Raising Awareness

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A Risks and Opportunities Framework For The Social Web


In today's environment of rapid technological innovation and changing user expectations coupled with financial pressures it is no longer possible for cultural heritage organisations to develop networked services without being prepared to take some risks [1]. The challenge is how to assess such risks prior to making policy decision as to whether the organisation is willing to take such risks.

This briefing document described a framework which aims to support the decision-making process in the content of possible use of the Social Web.

Assessing Risks

Risks should be assessed within the context of use. This context will include the intended purpose of the service, the benefits which the new service are perceived to bring to the various stakeholders and the costs and other resource implications of the deployment and use of the service.

Assessing Missed Opportunities

In addition to assessing the risks of use of a new service there is also a need to assess the risk of not using the new service - the missed opportunity costs. Failing to exploit a Social Web service could result in a loss of a user community or a failure to engage with new potential users. It may be the risks of failing to innovate could be greater than the risks of doing nothing.

Risk Management and Minimisation

It is important to acknowledge that there may be risks associated with the deployment of new services and to understand what those risks might be. As well as assessing the likelihood of the risks occurring and the significance of such risks there will be a need to identify ways in which such risks can be managed and minimised.

It should b noted that risk management approaches might include education, training and staff development as well technical development. It should also be recognised that if may be felt that risks are sometimes worth taking.

The Risks and Opportunities Framework

The Risks and Opportunities Framework was first described in a paper on "Time To Stop Doing and Start Thinking: A Framework For Exploiting Web 2.0 Services" presented at the Museums and the Web 2009 conference [2] and further described at [3].

Figure 1: The risks frameworkThis framework aims to facilitate discussions and decision-making when use of Social Web service is being considered.

The components of the framework are:

Intended use
Rather than talking about services in an abstract context ("shall we have a Facebook page") specific details of the intended use should be provided.
Perceived benefits
A summary of the perceived benefits which use of the Social Web service are expected to provide should be documented.
Perceived risks
The perceived risks which use of the Social Web service may entail should be documented.
Missed opportunities
A summary of the missed opportunities and benefits which a failure to make use of the Social Web service should be documented.
A summary of the costs and other resource implications of use of the service should be documented.
Risk minimisation
Once the risks have been identified and discussed approaches to risk minimisation should be documented.
Evidence base
Evidence which back up assertions made in use of the framework.


  1. Risk Management InfoKit, JISC infoNET,
  2. Time To Stop Doing and Start Thinking: A Framework For Exploiting Web 2.0 Services, Kelly, B., Museums and the Web 2009: Proceedings,
  3. Further Developments of a Risks and Opportunities Framework, Kelly, B., UK Web Focus blog, 16 April 2009,
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