Making social reporting an OpenBusiness

The UKgovcamp event on Saturday gave me a chance to extend social reporting practice by making interviews, and hosting a session, an integral part of an open research and ideas-generation process within a project. It’s a nudge towards an OpenBusiness approach.
The project is working with Consumer Focus to explore how to involve users in the design and development of digital public services. As explained here, we are using the SocialbySocial online community to start research and discussion leading up to a workshop. We’ll report that and develop the campaign for user-involvement promised in their earlier report on Directgov.
So on Saturday I pitched up to Google headquarters in London with about 120 other people, most of them more directly involved in Government tech than I am. It followed the usual unconference format of chats over coffee, brief introductions, then pitches for sessions organised on a grid of Post-it notes, with everyone then taking off to different rooms, or hanging out for further chats with whoever passed by. It went seemlessly well, thanks to organising by Dave Briggs, with on-the-day assistance from Lloyd Davis and Tim Davies.
I’ve reported over here on the interviews, the session, and the issues that came out of that. What I’m touching on here is how to work with a client on a project and make the whole process as open as possible, with a number of hoped-for benefits for them and others.
The idea on this one is that we invite anyone interested in the topic to share ideas online and in a workshop, learn from others, advance the cause, and maybe make some useful business contacts. We are using the job to pay for that process. The client gets more research and connections than would be the case if it were a closed process.
By doing this on SocialbySocial we help build the community there, and increase the benefits for all concerned. It ties in with the approach we are also developing with IDeA on the Knowledge Hub.
Social reporting started off with a focus on reporting events, where it adds value by getting content from the day out to others, and also helping bring them into the room. You can get paid for that. However, I’ve always thought there was real value in using social reporting techniques in place of some consultancy processes, and in joining up conversations across networks. I think I’m making some progress towards that, and also to figuring out with Amy Sample Ward how to support the SocialbySocial online network.
I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a business model, but it feels a useful step in mixing the gift and paid-for parts of my work into something more sustainable.


  • January 25, 2010 - 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Interesting idea… build up the social network (online and off) around you, and those involved in ‘the business’.

    Consulting becomes an exercise in mining that network through friendly means, at events and through online conversations.

    Are you finding a way to make money from being a convener?

  • January 25, 2010 - 7:33 pm | Permalink

    At the moment jobs are paying for the online convening work. It gets interesting when:
    – clients see the benefits of open process, and we can facilitate SocialbySocial openly to the benefit of all concerned
    – the growing community, and very lite branding, creates the opportunity to convene offline
    Must check in with Amy and Andy on this too … really just exploring ideas at present.

  • January 26, 2010 - 9:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Dave – I agree with David that this is an exciting and interesting experiment 🙂

    What I am really excited about is that this approach to Open Business creates an opportunity for us to balance our paid-for and gift-economy contributions to the space, but in a way that means those we “do business with” and those in the space that benefit can participate in the paid-for + gift economy matrix, too. As David said, the Open Business idea isn’t necessarily a business plan per se, but it is a great operating model or ethos. The subscription idea we’ve been developing, though, is a business model and really requires the Open Business idea to make it successful.

    Thanks, David, for trying to get some of this out and start explaining our methods. Open from the start 🙂

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