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To support the aims & primary purpose of The RSA & the RSA Fellowship, as outlined above, we are likely to need a team of paid staff with ‘connection & interaction’ skills & experience, reporting to a leadership which is committed to the primary goals of connecting the Fellows & potential Fellows, and facilitating interaction. I will return to this at the end of this (long & important) post.

However, as an exercise in making the case & clarifying what is needed in the form of a ‘Position Description’, I will just outline the ‘one role’ for now. On seeing such a role outline, it is likely that most reactions will be “this is far too much for one person” (of course), “it probably needs a team of at least 4 and possibly 8” (we’re guessing at this stage but there probably is a critical mass of 4-6 and then it would depend on how much connection & interaction is absorbed into the broader culture & structure of The RSA, e.g. to what extent are there ‘communications staff’ operating separately to the ‘connections & interactions team’ or are they integrated?) and “this should be everyone’s role at The RSA, including the CEO” (again, of course, with strategic connection & interaction initiatives combining with the practical, everyday, operational support to make it happen, although ‘everybody’s responsibility’ can easily become ‘nobody’s responsibility’ if the commitment isn’t there at the top, and having someone appointed to get the process going is often crucial to building commitment).

Anyway, here goes with the draft Position Description…

Position: RSA Fellowship Connection & Interaction Co-ordinator

Primary Purpose:
Facilitate the process of connecting existing RSA Fellows & enabling interaction to maximise the generation of ideas; optimise the potential for sharing ideas, developing ideas, developing & delivering successful projects (whether JAS-initiated or via Fellows), taking action, making a difference; optimise Fellows’ levels of engagement, positive ‘member experience’ & desire to be involved; maximise retention levels & levels of referral/recommendation. Build & optimise the capacity of The RSA/RSA Fellowship to be able to deliver on any policy or project goal via having the best-in-class connectivity & interaction network among the world’s best collection of thinkers & doers.

Secondary Purpose:
Through facilitating appropriate & effective connection & interaction for existing RSA Fellows, and fulfilling the Primary Purpose, attract potential new Fellows, optimise connection & interaction with potential Fellows and recruit new Fellows; thereby maximising the number of Fellows & maximising revenue within an optimal network, aligned to the joint goals established by The RSA & RSA Fellowship (through the Board, Trustees, Chair, Fellowship Council, CEO, Fellows’ Networks, Fellows’ Forums, and affiliated organisations such as RSA ANZ & RSA US).

Key Responsibilities
1. make sure that existing Fellows are fully aware of all of the ways they can currently connect & interact (Fellows’ Directory, Direct Messaging, InMail, website, blogs, offline events, online events, Fellows’ Forum, Hub, Zoom, Twitter, LinkedIn Group, Facebook, network mapping, local/regional/country networks, RSA Connectors, RSA House, Coffeehouse meetings [at JAS and distributed across the RSA network], projects, etc);
2. make sure that new Fellows are fully aware of all the ways they can connect & interact with other Fellows, via initial awareness-raising, consolidated induction over the first 6 months, and reminders for the next 6 months which also highlights the benefits of renewal;
3. review the relevance & effectiveness of each connection & interaction channel or platform – via usage data & feedback from Fellows;
4. create an optimal connection & interaction portfolio, closing off channels or platforms that are not used or not effective, and investing in channels & platforms that are used & effective;
5. optimise connection & interaction channels & platforms via making sure Fellows are aware, sending invites & alerts, sending periodic reminders, facilitating connection (e.g. alerting Fellows to geographic networks, communities of interest, professional communities, and emerging communities within the RSA Fellowship) and managing online platforms (e.g. Fellows’ Forum, Facebook) in collaboration with volunteer Fellows as content facilitators, connectors & interactors – which we know they will be wherever there is a well managed, up-to-date channel or platform;
6. assisting with projects & initiatives to integrate connection & interaction channels & platforms, but with a primary focus on coordinating existing channels & linking platforms unless there is a verified benefit in a new integrated technology solution (don’t throw away what works and make the best use of what we have before investing in anything new!);
7. work collaboratively with the RSA Fellows/RSA Fellowship/Fellowship Council to make the best use of volunteer passions, Fellow-led initiatives & Fellows’ Forum Facilitators, providing necessary management & admin support to ensure (continued) success;
8. work collaboratively with the paid staff at The RSA with the primary goal of optimising connection & interaction, making the best use of available resources, tools, channels & platforms, aligned with jointly agreed priority issues, themes & projects;
9. help facilitate connection & interaction around the RSA Fellows’ ‘community of the curious’ to make sure that new ideas keep flowing and that RSA Fellows without specific topic interests, geographic focus or professional focus can connect & interact around the diverse range of current & emerging topics that might be tomorrow’s priority project;
10. build links with relevant external networks and make potential Fellows aware of all the ways they can connect & interact with RSA Fellows;
11. liaise with RSA staff responsible for recruiting & inducting new Fellows to maximise recruitment & Year One renewal rates;
12. liaise with RSA staff responsible for communication out to Fellows (distinct from lateral connection & interaction), such as broadcast emails, newsletters, broadcast website content, the RSA Journal, to effectively co-ordinate communications, have consistency of message, and maximise awareness of connection & interaction channels & platforms;
13. liaise with RSA staff & Fellows responsible for local/regional/country networks, RSA Connectors, RSA Global, and affiliated organisations such as RSA ANZ & RSA US, to best co-ordinate communications, connection & interaction channels & platforms, with periodic reviews, necessary rationalisation, and integration where possible & desirable;
14. liaise with RSA Board/Chair/Trustees & any other governance bodies to make sure that the primary purpose & focus of The RSA/RSA Fellowship remains connecting the Fellows & facilitating interaction, with appropriate resources being allocated in line with agreed strategies & plans, and with appropriate transparency & accountability to demonstrate focus & progress (see ‘Expected Outcomes, Outputs & KPIs’ below – which can easily be tightened or loosened as required, depending on how much this change in culture, structure & priorities needs to be forced or finds its natural legs).

