GAG to comment constructively how to accommodate this feedback.

David: that would be possible. Draft report goes out on the 25 May.

Comment: the digital option is to have a draft discussion and then have a special meeting with a one item agenda where we vote as to whether we support it or not. Do we need to vote to endorse it? I don’t know.

Bob: I think the chances are the FC will agree with 85% of it anyway.

Comment: exactly. The main objections are likely to come from the Fellowship itself. So let’s not focus too much on what the FC wants but more on what the FEllowship as a whole wants.

Bob: Irene and I can get a brief summary of the consensus.

Comment: the advantage of a wiki is that the comments are all available centrally.

Bob: I think we should look into setting up a wiki and that’s something the FC members on the GAG should focus on.

David: GAG next meet on 5 May. We can then publish timetable – give you a clear idea – and get comments back from this group.

1415: Bob: these are the specific issues on which GAG has requested comments.

First: the proposals for governance: that the Fellowship Council should move to 5 co-opted members (to ensure representation) and 35 elected members including 14 elected regional chairs. All these elections would take place at the same time through a ballot of all fellows in each region. This is a big change for regional chairs because at the moment different regions do different things: usually the chair is proposed by the committee, and then endorsed at regional AGMs. It’s a bit of a mess. Holding the elections at one time would mean more publicity and hopefully more fellows voting.

Matthew: there’s a paper going to next GAG meeting about regional governance – we want to give regions scope for having the kind of model they wish to have (panel or committee selection) and move from AGM to regional conference – making it an event for broader discussion.

Comment: it seems fair that anyone who wants to become a regional chair can just get enough people to vote for them and then become chair.

Bob: some regions have different structures: there’s the question of continuity: sometimes the deputy automatically becomes the next chair. At the moment, it’s difficult for anyone to challenge this system. If you are elected as regional chair you become ex-officio member of the Fellowship Council [but you don’t have to take this role up]

Comment: I don’t want to increase the bureaucracy but anyone who wants to stand for chair should at least have been on the regional committee for a year.

Comment: I think it’s up to the fellows to decide that.

Comment: what if you want to stand for the Fellowship Council but you don’t want to be a regional chair?

Comment: I think there’s a bias built into these options. The more dynamic model is more complex. The traditional model is still there. The model we’ve got is Fellowship Council members activating the regional committees. But the committees should be adopting a much more grassroots, regional approach.

Comment: re electing the chair, I don’t think it matters if we have panel or committee. The risk is having someone elected who has no experience of the regional committee or the fellowship council. There should be some qualification element.

Comment: the only criterion you should need is being a member of the fellowship. I have a problem with the issue of chairs automatically becoming FC members. I thought the whole idea of the FC replacing the advisory council was to bring in fresh blood and fresh ideas?

Comment: we need to build some links because that’s what has been missing in the structure. We’re all getting hung up on the electoral process. Why do we have to have all the elections at the same time?

Bob: I think the idea was that if you were elected to the FC, you should be elected by the people in your region. And the same goes for the regional chairs.

Comment: the flipside of that is that you look at de-stablising some of the regions.

Comment: there are two roles: being a regional chair is different to being on the Fellowship council. It’s a great idea to encourage people to engage in a democratic process.

Comment: I don’t know enough about regional committees and how they’re structured but it does occur to me that this a bloody big job. I wonder how many people might actually be able to do this job.

Bob: This was actually requested by the regional chairs.

Comment: no it wasn’t.

Comment: I believe that there is a reasonable number of reginoal chairs already on the Fellowship Council.

Comment: that might be a happy coincidence.

Bob: The idea is to cement the link between the regions and the fellowship council. The GAG have been giving a great deal of consideration to this.

Comment: the other issue is the regional representation: so is the intention that everyone on the FC should be representing the interests of a region? So what’s the role of the FC?

Comment: what’s the point of us being elected to represent regions when we don’t get a vote on anything anyway? It seems to me that representing the regions is a particular skillset.

Comment: I represent a region and I haven’t found it too ardous – we give feedback after meetings, the lines of communication are open. I think.

Comment: but I don’t define my relationship with the RSA by where I come from. It’s defined by my interest and the projects I’m involved with.

Matthew: that’s a good point. We wanted to ensure a good representation of skills on the FC. It’s interesting to note that the co-opted FC members are younger than the elected ones, for example.

Comment: I’m not here to represent my region because they didn’t vote for me. I’m here to help with other things.

Comment: the entire regional set up gets £40,000 a year. That’s woefully inadequate. There is a confusion and Matthew this needs to be addressed. The regional managers get £700,000. Where does that money go?

