I had an interesting time at Socitm09 – a lot of the conversations I had were useful, and others fruitful. I won’t lie to you, though, a lot of what I saw and heard I found pretty painful. My Twitter followers will no doubt know the exact point at which my frustration boiled over somewhat.

One of the highlights for me, though, was the twenty minutes Mary and I spent with Adrian Hancock, MD of Socitm, and a forward thinking chap if ever there was one. His plans for the organisation are certainly going to lead it in the right direction.

We’ve already put one of the things we talked about into action, and that’s OpenSocitm. This is a simple Ning based online community for Socitm members and non-members to talk about the organisation and what they would like to get out of it. At Learning Pool, we understand community and its importance, and we’re eager to share that with other organisations that would like to work with us.

We hope it will become a space for the more forward thinking among Socitm’s ranks to get together and contribute to the ongoing discussions about what Socitm should look like in the future.

Because Socitm, like any other membership organisations, faces massive challenges in this age of self-organising and free and simple social networks. Put simply: why should I pay a subscription to Socitm when I can create a Facebook group and talk to people that way?

This is picking up on the pioneering work started by David Wilcox with the RSA (I’m a fellow of the RSA and was involved in David’s work here), which has developed in various directions, some official, some less so, based around the OpenRSA concept. Basically: identify the enthusiastic, the innovative and the people with ideas and put them in a space together – and watch and act on what happens.

My view – which David shares, I’m sure – is that for membership bodies to remain relevant in the networked society, they must learn to start listening to their membership like never before. Develop services around the explicit needs as expressed by members in social online spaces. Accept messiness. Acknowledge the fact that membership might mean different things to different people, and that just because someone doesn’t hold a card, it doesn’t mean they have nothing valuable to contribute.

I’ve no doubt that Adrian gets this, and that OpenSocitm will provide a useful channel of ideas and suggestions for the future of Socitm for him and his colleagues to act upon. He’s already started blogging about it.

5 thoughts on “OpenSocitm”

  1. Thanks Dave for that over-generous attribution. I’ve really just been repackaging the open source ideas that have been around for some time!
    The open-organising idea clicked for me a couple of years ago when the Cabinet Office put out a tender for an Innovation Exchange to help third sector organisations share experience and bid for public service contracts. I discussed with this my friend Simon Berry and we agree we should bid – but knew it would be tedious, and the contract, if we got it, would not be informed by real needs on the part of third sector organisations, procurement officers, or service users. So why not write the bid in the open (apart from the figures) to get as much input from stakeholders and beneficiaries as possible? We did that, as you can see here. We didn’t win, but were shortlisted and interviewed.
    The OpenRSA inspiration came from the aspiration of new chief executive Matthew Taylor to develop a membership organisation where members would look outwards to develop civic innovation projects. I and others argued that development process should be open, and also the network should be open. How can you do civic innovation – with many partners – behind a login? Here’s my story of what happened in the early days. There’s now an OpenRSA Ning … though RSA have embraced open themselves with a host of Nings including one for their Fellowship Council.
    Here’s the Membership Project that Simon (again) and I set up to spread the ideas. It is now being taken forward by RSA and NCVO with a consortium of organisations.
    Recently I’ve been more of a by-stander, well, social reporter, as Dave and others have helped open up thinking and practice in government and local government through a mix of unconferencing events and social networking. All of this seems to be coming together in the great work that Steve Dale, Ingrid Koehler and others are doing at IDeA on the knowledge hub. That is looking at how to use open knowledge-sharing approaches within local authorities and across into “citizen space”.
    Oops, I didn’t mean to write as much as this. I would love to hear other people’s experiences of how new ways of doing things take root (or don’t).
    I think the underlying issue is that in a socially networked world, organisations have to offer relationships not just services. It’s people that are interesting.

  2. Given my role in managing Socitm’s marketing and communications, this space is a really welcome addition……..a few opening points from me:

    It would be really great if someone could provide a summary of learning so far from the RSA/NESTA/NCVO etc work on membership organisations and social networks so we don’t need to revisit a load of stuff unnecessarily. Its only partly me being lazy and unwilling to read through the zillions of words out there in cyberspace on the topic – we need to be efficient about this so there’s some time left in our lives for friends, kids, elderly parents, dog walking, making the dinner and the rest of the ‘real’ stuff….

    Socitm has started a network for webbies within the IDeA Communities of Practice (free to join, obviously) and its been very successful (well I think so – we just passed 500 members and we’re one of the most active communities on the platform)

    Connected to this, we’ve been wondering how you can make a ‘paid for’ membership work for this group. My own view is that the answer lies in delivering things that can’t be easily delivered by voluntary networks. In the case of our webbie group, we see this as being around career development and professional skill recognition/accreditation services. That’s why the Socitm Board has agreed to fund some work to define a skills framework for webbies, a project that’s about to kick off and that I’d be pleased to tell people more about if they are interested.

    Also relevant to the discussion is the blogsite we set up for the Socitm 2009 event, which pulled in a lot of interest from people who were’nt delegates (including a labradoodle breeder from Seattle – but that’s another story). What I’m interested to see is the effect this has on delegate numbers next year. Will the people who think ‘OK, I’ll save my money and follow remotely’, outnumber those that think ‘ following the event online line last year made me really see the value of being there in person’………. we just don’t know the answer yet.

  3. Vicky – thanks for dropping by and leaving this contribution. I’m sure David and I can dig out some of the stuff around membership 2.0 and post it up on OpenSocitm.

    Would you mind copying and pasting what you have written above into a forum thread or blog entry on the OpenSoctim site, too? Some interesting conversation starters there and hopefully that site will be where the action is!

  4. Confess I thought I was posting to the OpenSocitim site too:-) Hence lengthy response. Should look before click. Anyway, delighted to do some headlines when the the discussion moves across.
    How about trying a question and (some) answers approach, starting with any more Vicky can throw in? Should be of wide interest.

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