Can the RSA help close the digital divide ? - RSA

Can the RSA help close the digital divide ?


I am speaking this afternoon at an NCVO conference on civil society leadership. If I get the chance to talk about what we are trying to do at the Society, I'll describe how I see the challenge of Fellowship engagement.

There has been some progress over the last year or so but from a relatively low base of activity. The challenge lies in trying to doing three things at once:

• lower the barriers to wider and more ambitious engagement

• grow the capacity needed for the Fellowship to be creative, networked and outward looking

• develop the right content propositions; what is it the Fellowship could actually do to make a difference?

The third of these has often felt the most difficult. Which is why a light went on in my head at yesterday's National Digital Inclusion Conference.

I was really impressed by the many people I met involved in social media and community websites. As I  have said in previous posts, the best of these sites really add capacity and strength to a community.  HarringayOnline, for example, has 1500 local people signed up to a site focussing on just one ward. 

But running theses sites is in most cases a hand to mouth labour of love.  This is where the RSA  Fellowship with its skills, resources and connections could make a difference. So - working I hope with William Perrin whose Talk About Local initiative aims not only to support existing sites but to help set up hundreds more - my idea is to organise a training day at John Adam Street and to bring together enthusiastic Fellows from around the country with the mission of twinning up with existing sites or developing new ones. We'll even try to find some money to provide a small start up funding pot.

On-line community media is a good thing in itself, giving people information and making connections.  But more exciting is the way in which this new collaborative infrastructure could provide the basis for a whole range of face to face initiatives. Not only is a very small portion of the country served by a good community web site but most sites that exist are only scratching the surface of what they could achieve once they have built up a significant local following.   

I'm never sure how many Fellows read this blog but I would be fascinated to hear what they - or anyone else - thinks.

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