Matthew: the figure is nothing like £700,000. That’s the total cost of fellowship services. Everything that network managers do is a reflection of what the fellows ask them to do. If the regional group decides it wants to spend money on ski-ing, painting, that’s what the money gets spent on. As long as the use is within the charitable remit of the RSA, the money gets allocated. There is an issue aroudn getting regional and network managers to work together. That’s what we have to work on. It’s not about network managers being sent from here. We have 9 network managers with an average salary of £23,000.

The big question is getting that bottom up resource and Catalyst to work better. We can’t mandate regions to work well with network managers.

Comment: we need to keep this simple enough so that everyone understands it.

Bob: what I’m getting here is that we need to see the right mix of skills and backgrounds. Can I basically say that there is general support for what is proposed [FC becoming a council with 35 elected mems, including 14 regional chairs]?

Comments: NO!!

David: we don’t have to vote on this now.

Matthew: to be helpful, GAG was set up by the Fellowship on a vote, with delegated powers. It seems to me that if we go back and disagree with what the GAG says, then we risk making the Fellowship rather angry. GAG was set up by the Fellowship. If we start having minority reports, we could be in a lot of trouble. These should simply be recommendations.

1452: Bob: Let’s take on board all those comments.The GAG is also looking for a combination of 6 elected and 6 co-opted members on the Trustee board.

Comment: but how about the 5 co-opted members of the FC?

Matthew: it could be said that the co-opted members of the FC weren’t eligible.

Comment: I think we’ve done this item to death. Can we move on?

Interim arrangements

1455: Bob: I’ve circulated a paper. The idea is to extend the office of current elected FC members by one year. But as the idea is that we should be moving to a more elected council, maybe we should just leave things as they stand. Are people happy with that?


Fellowship survey

1500: Matthew: There was a lot of discussion last year about what fellows wanted. So we decided to run a survey on what fellows wanted. The survey run 9-28 March. WE got 1,950 responses. 10% of fellowship. It was incredibly representative, more men than women not much we can do about that. Slight under representation of over 75s.

98% were aware of the Journal.

94% were aware of the lectures.

Surprisingly, RSA Animate has been watched by 27m people around the world but only 23% of members are aware of them. By the way, RSA Animate has been nominated for a Webby award: please vote for RSA Animate here!!

90% were aware of their local network.

The general description of RSA fellows is “happily unengaged”

Nearly 20% have attended a local network event in the last year.

70% were aware of the Felllowship council, although a significant percent weren’t sure what they think about us [Oh dear!]

56% are aware of Catalyst.

41% are positive about the RSA – feel it’s got better in recent years. Less than 2% feel it’s got worse.

26% of Fellows want us to focus investment on web based services and support (top choice for investment).

Only 8% weren’t aware of any of the RSA’s public platforms.

There’s lots more interesting stuff and I’ll try to find if full results of survey are posted online anywhere.

1510 Break for coffee

1530 Back from coffee; brief discussion as to whether FC members are happy to have their email addresses given on RSA website; suggested that links to LinkedIn/ Ning profiles might be preferable.


RSA Strategy

1534 A strategy paper outlining aims for 2011-13 was circulated with the agenda. What do FC members think/ any comments?

Comment: this seems very ambitious, lots of stuff in there – how will RSA meet its ambitions?

Matthew: yes we need to ensure our aims are matched with resources.

Comment: is there something that links the results of the survey with the strategy? I like the strategy but it is aspirational. What does the survey tell us about the granularity for the potential of fellows projects etc.

Matthew: we hope for some cross-tabulation. If we get a region with only ten respondents it might be hard to do that. Engagement is very age-related. Young fellows tend to be more engaged and more positive. There obviously are exceptions but generally that’s the pattern. We’ve got to look for multiple levels of engagement. The uber-task we have is aligning eveything we do: ensuring that each bit of the RSA turns another bit of the RSA. More and more fellows are coming together to discuss the same issue: what can places offer at a local level? This ties in with the top level research we’re doing on place-shaping. When you start to see that, then we have a proposition that no other organisation does. There are a lot of thinktanks etc. Number 10 find the idea of an organisation combining grassroots input with professional insight is a very useful things.

Comment: by September you hope to have 10 per cent of fellows in the directory seems a bit unambitious.

Matthew: you can’t force fellows.

1540: Matthew: we have much more discussion on the trustee board about fellowship matters than we’ve ever had. Our levels of engagement are higher than ever. Every weekly meeting we get input on what the fellows are doing. I’m being asked all the time on how you get these levels of engagement going.

1543: Comment: how about new fellows? No of new fellows has gone down.

Comment: our strategy on fellows is quality not quantity. We’ve seen two massive bursts and that relates directly to direct mailing campaigns. Then we get a bunch of fellows joining who don’t really know. We want to reduce the number of fellows who join AND the number of fellows who leave. So we get a stronger, more engaged fellowship. Growth follows engagement not the other way around.

Comment: what have you been doing in relation to retention?

