“I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true”

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

Last night, as I was woken up by a drunk housemate coming back from her Christmas party in the wee small hours, I was struck by the oddity of the pre-Christmas indulgence culture.

There are two parts to this issue I found myself considering at 3am this morning. The first is our acceptance of excessive alcohol consumption: something that my colleagues in the West Kent Recovery Team explore. The second is the plausibility of one individual to make a difference to society without sacrificing their enjoyment of the season.

It’s tricky to know how to navigate the plethora of opportunities to do good effectively. So in an attempt to summarise my (somewhat sleep-deprived) thoughts, I’ve categorised opportunities into: Give generously; don’t change your lifestyle, change your supplier; and everything changes.

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Mind, Society, and Behavior: the World Bank’s 2015 World Development Report.

December 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Social Brain 

Remember that report that said nobody reads reports? Well here’s one from the same organisation that is likely to buck the trend…

On the lips of anyone interested in behaviour science is the news that this year’s world development report from the World Bank is all about using behavioural science to improve development policy.

 WDR 2015

Within the first few pages of the report the authors explain: Read more

Farewell corporate power: how the rise of blockchain could change everything

December 17, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Adam Lent, Enterprise 

This post first appeared as an article in City AM – the London business paper – on Tuesday, 16th December 2014.

OUR WORLD is full of third parties – the people and organisations that regulate and manage our interactions. The financial world is particularly replete: conduct authorities, prudential bodies, central banks. Even commercial financial institutions themselves often operate as little more than giant third parties, co-ordinating the connections between millions of lenders and borrowers.

However, a new early stage technology could render the conventional third party obsolete and ineffectual, exacerbating the many challenges that now exist to the power of governments and corporations. Read more

Could personal data make capitalists out of all of us?

December 17, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

Capital matters. Not only does it provide us with financial security (through the income that comes from wealth), it also has the power to transform mindsets and foster active citizenship. Indeed, we know that people who own property are more likely to volunteer, vote and start a business. In short, capital is the essential ingredient that enables people to be the authors of their own lives.

The problem is that capital ownership – whether in the form of housing, savings or stocks – is heavily concentrated in the hands of a small proportion of the population. The latest government data indicates that the wealthiest 10 per cent of households in the UK own 44 per cent of total household wealth. Moreover, these inequalities are worsening – in part because of a housing boom that favours the already wealthy.

While discussions grow around how to boost capital ownership through conventional measures such as taxation (think Piketty’s idea of a global wealth tax), there is clearly a need for fresh thinking in this debate. One area that is ripe for exploration is that of data ownership and monetisation. From browsing history, to retail transactions to medical and financial information, each of us produces a wealth of data that has the potential to be used to generate income. Read more

Peshawar: Something happened today

December 16, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Social Brain 

Earlier today 132 schoolchildren were shot dead in their school uniforms, in a premeditated attack by the Taliban in Peshawar, Pakistan.

An eyewitness remarked: “They did not come with the intention to take hostages. Their purpose was to kill children”

Injured student being evacuated

photo via BBC website

Shocking, yes. Yes, it’s terrible. Awful. Did you see? Yes, I know.

But the news comes at a time of Christmas parties and compassion fatigue.

But yes, it’s unbelievable. The children. The faces. The horror. How could they do that?

Hang on, how *could* they do that?

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Can investments in better connected Cities make us happier?

December 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Social Economy 

Happiness and well-being are often used interchangeably. However, happiness is associated with the pleasant feeling accompanying certain events which then contributes to the general state of our well-being. Subsequently, unhappy experiences reduce our state of well-being and the reduction of those experiences should be at the heart of policy decisions.

