There’s no such thing as a bad idea!

September 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

 Anthony Gerard is a Scottish Fellow looking to find aspiring entrepreneurs for his project, ‘The Bad Idea’.

How do we encourage more young people into self-employment and entrepreneurship? That was the question posed by Glasgow City Council in January 2012. Why? Only 29% of employers will recruit a young person from education, and nearly one in every four 16 to 24 year olds are now classed as not in education, employment or training. The so-called “Lost Generation”. Read more

You can distribute power & wealth or you can concentrate it but you can’t do both. Politicians pretend otherwise.

August 31, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Adam Lent 

As I do the research for my book Small is Powerful, I’m sharing some of my early thoughts through my blog. Here’s the latest.

It is 225 years since the United States Constitution was adopted. One might have thought in that time that our understanding of democracy would have become more sophisticated. But one of the most central insights into the nature of government and society that was commonplace amongst the Founding Fathers has now been largely forgotten. Read more

Cash-poor, asset-rich: are the self-employed better or worse off?

August 29, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

Last week I argued that the concerns over shrinking self-employed earnings may be a little exaggerated. Coincidentally, at the same time the blogger Flip Chart Rick convincingly proposed the opposite: that we aren’t half as worried as we should be.

Clearly the jury is still out. So while we’re in the debating mood it might be worth adding another layer to the debate – that of wealth and asset ownership.

As part of our new project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, we’ve been looking at the data on earnings, wealth and debt. And while some of the findings are unsurprising, there are a few curveballs in there too.

Here are a few initial observations to chew over:

#1 – The full-time self-employed earn around 20 per cent less than their employed counterparts, and their income has fallen by 10 per cent in real terms since 2000


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Over £310,000,000 a Year Misspent on Tuition – and one Fellow’s attempt to change this

August 26, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Fellowship, Uncategorized 

This is a guest post from Fellow Stephen Parkes. Stephen was awarded a Catalyst Grant for his project Go Enrol, a website allowing potential students to compare higher education opportunities on the issues that matter to them. Stephen is particularly keen to find Fellows who can introduce student career advisors, teachers and parents of students who looking at going to university.

With average tuition fees in England of £8,448 per annum, students are making one of the largest financial commitments of their life. With an expected drop-out rate of around 37,000 students from this year’s cohort, this means that around £310 million will be misspent on tuition alone. This is before we even consider the time wasted of all involved, along with the other costs. When you consider also that an estimated 26% of undergraduates wished they had done more research before applying, we end up with a lot of students wishing they had made a different decision. With cut backs on career guidance in schools, more support is needed to be given to students. Go Enrol is building an online scalable form of support which can be used by students easily, for free anywhere the student is. Read more

What’s happening to the earnings of the self-employed?

August 22, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Enterprise 

This week the ONS published a brief report on the rise in self-employment. The headline is that the number of people working for themselves has reached a record 4.6 million, the equivalent of 15 per cent of the workforce. This is the highest figure since records began 40 years ago.

Yet it wasn’t the aggregate numbers the media paid attention to. It was the stats on their earnings, which the ONS report had fallen by 22 per cent in real terms between 2008 and 2012 – quite a staggering fall. Others have highlighted a similar trend, including ourselves and the likes of the Resolution Foundation. In short, the message of the data is that while being your own boss may be more fulfilling, it can also be financially precarious.

While I broadly subscribe to this position, I do increasingly wonder whether we may be exaggerating the income crashes and shortfalls of the self-employed. Here are three reasons why:

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The next American Revolution?

When we look back on the final years of Obama’s 8-year presidency, it will appear obvious that America’s political landscape was in revolution. There is rising anger at injustice and inequality, covering a range of concerns including labour market regulation, policing, housing affordability and social mobility. But the US Federal Government is close to impotent in its ability to deliver the changes citizens are demanding.

Consider that to get through the President’s major policy initiative of healthcare access and affordability, Federal Government was forced to shut down for 16 days while politicians slogged it out in the Capitol Building. The militarised policing of Ferguson has served to draw attention to a federal programme of hand-me-downs: hardware designed for war given for free to local police forces on condition it is deployed within a year. Even the normally mundane business of making debt repayments has been turned into a game of brinkmanship, animated by activists from a group named after the famous tax protest of 18th Century Boston. Read more

Behind Closed Doors

August 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Social Economy 

There are many different approaches to doing social research, from the long term, in depth, ethnographic field research that relies on time in the field, to the faster questionnaires that rely more on repeated opinions and comparative analysis. Whilst an ethnographic approach can be illustrative and provide context, at times you just need to knock on a few doors to reach the people you want to study.

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Creativity in public services

August 18, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

This is a guest blog from London-based RSA Fellow Steven Trevillion. Steve is interested in connecting with like-minded Fellows with a view to establishing a framework for small, experimental social and community projects that could feed into the national debate about ‘welfare reform’. He is an Emeritus Professor of Social Work at the University of East London and a visual artist.

We are constantly told that public services are in a state of crisis. The NHS, social work, Children’s Services, Adult Social Care, housing and even education are deemed by most observers to be in a state of more or less permanent crisis.

The search is on not just for ways of improving existing services but for ways of transforming them. George Osborne, Eric Pickles and a number of other government ministers have made it clear that nothing less than “transformation” is their goal. And this is not just the usual stuff about partnerships and collaboration. The big idea is that public services will become innovation hotspots. And a commitment to innovation means a commitment to creativity. Our own RSA has been at the forefront in recognising this as witnessed by the title of this year’s talk by Matthew Taylor: ‘The Power to Create’. This all sounds great. Who could possibly object to creativity as the way forward for public services? Unfortunately, the evidence suggests quite a lot of people. 

Who could possibly object to creativity as the way forward for public services?

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10,000 hours or 10,000 friends? eight perspectives on talent in music

It’s about time we reconsidered what we mean by talent: how it is defined, who gets identified as talented, and how they are developed, recognised and rewarded. Is talent the product of 10,000 hours of devoted practice, or the reward of cultivating 10,000 followers?

Definitions of talent are diverse, and influenced by the company we keep and influences we subject ourselves too. For example, the expectations of our teachers have been shown to have a particularly strong influence on our future success. What we mean by ‘talent’ depends on the networks of information that we participate in.

Our expectations of what talent looks like matter ever more in an age of accelerating access to visual communication tools. In the last decade talent competitions became a new force on our TV screens. As contestants are driven towards established categories for their music product, ask yourself whether David Bowie or Prince would have made it through X-Factor open auditions. A new study from the RSA captures 8 distinct perspectives from the music industry. It is clear from looking deeper into the music industry that talent always has a social context. 

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Nature vs. Nurture? Are you (banana) split?

August 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

They say of authors, and aspiring ones, that they are either architects or gardeners.

Architects like to have things planned out; a beginning, middle and end. On the other hand a gardener just plants seeds and sees what grows from them. I count myself one of the latter, I love planting seeds of thought and growing ideas.Banana

But gardens and plants for real… I’ll leave that to other folk. Too much like hard work. Or so I thought.

I have been blessed with many gifts but green-fingers are not one of them. Hence my dislike of all things horticultural.

So I am pleased to announce that I am the proud owner of one very healthy banana plant; from which I have now taken cuttings and have its off-springs developing nicely.

I never thought I would have so much joy at such a seemingly mundane thing to do as help and nurture a plant to grow and reproduce.

But let me take you back a couple of months. Read more

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