Josef (RSA operations manager): Retention starts with recruitment. We are making sure we contact fellows throughout the year personally. When they leave, we need to find out why. We’re looking at conducting an exit interview.

Comment: the main reason people leave is not getting time to get involved, and money.

RSA digital engagement

1550: Jemima (yes, me, your faithful liveblogger) gives a brief overview of RSAde and asks for input from FC.

Comment: you should speak to RSA projects about semantic representation of their work.

Comment: data visualisation becoming increasingly important; might be a tie-in with RSA animate.

Matthew: we’re about to launch a competition to find the next step after RSA Animate.

Comment: one of problems is RSA brand doesn’t have a personality. There’s a distinct lack of personality.

Comment: Euan Semple is writing about this a lot. His line is organisations don’t tweet, people do. And the personality of an organisation comes its people.

RSA website review

1555: Josef (operations manager) runs through changes to the RSA website. (Sorry I would list them all here but you’ll see them when the site is refreshed next month).

RSA brand redesign

1605: Matthew: the new logo is meant to be a platform, so that the space below “RSA” can be used for any words or phrase depending on the context (eg “21st Century Enlightenment”), and it can be in any colour, so for example when addressing fellowship issues, it will be in green, which is the fellowship colour.

The reason the RSA website doesn’t have the new logo yet is because we are going to incorporate that when we re-launch the site next month.

Chief Executive’s Report

1610: Generally agreed that this was really useful to read and requested that this be circulated regularly.

Comment: I’d like to extend thanks and appreciation to Matthew for sharing this.

Comment: are you and the trustees responsive?

Matthew: there are a few fellows who are hostile to the way in which the RSA is going, but there’s not a great deal I can do to respond to that.

Comment: there’s a lot of work to be done, that’s why I’m here. A lot of work at the RSA is with English government but a lot of good work happens over the borders in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Matthew: there is a history of collaboration with Scotland. We share your frustration that we do not do as much work with Wales as we’d like.

Report back from Trustee Board

1615: Zena Martin: I’ll just report back on a couple of things. First, the family of schools. We’re pleased to report that Whitley Abbey in Coventry would like to be part of the family when it becomes an academy in July. The board’s approved the creation of a new committee. That’s really exciting. It’s very near and dear to my heart. At the last meeting there was concern about the FC not being consulted about the family of schools, strategy paper etc. The board said the issue was not so much about transparency, it was about timing. Really it’s got to be a case by case basis.Sometimes the FC can be included a bit more and sometimes it can’t. On a good note, the FC has seen a lot more of the survey than the trustees have seen. As we take more shape and really understand our role, we will see more of engagement.

Bob: the key issue seems to be to plan as far as possible so that we will be consulted.

Comment: With regards to the family of schools, the point really was that if we could balance this off a bit – it was really about ciriculum and not so much about academy, if there was stuff we could share with other educational establishments, that would be great.

Zena: we want to make sure there’s consistency across the board. We don’t want schools adopting the opening minds curriculum when they haven’t been accredited to do so.

Matthew: it was intended to be a collaborative model ffom the very beginning.

Comment: It shouldn’t just be about schools. That curriculum could be used in community centres etc.

Comment: I’ve sent a letter to Michael Gove pointing out that academies are not necessarily superior institutions to other schools. The verdict is still open. There are good academies and bad ones. This structural change may not be the most significant factor.

Matthew: there are a number of schools that want to be an academy, and they’re deciding who to be an academy with. If you look at Tipton, that’s a very progressive academy.

Comment: this academies issue, I’m still not clear on what the RSA is contributing. Looking at the survey, only 17% wanted money to be invested in education.

Comment: this is a completely different model to the Tiptree academy where there was a lot of capital investment.

David: The new Great Room project: we can open up the room to give access to simultaneous events nationwide. The idea we’re floating is that every month there should be a free fellowship activity. I’d like to talk in more detail but there’s not enough time. The plan is to complete it by 2012 as it would be so great for Olympic-related events. There’s an opportunity for people in this room to get involved in focus groups.

Matthew: our new house manager Matthew Bates has seen that with the new Great Room, we can have two big events going on at any one time.

Reports from Working Groups

1630 Bob: Any questions on the reports from working groups?



Bob: Just to note there is a meeting coming up for regional chairs on 13th May. Hopefully that will tease out issues which we can then bring forward.

We dicussed holding the FC meeting at the Tipton academy but that proved tricky. Are all agreed we should organise a visit to the academy as a separate event?


Next meeting

Re the next meeting, would be like to incorporate feedback/ presentations from regions/ other groups on good practice?


Comment: maybe we should take governance off the agenda, then we’d have more time!

Comment: if we had a Fellowship Council wiki then we could actually discuss a lot of this stuff online.


Comment: maybe next December we might have some time for a bit of informal networking?!!

Matthew: the budget might stretch to that.