The Human Development Index often serves as an indicator for countries’ well-being and well developed countries tend to be the home of happier people. Thus, as Stevenson and Wolfers argue, “there appears to be a very strong relationship between subjective well-being and income”. However, Layard points out as soon as a country reaches an income of USD 15,000 pear head, the correlation between happiness and income is insignificant. Moreover, a report by Gallup and Healthways which places Panama and Costa Rica ahead of well developed countries such as Denmark and Austria in terms of their degree of happiness. A similar argument can be made at the city level. In London, for example, the economic status of individual boroughs does not necessarily correlate with the degree of happiness of their population. Read more

International reach

December 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters, Social Brain 

We are thrilled that our report Everyone Starts with an A, published earlier this year in English and German, continues to be read by people from many corners of the globe.

Just last week we were informed that the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission has a summary of the paper on their website (here for anyone who reads Portuguese).

globes by Tup Wander

Image credit: Globes by tup wanders

And in the past few months, our Director- and Associate Director of Education spoke at conferences in Lithuania and Latvia, respectively, about the concepts explored in the paper. Joe attended the Creative Partnerships conference; see an interview with him here (in Lithuanian). Louise spoke at the Education Innovation conference, supported by British Council Latvia, Ministry of Education, Microsoft, and others.

Our RSA Global team is helping to spread the RSA’s key messages. And as the RSA’s audience continues to grow across the globe, we hope to carry on providing thought-provoking work which is accessible and relevant beyond our local borders.


Many thanks to Adriana Rodopolous for informing us about the SEC article. The Everyone Starts with an A report was made possible by support from Vodafone Foundation Germany. The RSA Global team is Natalie Nicholles and Laura Southerland. 

Nathalie Spencer is a Senior Researcher in the RSA’s Social Brain Centre, and tweets at @economiclogic  

What is ‘the soul’ and why does it matter?

December 14, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Social Brain 

The following transcription came from a speech that formed part of a series of six public events within RSA Social Brain Centre’s project: Spirituality, Tools of the Mind, and the Social Brain. The final report of this project, outlined here will be published later this month.

What Happened to the Soul?

Iain McGilchrist, RSA, 31 March 2014

There was a piece in the papers not very long ago by a quite well known team in America who do neuroimaging and they’re particularly interested in moral values. And they found that by suppressing activity in the right temporoparietal region they caused a failure to understand the nature of moral judgements.

Well, this wasn’t a surprise to me, anyone who knows my book would suggest that that was probably going to happen. They set up a scenario of Grace, hoping to put sugar in her friend’s coffee but actually by mistake putting poison in, and her friend died. In the other scenario Grace intended to poison her friend but put sugar in and the friend lived. In the normal state we probably think it was worse to intend to poison; but the good old left hemisphere on its own thought, in what is basically an autistic way, that the outcome was the important measure.

Well, that’s all very interesting. But then these neuroscientists, and I won’t mention their names to spare them their blushes here, finished up by saying, “If something as complex as morality has a mechanical explanation, it’ll be hard to argue that people have, or need, a soul.” Well, I hope you can see that there might be a category mistake in there; everything that goes through human experience has its brain correlates, but of course it doesn’t mean that that’s all there is to it.

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Planning for real impact: Achieving better outcomes for young people

December 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

Vaithegi Vasanthakumar (@VaithegiV) is a member of the global efficacy team with the Office of the Chief Education Advisor, Pearson. You can follow the team’s work at efficacy.pearson.com 

The first event in the RSA’s current ‘planning for real impact’ series explored whether Pearson’s approach to efficacy and the RSA’s Power to Create concept might help organisations engaged in youth employment programmes achieve better outcomes for young people. The delegates were drawn from a range of commercial and third-sector providers of employability services, as well as educationalists, employers and policy makers.

For context, Pearson defines efficacy as having a “measurable impact on improving people’s lives through learning” – a commitment it is applying rigorously across the business – for example, any internal investment or acquisition requires a review of the efficacy behind it, alongside the usual financial assessment. Also, products and services are developed based on robust research that supports in the delivery of meaningful, measurable outcomes.

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Binge drinking, drug taking and no-strings attached sex; what the history books fail to tell about the Great War

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

Lex III: Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi. Sir Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis, published 1686.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion and for those of you not fluent in Latin here’s the approximate translation in today’s English.

Law III: To every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.

But what has this to do with the First World War history books? Read more

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