Expected Outcomes, Outputs & KPIs

1. increase/maximise number & % of Fellows agreeing to have their contact details published in the Fellows’ Directory (basic contact details, full contact details, searchable database of interests);
2. increase/maximise number & % of Fellows agreeing to make themselves contactable indirectly via InMail, facilitated introduction from RSA staff, via password-protected site, via platforms such as the Fellows’ Forum, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter;
3. increase/maximise % of existing Fellows aware of each means of connection & interaction;
4. increase/maximise % of new Fellows aware of each means of connection & interaction;
5. increase/maximise the use of each means of connection & interaction (from activity data);
6. increase/maximise perceived effectiveness of each means of connection & interaction (from surveys of Fellows & qualitative feedback);
7. set & meet appropriate targets for Facebook, LinkedIn Group, Twitter, Fellows’ Forum, e.g. total members & active members;
8. set & meet other activity targets, e.g. number of Zoom conferences, number attending Zoom conferences;
9. have minimum usage levels and stop resourcing channels or platforms that are not used or not effective;
10. undertake initial & ongoing evaluation to design & deliver an optimal portfolio of connection & interaction channels & platforms, including the optimal mix, gap analysis (has to be a strong case for adding anything new!), optimal links between channels & platforms (human connection not just technology solutions!), and integration of channels & platforms where possible & desirable;
11. increase/maximise participation & activity levels across each channel or platform; devise ways to monitor & evaluate total activity gross & net (i.e. total traffic plus each Fellow’s activity) across the whole portfolio; then set & meet targets for increasing/optimising activity across the whole portfolio;
12. set & meet goals & targets for co-ordination, rationalisation, focus, & effectiveness across the whole RSA/RSA Fellows landscape, including all forms of communication, connection, interaction and engagement with Fellows, Fellows’ networks, Fellowship Council, RSA staff, Trustees, CEO, etc. – to convert the primary purpose & focus on connection & interaction into a streamlined, carefully co-ordinated, appropriate & effective Fellows & RSA staff network through which any agreed topic goals and priority initiatives can be easily & quickly delivered.

The Business Case/Strategic Priority Case

It is very easy for organisations to get busy on what seems like a diverse & important agenda, and become activity-led, resource-committed & personnel-stretched, and then say it “cannot spare resources” or is “busy working on important projects” or even is “busy fulfilling the Board’s agenda” without realising that it is not focusing on the real strategic priority or ‘business critical’ activity.

The RSA carries out fascinating research, generates stimulating content on a range of issues, undertakes ground-breaking projects. However, The RSA is fundamentally a Fellowship. The RSA is its Fellows. The RSA is funded by its Fellows. Nothing has greater potential, and nothing is more important, than connecting the Fellows & facilitating interaction.

The RSA in all its forms (Trustees, Board, Chair, Fellowship Council, paid staff, CEO, individual Fellows, organised groups of Fellows, affiliated organisations such as RSA ANZ & RSA US, Journal Editorial Board, and any other manifestation or representation of The RSA & RSA Fellowship) needs to constantly remind itself that the primary purpose of The RSA/RSA Fellowship & the number one priority, in any year in any business plan in any strategy in any budget, is to better connect the Fellowship to each other & facilitate interaction to realise the benefits that optimised connection & interaction bring.

Needs a Team, Needs Commitment from the Top

As acknowledged earlier, it clearly will need a team to deliver the above. With the detail down ‘on paper’, we can see how the roles & responsibilities would naturally lend themselves to:

  • an effective team leader who can see the big picture as well as dive into relevant detail;
  • staff who are competent with the technical aspects of the various connection & interaction channels & platforms;
  • staff whose fundamental strength lies in human connection & interaction, connecting people & ideas but with a primary focus on people – Fellows, staff & all stakeholders;
  • policy & strategy connectors who can link up to the various projects & initiatives across the RSA’s diverse network;
  • and staff with other skills such as strategic review, analysis, monitoring, evaluation, reporting (some of which could be contracted in but some needs to permanently reside in the team) in order to balance the short-term ‘make the best of what we have’ with the periodic strategic rationalising for greater effectiveness (must be brutal in scrapping what doesn’t work, investing in what does work, and avoiding new fads) and ongoing continuous improvement (which, in this context, is being relentless in building more & better connection & interaction within whatever portfolio exists at any point in time).

And, yes, it needs commitment from the top. It needs the Board, Chair, CEO, and all the senior staff to be committed to the primary purpose, goal & focus of connecting the Fellows & facilitating interaction. It needs commitment to appointing someone to grow the team, and then appointing & developing the team.

It needs ongoing, unwavering, undiluted, undistracted commitment. If anyone ever suggests there is anything more important, it needs the Chair & CEO to make the big strategic speech about nothing being more important than connecting the Fellows & facilitating interaction, and every issue, debate, initiative, output, project likely to be better for having a state-of-the-art, world-leading connectivity & interaction network.