Comment: I was hoping we could have a few minutes on the agenda so I could take back to my group some ideas from the fellowship council. My group (Norwich) wants some guidelines back. So you have an intersection between what’s going on nationally and what’s happening locally.


1638: Bob: any other business? Nope, okay.


Meeting closed









How British American Tobacco use social tools for employee engagement

Next up at Social Media Week London, David Richard Hare from British American Tobacco (BAT). This is a live blog so keep refreshing the page for updates.


15.54: BAT had ‘ten years of failure’ with online communities. It was difficult to get people to engage with the tools. 


We tried five platforms over ten years. There were too many barriers to communication: people forgot their passwords, changed jobs etc.


In 2005 we tried a workshop called ChangeNet. We realised our approach was wrong again: we were concentrating on the technology too much. At the workshop, people began to build relationships, they are now able to interact virtually as friends. Adding this human direction was a big step for us. It was partly because we (the online engagement team) moved from IT to HR.


CommunityBuilder was a tool that showed employees how to get people engaged with their projects. 


In 2006, we put a World Cup Forum up. Immediately became the most visited place on our intranet. It didn’t take up too much of people’s time but helped break down barriers within the organisation. There was a big spike in activity during the world cup.


In 2007, we set up a Management Trainee Community. Now one of the most active communities: people set up weekend social activities together etc.


Tom, our Change and Communications Manager (Global Operations and IT), came to us in 2004 and said he wanted to try blogging. It took about 3 attempts but in the end we developed something ourselves in Lotus Notes – gave him an area within his site where he could blog. He linked his everyday blog very well to the business world and business strategy, and others followed.


One new blogger was particularly suspicious of social media, but she’s a marketer and she realised that when you get your stories in front of people, that’s what engages them. She’s now one of our most prominent bloggers.


One colleague started blogging about how the organisation needed to open up, eg use Facebook and YouTube and had around 8,000 page views per blog post. Now BAT is considering his proposals.


BlogCentral (BAT’s internal blog network – given same name as IBM’s) monthly users started out at around 400, grew to around 2,500 by April 2010. 


16.13: I was pushing for a Facebook like internal network for years. We had an internal directory (called Connect – also ‘stolen’ from IBM). When Twitter arrived it seemed the time was right to something that combined the three (profiles/social networks with updates with real-time connections). In 2008 we built Connect: went live in July 2008. We’ve linked it to Active Directory, we’ve linked it to SAP.


Suddenly we’ve got this global directory, this huge network. You go in and see activity updates first thing in the morning. 25,000 registered users (everyone who uses the intranet has to sign up to it).


16.20: opens up for questions.


Question: the user experience people want is actually very different from what IT departments inevitably provide.


Question: what happens when people leave?


Andy (from IBM): I might retain info from corporate related groups on external networks. For example, people leave company but still show up on its facebook page. IBM has set up an alumni network as a way of engaging with formal employees.


Richard: that’s a problem with Yammer: you can’t throw people off it.


Comment: where next? Are there plans to go down the 2.0 course? 


Richard: when we released Connect, we asked people what they’d like to see. We don’t really have a high level strategy.


Question: it seems a big role for us as internal communicators is focusing on coaching management on how to communicate?


16.36: yes!


16.37 onto next speaker – see new post.


RSA Fellowship Council – live blog of sixth meeting with new chair Bob Porrer

1330: I’m live blogging the RSA Fellowship Council (FC) meeting at RSA House, London, which is about to start. Please keep refreshing the page for updates. 

1332: New chair Bob Porrer welcomes everyone to the meeting (Go Bob!)

He and (new deputy chair) Irene Campbell will aim:

  • for constructive dialogue
  • to meet needs of fellows
  • to improve communications all round, and to ensure FC has more of an impact on policy etc at RSA House.
  • to make the fellowship council more representative, with more elected members
  • to listen to the regions and better understand what they want
  • to set realistic goals
  • to find out new ways of working together, through digital engagement etc.

He hopes the FC will join him in seeking to achieve these aims.

1339: announcement about liveblogging: just so everyone knows meeting is being blogged live.

1340: 2 vacancies on FC due to resignations. As elections are coming up later this year, the general feeling is to leave these positions unfilled for now. The resignations came from 1 elected and 1 co-opted member so the balance (19 elected/ 19 co-opted) still holds. To ensure continuity, it’s proposed that the current elected members be invited to serve an additional year, rather than renew the whole FC in one fell swoop.

We are hoping to move towards a more fully elected FC – the sensible solution at present is that 35 are elected with 5.

Comment: my heart sank when I heard that the elected members had to continue for another year.

Bob: they will be invited to continue, they won’t have to.

Comment: I disagree, I think the elected members should stay on as we need to ensure some continuity from one FC to the next.

Comment: Unless we want complete disruption every year with the whole FC standing for re-election, then the elections will have to be staggered.

