Thursday, 29 April 2010

Reflections on Memnet Conference

Yesterday, I shared a Platform with Lee Davies from IfL at the Memnet conference in London. Memnet is a new organisation for those who work in membership organisations, which was started last year and is growing rapidly.

If have worked with IfL (Institute for Learning) on and off for a number of years as a technology consultant, helping them make the right decisions with technology, and Lee (their Deputy Chief Executive) invited me to provide some technical backup to his presentation on social media, and as a networking opportunity to meet other similar organisations.

The day started with Lee (mostly, with interjections from me) talking about how membership organisations can and should harness social media, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Ning to build communities within their membership. What was fascinating for me in researching the subject was how in tune all of this is with the direction the likes of Facebook are taking. Facebook's vision is to make it easy to find content you're interested in through the links your friends and wider social network place on their site, and they have developed a number of tools to make this easy.

What's also fascinating is the shift in mindset this requires within the membership sphere - it's no longer about controlled walled gardens but about having the confidence to provide leadership but let members talk about the subjects that interest them in the way and using the media they want to. This is a massive shift in attitude from providing moderated forums!

The conference went on to talk about how best to select a software provider. This is a subject dear to my heart as I've done a lot of work on requirements analysis, invitation to tenders and vendor selection for organisations like IfL, and obviously I've been on the other side of the fence a lot as well. I agreed with what the speaker said, especially around making sure requirements analysis is done properly!

CPD (that's continuous professional development) was then discussed, and it was fairly clear how few membership bodies really do this well if at all, although most would like to.

Lee finished the day with a joint presentation with Shane Sutherland from Pebble Learning. Pebble are behind 'REfLECT', IfL's shared learning space which they give their members as a tool for storing anything of use really, appropriate parts of which can be submitted as CPD. It's interesting how IfL's approach has been very much around putting CPD in the hands of their members, trusting them to evaluate what is useful and what its value is. This is possibly a unique approach in regulated professions.

The biggest take-out for me from the day was the importance of recording and reflecting on learning experiences of any kind. When I think about all the stuff I've learned over my career, a lot of it just exists in my head and inevitably some of it is locked away so deep I can't remember it any more. IfL's approach, and they are using REfLECT as a tool for this, is that if you record what you learnt it not only gives you the opportunity to reflect on it, increasing its value, but you also have a record of it. This can be referred back to in the future, but also shared with others, commented on and developed into a real resource.

Could this be an interesting extra use for blogging and social media?