New Ideas for University Governance & Policy: The Facebook Model

Facebook is one of the leading social networking sites, with over 90 million users worldwide. Viral networks challenge traditional approaches to governance and policy formulation as these networks tend to resist central control. I believe there are many lessons we could learn from the emerging Facebook model given many universities now have an 'Intra-Facebook' capability with the introduction of online learning systems such as Moodle. Indeed, universities might be able to apply the model to policy formulation within their respective communities through the use of Moodle, especially in areas relating to potentially disruptive technologies.

The Facebook model establishes 'principles' and 'rights and responsibilities' through user consultation. The approach can be summarised as a 'Virtual Town Hall' where participants debate the merits and pitfalls of emerging issues. Facebook have already amended their terms and conditions as a direct result of their user feedback, including issues of copyright and intellectual property. This approach is crucial when trying to govern potentially disruptive technologies but could also be applied to organisational governance.

Many universities now have an enterprise-wide means of collecting feedback and enabling community participation - businesses would have 'killed' for this capability a few years ago - but now universities have it, will they use it?