The response to populism should be a deepening of our democracy not an aping of populist policies

November 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Adam Lent 

This post originally appeared as an article in the London business newspaper City AM on Thursday, 20th November 2014.

WHEN the clowns start talking politics, alarm bells should be ringing not just about the state of our democracy but also the prospects for our economy.

Russell Brand’s interventions may have faced ridicule, but it is worth reflecting on why such a blatant attention-seeker should be capturing the popular mood. After all, Brand’s book Revolution sold over 20,000 copies within ten days of its launch. His Newsnight interview has been viewed on YouTube almost 11m times. Read more

UKIP is the formation of a new political elite – nothing more

November 21, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

It makes for great political drama. Suddenly, apparently from nowhere, a new political force appears. The mould is smashed, politics as usual is over, everything is up in the air. So on and so forth. The media licks its lips. Voters’ ears prick up again. This is pretty much where things are with the rise of UKIP. Will it last? There’s no way of telling but it’s not improbable.

Stepping away from the fray, what would we really see? In reality. There’s nothing new about UKIP. Quite simply, they have spotted a market opportunity and they are exploiting it with a certain degree of skill. That’s the oldest political trick in the world.

A few years ago, Nick Lowles of Hope not Hate and I published a report into the politics of identity, the Fear and Hope report. It identified a group deeply concerned about immigration, cultural change, and the direction of the country. They were both working class and professionals so it wasn’t simply about economics. It is this group that UKIP speaks to in a way that the Conservatives and Labour are increasingly struggling to. That is UKIP’s market opportunity. But they are simply another elite market entrant. Having spotted a market opportunity, they are exploiting it.

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RSA Event: Love, Death, Self, and Soul

November 20, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Social Brain 

Last night’s RSA event examined a profound yet largely unexplored possibility in the 21st century: integrating a modern reconception of spirituality (grounded in an increasingly sophisticated understanding of human nature) into the public realm. Four speakers – Dr. Jonathan Rowson, director of the RSA’s Social Brain Centre; Claire Foster-Gilbert, founder and director of the Westminster Abbey Institute; Dr. Andrew Samuels, psychotherapist and author of Politics on the Couch; and Marina Benjamin, author and senior editor of Aeon magazine – presented moving explorations of what it might mean to introduce post-religious spirituality into public life. I invite you to watch the full video of the event above, and/or browse highlight quotes illustrating their fascinating perspectives on spirituality and society below:

Dr. Jonathan Rowson

  • The spiritual is broadly [about] 3 questions: what are we, how should we live, and why are we here? And we are beginning to understand [the first question] better, not just from 3rd person scientific perspectives, but from 1st person perspectives as well.
  • Most of the time in this project, when something happened that was meaningful, there was a very deep felt sense, sometimes find yourself really hanging on a word, and it was usually when people spoke from personal experience.
  • The spiritual injunction to “wake up” is grounded in an increasingly sophisticated scientific understanding that we are not only creatures of habit, but habit-forming creatures.

Claire Foster-Gilbert

  • It’s obviously the people, [the] institutions, it’s in the air… this huge longing for depth, for the chance to think about what it is that we’re trying to do as public servants.
  • If I didn’t have 1000 years of Benedictine spirituality to draw on, I would be nothing. I simply couldn’t do it. So what I really want to say is… don’t give up on the old religions. We need them, we need their story, we need their history, we need all the mistakes that they’ve made over the millennia. All the recognitions of the dangers of spirituality.

Professor Andrew Samuels

  • If you change only the material conditions, if you change only the constitutional and legal frameworks, then you can’t refresh the parts that the spiritual bit can refresh. You have to do both, one isn’t more important than the other. Becoming individuated is not more important than the revolution, and vice versa.

Marina Benjamin

  • One of the reasons why religions survived, down the millennia, is because they are themselves post-religious. They change and adapt to the circumstances that we find ourselves in as humans. We make them, we reshape them to our needs, they adapt in time.

The Power to…Moderate

November 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

Doug and Trevor both like to go to the pub at the weekend. Doug tends to have a few pints over the course of the evening, catches up with friends, then calls it a night.

Trevor only ever intends to have a few pints, but that swiftly turns into eight, by which time he is convinced that shots are a ‘swell idea’.

Trevor does not feel so swell the next morning…..

Moderation is a woolly concept. It allows us to tailor our idea of how allowable something is to our mood, or our own or others preconceptions. The idea of ‘a few’, ‘a couple’ or ‘just a small slice’ often goes out the window in practice.

