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.