Bob: the elections will be held on a regional basis, as last time.

Comment: if there are only 5 co-opted members, won’t this create some kind of co-opted elite?

Comment: the difference between being appointed and being elected is only a fine line.

Comment: In the spirit of openness, we should try and get new blood. That’s why everyone should stand for reelection.

1349: Bob: are we agreed that we should move as soon as possible to a more elected membership (ie: 35 elected/ 5 co-opted)?

Carried unanimously.

1352: Bob: are we agreed that continuity is important (ie: that elections should be staggered and some of existing council members should stay on for an additional year to put this split in place).

2 against/ everyone else for. 

1354: Are we agreed that the existing council members who stay on should be the 19 that were elected? 

2 against/ everyone else for.

1355: If an elected council member doesn’t want to stay on, how do we decide who should fill their shoes (general chat ensues with no decisive outcome for now).

1357: All council members will be aware that there are some genuine concerns about the establishment of the Governance Advisory Group (the unfortunately named, GAG) and these are summarised in two proposed motions put forward by Tessy Britton via email.

While I myself have some concerns about the way the formation of the GAG was agreed at the AGM, and appreciate concerns of Fellows, unfortunately, legal advice sought by the RSA’s CEO is that a resolution passed at the AGM cannot be reneged. If the trustees departed from the wording of the original resolution, they could be subject to legal action by the proposers of the motion. So as it is, we need to go with the resolution as agreed that only elected members of the FC would be allowed to stand for the GAG.

I propose we make a strong reocmmendation to the GAG that one of their first actions be to co-opt some of the co-opted members of the FC. 

[General murmur of agreement]

1403: (Bob) I’ve received quite a few emails in the last few days berating the FC for getting stuck in structural matters and not devoting enough time to general, wider matters of far more genuine concern to the Fellowship. 

[General mutters of “here here”]

1405: comment: I would propose that FC members be considered for the co-opted 3, but the wider fellowship should be considered.

Comment: has the proposer of the original motion (Rudi) being invited?

Comment: as far as balance is concerned, we shouldn’t be asking for some bias in favour of the Fellowship Council.

Comment: as a co-opted member I think it’s right that I shoudl have been excluded from the GAG. It’s very bad democratic process to appoint a bunch of people to then take a vote on how democratic they think they’re going to be. Advisors can be called in but they don’t need to have a vote.

Comment: as another unelected member I do feel that I have a responsibility to talk to fellows about what they want so I have been actively trying to understand and deliver the views of the wider fellowship.

Comment: this view starts from a viewpoint that the elected FC members are better than the non-elected ones.

Comment: there is a presumption of bias and it seems to me that this presumption is justifiable. The bias in the way this group is set up actually reflects the purpose of the group.

Comment: the past is the past. There are 3 more places. It would be wrong of us to give preference to other FC members. If there is some original bias so be it. This group will come up with sensible conclusions and if it doesn’t, it won’t be accepted by the fellowship.

Comment: some of the elected members of the FC weren’t elected because there weren’t elections in their area. While the co-opted members were sometimes 3rd or 4th in their regional vote and the decision to appoint them was made by the nominations council. This really is a false dichotomy.

Comment: an awareness has being created that the whole Fellowship should be considered when it comes to co-opted appointments to the GAG.


Comment: surely the existing GAG members are capable of identifying what skills are missing.

Comment: if anyone knows anyone with particular expertise in their field, please could they let Bob and/ or Matthew know.


Matthew Taylor: if we’ve any hope at all of getting any resolutions to this year’s AGM, then the GAG has to work fast. We need recommendations by the time we get to the summer. We’ve a lot of ground to cover in the next four or five months.

Comment: the trouble with putting a call out to potential GAG members to the wider fellowship is going to hold the process up and if we get more than a few who want to stand then we aren’t in a position to hold elections. Also, some members of the wider Fellowship have already put their names forward.

1419: Next up: Irene (new co-chair): We sent out a questionnaire to find out how FC members were feeling about the progress of the FC. Unfortunately we only had 6 responses.

Comment: when was the questionnaire sent out?

Irene: just before Christmas.


Comment: I’m worried about inconsistency: some working groups have completely disappeared, the RSA road show caused a great discussion, and then completely disappeared. We need more consistency.

Comment: The trustee elections motion was withdrawn after a long discussion on the FC. I think that was a great achievement.

Comment: I don’t find discussion of the structure of the FC very satisfying. Nor the fact that the working groups are doing good work doesn’t mean that the FC as a whole is achieving anything. We don’t want to get stuck up in a kind of organisational hyperchondria. I don’t think we’ve begun to make any kind of impact on the RSA at all.

Comment: I think the one thing the FC has done is create a state of chaos and disruption. The good thing that’s come out of that is that we’re now looking to make the RSA’s governance more democratic.