But what is it that prompts people who are drinking too much to reduce their consumption before it becomes really problematic? And how can this moderation behaviour be encouraged? Read more

The Culture Challenge – cultural provision for schools

November 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

Fellow Kayte Judge has been working on an interactive ‘culture map’ of Bedfordshire alongside a ‘culture checklist’ setting out a cultural entitlement for young people, based on curriculum needs and research with support from RSA Catalyst. 

culture The Culture Challenge is the second Catalyst fund I have been awarded. For my first I ran pop up shop projects over 2 years in Bedford and while I achieved a lot and learned a lot, what I didn’t do was build a sustainable model. Therefore I was determined that any new venture would need to evolve from the ‘fuelled by raw energy’ school of social entrepreneurship and be something much more sustainable and partnership driven. Read more

The Mobility Problem

November 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

The Problem

Britain has a mobility problem. However, according to new research, the problem is not the one many have come to think it is. The study, conducted by Oxford University and LSE, has found that the political and media consensus on social mobility being in long term decline has been a misdiagnosis. Instead, the problem of mobility is more subtle, with more of us now at risk of moving down the social ladder due to an increasing lack of space at the top – a situation, says co-author Goldthorpe, that has “little historical precedent” with “potentially far-reaching political and wider social implications”. The study further found that inequalities in relative social mobility are significantly greater than thought previously, with a child whose father worked in a higher professional or managerial field 20 times more likely to end up in a similar job than a child with a working-class father.

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Can the wisdom of a WISE crowd avoid artless creativity?

November 17, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Education Matters 

In the last six years, the World Innovation Summit in Education, held annually in Doha, has grown into a giant amongst education events, bringing teachers, innovators and other edu-geeks together to discuss, share and provoke practice. Whilst concerned with all aspects of the global education agenda, WISE’s focus remains on the power of innovation in education, and the need to develop broader outcomes in young people.

When a journalist interviewing me at the summit asked the inevitable ‘why Qatar?’ question, my response was that this kind of gathering was needed, partly as a counter to more traditional corporate and governmental convening power of the so-called ‘Global Education Reform Movement’ (or GERM).  I didn’t mind who met this need, as long as they met it well. WISE, established by the Qatar Foundation, has become an important, risk-taking player in the global education landscape. As Ralph Tabberer, former Director General of Schools for the DfE, and now boss of Better, Broader, Deeper Education, summed up: ‘A very diverse set of people. Not overwhelmed by the West. Lots of networking, Fewer government people so it was all more applied.’ The Learners’ Voice programme is a key cog in the WISE machine, ensuring that the views of young people are embedded throughout the summit.

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World Cities day – from Devo Met to Bogota

November 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Social Economy 

Last week Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos toured European capitals seeking to drum up support for the peace negotiations he is presiding over in Havana, between his Government and the main Columbian guerilla group FARC.

The week before I was in his capital city at the UN Habitat World Cities Conference.  The event was scheduled to coincide with the first ever UN designated World Cities Day. And I was the guest of the Economic Secretariat of Bogota.

Flushed with the success of our RSA City Growth Commission Report, I set off to Columbia somewhat apprehensive that my experience in looking at the potential of devolution for metropolitan areas in Britain may not seem quite so relevant to conference participants largely drawn from the urban policy community in Latin America.  But to my pleasant surprise I found that there were a number of areas of common interest – which was a relief as I had already sent my Prezi off to be loaded on the AV system before I left the UK! Read more

PRISINNOVATION: Thinking Out of the Cell

Practivate, led by Fellow Leslie Alfin, provides a gateway for former gang members and ex-prisoners to work in social enterprises. Abilities that have been fostered in destructive patterns of deprivation and loss are rewritten as valuable business skills that can create a positive, sustainable future in society. RSA Catalyst is supporting Practivate’s Indigogo crowdfunding campaign ‘Keepin’ It R.E.A.L. Homeware for Life’, live until November 18th; support their campaign here.

picThe current rate of prison recidivism in the UK is approximately 30% at a cost to UK taxpayers of more than £10 billion annually. The cost of addressing street crime perpetrated by gang activity is over £40 billion annually. The human costs paid by individuals and society can’t be measured. This pattern is repeated around the globe.

As a global society we currently spend more time and money re-purposing plastic bottles than we do re-claiming the vast intellectual and creative human resources that can be found sitting behind bars “spending all day in their cells rather than being engaged in training and rehabilitation.—BBC News” .

Government or institutional “solutions” tend toward manual, low paying labour. This undervalues the potential of individuals who have, from a very early age, collected impressive business experience and skills, a portfolio of innovation ‘know-how’ and tools that could rival (and perhaps trump) the best from business schools.

The assumption that certain “disadvantaged” individuals or communities are less capable of meaningful and valuable contribution may be short sighted at best and stereotypical at worst. Read more

How to… Research and Innovate?

November 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Design and Society, Uncategorized 

How do you know how to approach a brief? How do you do design research? And how do you turn that research into innovation? These are the pressing questions the RSA Student Design Awards tackled with approximately 100 students from across the country as part of our workshop programme over the last few weeks.

As a global curriculum and competition, the RSA Student Design Awards are working to provide increased opportunities for participants to develop new insights and skills to complement their design education. In addition to workshops this year on design innovation (described here), we’ve run workshops on commercial awareness and designing behavior change and our workshop programme is growing.

One of the biggest challenges for designers is not second-guessing the solution before they’ve carried out the research because they want to design a particular product or service or already have an idea in mind.

Our 2014 design innovation workshops, facilitated by Professor Simon Bolton FRSA (an internationally acclaimed designer, innovation consultant and global thought leader for Procter and Gamble as well as Associate Dean for Applied Research and Enterprise at the Faculty of the Arts, Design & Media, Birmingham City University) gave RSA Student Design Awards participants a set of practical tools to help understand a design brief, conduct impactful design research and translate insights into innovative ideas.

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