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.

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Dave Briggs

I'm an experienced senior manager in digital and ICT, looking for interim engagements to modernise technology teams to help organisations transform.