Comment: lots of people at the RSA and in the fellowship want to change the world. As a result these people are extremely ambitious and extremely impatient. I think we can sometimes be over-ambitious and unrealistic about our goals. I feel very nervous about too much introspection. The best meeting for me was the one back in June where there was a lot of discussion about different initiatives and I was able to go back to fellows and flag up ways in which they could get involved.

Matthew: the trustees under Gerry agreed to the establishment of the FC. I felt I was bringing Fellowship issues to the trustee board that the board was not equipped to deal with. A challenge to the FC is to ask itself are we the activist core of the Fellowship? We have more fellows doing more stuff than ever before, eg: we are getting 20 catalyst bids a month. It’s a challenge. A real challenge. 

David Archer: one thing we have achieved is a Fellowship voice on the trustee board. The emphasis on Fellowship has significantly alterered. We’ve been asked by the trustees to seek FC views on certain matters and vice versa. We have a channel there that wasn’t there before.

1433: Comment: do people have a clear view about the purpose of the FC, and is that a shared view? If we could develop a clear view about our role then we’d have more success.

Comment: Certainly 9 months ago there wasn’t a way for fellows to get their projects funded, now we have Catalyst. Which could be bigger and better but at least it’s out there.

Comment: re Matthew’s point re the activist network, that’s very much while I’m here. And the fellowship spoke with a full voice by not electing me to be on this committee. But we have been mostly focusing on structural and governance issues that have been brought to us. It’s too much about what the FC are doing and not enough about what the fellowship are doing. I don’t want to waste my time talking about bylaws. Let’s do some stuff.

Comment: we don’t have any way of systematically monitoring the change processes that we’re involved in. Do we have a list of the stuff that the FC has done since it’s been established. The FC has had a dramatic impact in terms of it’s relationship with trustees, but not in terms of its releationship with staff. For example, when I was trying to establish a certain initiative, I couldn’t do it without a considerable amount of negotiations with RSA staff. That’s fine. But there doesn’t seen to be any sort of proceedure for FC members wanting to initiate something with RSA staff. We always under estimate the scale of the problem of change. People are always in a tremendous hurry to bring about change. Understanding the underlying problem is not always given enough time. We shouldn’t undersell ourselves.

Irene: we have only been going for 15 months. I think we have had an influence.

Comment: I didn’t think the FC could work. Because the FC was simply another layer of bureaucracy. It was not a constructive move. It was a sidestep. There’s a much better dialogue now. 9 per cent of fellowship voted in the AGM. In my region, I get at least 30 per cent of fellowship there to attend my events. Nothing will change until the FC realises where the problem is, we’re just going to be a talking shop. No body can function successfully when there are split objectives. We are here to encourage arts, manufactures and commerce, to assist the poor. We can’t do everything. We must stop getting diverted.

Comment: the overwhelming feeling within the FC is bottom up: there’s stuff going on out there in the Fellowship and we want to push that up. But we need top down as well. I feel a dissonance between Matthew’s work at a policy level (which I totally support) and what happens on the ground. We are seeing activity being internalised and contributing to that policy role. We need to interpret our mission in a more modern way. This is the place where that should happen.

1446: Irene: what are we collectively and individually doing in our regions?

Comment: FC is about what’s happening out there, being taken in and shared among us. I said in the very early days that we were in danger of becoming a division 2 Trustee group. And I think that in some ways is the case. 

Comment: one of the issues is, what do the fellows out there want? And I think it’s not a lot. I did a survey a few years ago and there’s a fairly high level of apathy.

Comment: I represent the London region, and the three of us London representatives decided we’d try to report back to the London Regional Committee after every meeting. And I’ve been drawn into projects which are being led by fellows and being taken to new places as a direct result of being on the FC.

Comment: I feel the opposite, I was very involved with my local region before I stood for the FC, and now I feel less involved.

Comment: I get very worried when I hear that the role of the FC is to be involved in strategy and policy of the RSA. That is the role of the Trustees. And we must not get diverted. If the trustee board isn’t doing it’s job then we need to let them know.

Comment: I’ve enjoyed the chance to be able to link fellows together in my region: geographically people are very far apart and I’ve enjoyed being able to really help them. I agree, can we leave the strategy and the policy to somebody else, please?

Comment: The trustees recently had one of the richest conversations they’ve ever had on fellowship. There was a great slide with some cogs on it: as each cog turns, then the other cogs should turn. That’s the process we are trying to achieve.

Comment: I wanted to just note that not all the fellowship engagement happens here at the FC and we could maybe have a better relationship with fellows who are actively doing stuff. I keep going back to the social entrepreneurs network and maybe the FC should put more weight behind this. How do we bring in people who are doing interesting stuff and help them be part of this network. Let’s try and amplify.

Comment: I don’t want this council to get deeply involved in RSA strategy but I would actually like to know what that strategy is.

