RSA offers support to community websites

Last month the RSA ran a fascinating if inevitably rather theoretical seminar on digital inclusion and social capital … now the 250-year-old organisation is taking practical action to support community activists who want to develop websites, following up an idea first floated by chief executive Matthew Taylor.
The aim is to bring together people active in their communities, but new to social media, with RSA Fellows and friends who can help, in a one-day event in London on July 11 (update: now Friday 10th).
The news page about the event explains:

The focus is on enabling people who are working on social inclusion to increase the impact of their work.We are also keen to engage a small number of Fellows that already use community websites in these contexts. The event aims to work with Fellows and ‘friends’ who Fellows are working with in local communities. Please do suggest non-Fellow names and a brief description of their projects/work.

As well as being important in itself, the RSA hopes this will provide a model of support that we can offer Fellows in the future, not just on other social media techniques but on a range of skills which may be helpful. We would welcome ideas for future initiatives.

The conference structure will be:
• Case studies illustrating how community websites have been used effectively
• Key challenges and questions for community development using community websites
• Workshops to help participants develop community websites to meet their project aims
• Action planning for how participants can continue this work and share it with others in their areas

I think the event is a great idea, and should tap into interest in the use of social media developed within RSA over past two years. You can sign up here. My suggestions:

  • Be flexible on the model. Community websites can be powerful … but they take a lot of effort and it may be best to start with a simple blog, email newsletter, Twitter, video … or just whatever people are interested in.
  • Be clear before the event what follow-through support there may be, if any. Will it be with those who helped on the day, or with others? How will mentors be chosen? What commitment will be expected from mentors?
  • Link up with others in the field who are providing support. I’m sure this is in mind. There’s going to be lots happening with Digital Mentors, Talk About Local, ICT Champions, as discussions over on the Digital Engagement Network show. Hyperlocal is fashionable.

I’ll certainly offer to help, and hope to attract more interest at the next RSA London City Network meeting on Thursday. It’s free drinks and interesting conversation at the Festival Hall, and a chance to offer appreciation to Laura Bunt, who has done so much to develop RSA networking and interest in social media. Laura is going to work with NESTA on their Policy and Research team, so I’m sure we’ll reconnect.

Update: the event is now being rescheduled for the autumn.

3 Comments

  • June 1, 2009 - 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I think this is a fantastic initiative, but two words of caution.

    1. It is unfortunate that is clashes with Tim Davies’s Connected Generation Unconference (http://connectedgeneration09.eventbrite.com/)

    2. It’s yet another example of an event in London, when there are so many people around the country who would benefit from involvement, but probably can’t afford the time or the fare to get to the capital.

    For my part, I will be watching my daughter on stage in Leeds that day, so won’t be able to get to either of these excellent events.

  • June 1, 2009 - 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Ahhhgh – really tough conflict of dates. I’m torn. Maybe July 11 could be a pilot for regional events. Though I know there may well be more expertise outside London …

  • June 2, 2009 - 10:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks David.

    I’d be very interested in running a regional event in Yorkshire & Humber. Also could collaborate with DC10plus on events in other regions.

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