Comment: we as FC members have responsibility to listen to what others are doing and taking that back to the regions to invigorate them.

Comment: I don’t believe that strategy and policy should be left to the top layer. There are many different ways of contributing to strategy and policy and everyone in the organisation should be able to play a part. For example, that’s exactly what the digital engagement working group is trying to do.

150O: Irene: okay, thanks everyone. Now back to Bob.

1502: Bob: now, let’s move on to possible reference to the FC terms of reference.

Comment: why are we no longer going to have co-convention of FC working groups? It’s worked well so far having co-convenors, one on staff, one on the FC.

Bob: There will still be at least one member of staff on each group, but they will be convened by a member of the FC.

Comment: how often will the terms of reference be reviewed?

Bob: every two years or so? The TOR need to constantly evolve.

Are people generally happy?


1509: tea break.

1524: back at the tables with our cuppas and cookies. Next up, it’s Zena Martin and David Archer reporting back from the last Trustee meeting.

[RSA Strategy 2011-13 is handed out]

David: Now, points arising from the last Trustee meeting. First up, we would like ideas from FC as to how RSA academies might be supported.

Matthew: The RSA trustees created their first academy before I became CEO. The new model is to develop three other academies which will partner with schools in deprived areas. The original model was to take over a failing school, the model is now working with schools that are already doing well in deprived areas.

Comment: is this just in the UK, as part of the Opening Minds project?

Matthew: no, we also have schools in Europe.

Comment: there was initially a lot of anger in the fellowship when the first RSA academy was set up, because the fellowship weren’t consulted. I can see some anger in the fellowship now, with this new phase. RSA should focus on Opening Minds and not on creating an academies network. Andy Burnham is already arguing that switch in academies policy is going to alienate 50 per cent of the young population.

Matthew: we want to put together a system of regional hubs. In relation to the academies, it’s a trustee decision and I have to support that decision. The RSA academies would have been government academies anyway.

Comment: this to me would be another example of the trustees not consulting with fellowship on such a politically sensitive matter.

Comment: our original academy was built on Opening Minds and has shown great results. I am totally fine with expanding Opening Minds and establishing academies that are linked to demonstrating the power of Opening Minds. I’d be very concerned if any of our schools picked up organisations that weren’t committed to Opening Minds.

Matthew: We should look at the wording. We must always look for new forms of innovation. One of our schools wants to build a hostel for its pupils who are helpless.

Comment: The RSA academy is fantastic. In fact, we should do a feasibility study into opening this up as a revenue generating model for the RSA.

David: okay, let’s look at other points. RSA strategy has come up at a number of FC meetings over last year, and has just been circulated to you now.

Matthew: at your next FC meeting you will have a new director of programme who spans both projects (Julian Thompson) and fellowship networks (Michael Ambjorn). This is a radical change to what’s gone before and will take a while to bed down.

Comment: there are two pages on strategy re Fellowship. I’d have liked it if the FC had been consulted before these decisions had taken place and not simply seeing them now, and asking to react.


Matthew: nations and regions have their own sense of what the RSA can offer and it is different in each region, reflecting fellows interests. What matters is our influence in these matters. I don’t think the trustees would want to second guess that. If the Scottish committee decides they want to focus on say design, that’s great and completely up to them where they want to focus resources. The more we can move towards projects that are funded on a regional and national basis, the better. It’s a very tough job getting funding for projects. I hope we’ll see more projects get funded at both levels.

Comment: can we know more about fellows undergoing RSA training to become accredited RSA project managers in their areas?

Matthew: because of the research and funding we’ve got, we’ve got quite a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. It seems a good idea to pass that info on.

Julian: one of our plans is to create a platform for people who can help. What we’re hearing from charities etc on the ground is that they need some kind of quality assurance about individuals who are coming to them offering help and saying they have experience in certain areas. 

Comment: the first mention of fellowship is on page 2. This is a fellowship organisation. I do not pay my subscription to the RSA to fund a thinktank in London. Look what happened to the Work Foundation. It was very like us. Now it’s bankrupt.

Bob: I think we’ll put this strategy document on hold for now and discuss at the next meeting when we’ve had time to digest it.

Comment: can we circulate to wider fellowship, will there be an e-version?

Matthew: that can be arranged.

Comment: I think we (the RSA) are a thinktank and an actiontank.

Comment: we are a thinktank with delivery.

David: just wanted to add that with regard to fellows concerns about access to RSA House, we’re setting up the house development committee chaired by Andy Gibson looking at ways in which house can be of more use to fellows.

1555: Bob: thank you. We’re now running quite late so will need to speed up. Now, the Report on the Meeting of Regional Chairs and the Review of Regions (and I was really keen that we got to this point before the GAG started its deliberations). The main bullet points are as follows:

  • It’s clear that each region and nation has its own distinct ambitions and needs. 
  • How about reporting back? Should this be through the FC? 
  • We need to improve communications between all the national and regional committees.
  • How do we get the best out of the regions and nations, and the FC’s relationship with them?

Comment: I’m surprised you’re not being a little more radical. The regional committee has no role otherwise than as a treasurer. How do you have local networks, local initiatives? If you are going to have elected chairs, it’s quite an arduous task. I propose you’re elected to become deputy chair for a year and then become chair subsequently.

Bob: a member of our East network recently said he appreciated the support he’d had from the committee and we are looking to replicate that.

Comment: it might be helpful for the nations to have more focus on what is the difference between a region and a nation. There should be more awareness of the distance in Scotland between Dumfries and Shetland. The meetings in London are very good in terms of opening your mind and engaging but £200 doesn’t even begin to cover the cost.

Comment: there’s a different narrative coming from government about how we define communities, even how funding is distributed (more locally for example). Has this influenced the RSA at all?

Bob: you need people on the ground defining the issues.

Comment: I live in one region and work in another. We need to look at the distinct needs of each region, and at population density, eg: London region has a third of the fellowship: should it be broken into north and south?

Comment: I think this document gets parked in some sense because of the work of the GAG.

Comment: whatever funding mechanism is decided, it mustn’t be too rigid.

Bob: absolutely.

Comment: and not necessarily about only making it happen in your own region. You can share a successful project with other regions.

Comment: I think this is a very good document but there should be clarification between the regional committees and the regional fellowship teams. I think it’s a good idea but worried there will be too much overlap.

Bob: yes, the idea is to share objectives. Ideally what you’d have is a team made up of activists – people who are actually doing stuff.

Comment: RSA Scotland is developing a project with RSA USA so it’s possible to collaborate with other regions.

Bob: how we share this information across is one of the fundamental issues.

Matthew: each region is very different in the way they organise: South Central has 9 local committees, London has just one central one, there is another region with no committee at all – they just want to act as a catalyst for local groups. Having said that, getting alignment is absolutely crucial. Just want to say a word for regional managers. They work very hard and where they’re working effectively with regional committees, they’re really getting results.

Bob: That’s good. I just wanted to see general support for this report. Thank you very much for that.

1615: report back from working groups:

Gerrard (Catalyst group: we’re moving forward and it’s great to know that even those who haven’t recieved funding have appreciated the feedback they’ve got.

David (Projects group): do we wish to re-constitute the projects working group?

Comments from floor: yes

Jackie (Charter group): we reckoned it was done and dusted. The recollection was that it would go to the AGM and be approved.

Matthew: the specific holdup is that the new charter should be considered in the light of the RSA rebrand which has been put on hold due to a staff bereavement. But things should move forward soon.

Jemima (and yes – that’s me, your loyal live blogger) (Digital Engagement): latest development is that we’ve put together a Digital Engagement Quick Guide which we’ve uploaded to the RSA Fellowship Social Network and would love FC members feedback and comments. We’re also very pleased that our proposal for a full time RSA member of staff for digital engagement has been taken on board, the job spec is currently being written up and we’re hoping to see that role filled in early summer.

John (Education): we’d like ideas on how to help with Queue-East. Please email me.

Bob: nothing to report from Youth as Rosie isn’t here. I went to a meeting in Cardiff and they are trying to work out an appropriate model for Wales: how they make things happen while still keeping bureaucracy to a minimum. If there are any burning issues?

Comment: can we have more information about changes in funding for the regions?

Comment: could we have a summary of the recent staff changes in the next fellowship newsletter?

Comment: can Matthew be present at each FC meeting?

Next meetings: Tues 19 April; Wed 21 September and Thu 8 December. At least one of these will be out of London, most likely at the RSA Academy (Birmingham New Street).

Comment: well done Bob on excellent chairing.

1630: Bob: thank you, and I’d also like to say thanks to Belinda (Lester) for being here. We all know how much effort you’ve put into being Director of Fellowship and on behalf of the FC, I’d like to say thank you for all you’ve done.

1635: Meeting closed – now we’re all off to the pub, I will tweet when I find out which one!

Visit iKnowHow for the latest RSA Fellowship Council liveblog

The latest liveblog of the RSA Fellowship Council is now available over on the iKnowHow blog.

The second meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council took place yesterday at RSA House and I was able to blog the meeting as it happened. The Fellowship Council is made up of elected and co-opted RSA members (known as “Fellows”) and marks a concerted effort by the RSA, a 255 year old body, to open up its governance to all stakeholders within the organisation. I was elected to the Council in July.
We are still trying to decide exactly what it *is* that the RSA Fellowship Council should do. And I thought that decision-making process might make interesting reading for anyone aspiring to move towards a distributed, “leadership 2.0” type model in their place of work.