What is good is given

December 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

‘What is good is given’ is the dedication in Lewis Hyde’s book The Gift recommended to me at the Leeds Leadership taster event by Ed Carlisle from Together4peace. We explored possibilities together for the Incredible Edible and Catalyst Leeds Empties project where architects, council leaders and housing professionals are getting together on March 18th in an empty location in Leeds.  

leeds empties

More than 100 people came to a Call To Action in May last year – where a range of ideas were explored. With support from the RSA Catalyst Fund and Leeds City Council, SBB are currently “prototyping” a number of these ideas – so that they can fully launch Leeds Empties in Spring next year….   Rob Greenland

Leeds Empties was set up by Social Business Brokers (SBB) to encourage and support a range of socially enterprising approaches to bringing more empty homes back into use in Leeds.  Services include an Empty Homes Doctor to offer intensive support to empty home owners, support for social ventures and self-help schemes, and further work on innovative ways to bring more money into empty homes, such as community share issues.

Originally published in 1983 the book, in common with the RSA, is hard to summarise.   In the second paragraph of the 2006 Foreword we are asked to tackle the big questions of commodification and who is the book’s audience; a challenge similar to defining our Fellowship.
So now in my third month at the RSA working across Yorkshire and the North East I am learning about what this Fellowship means and how we move forward with focus to support, grow and spread our work.

At the excellent RSA North West Keep Calm, Prepare for Change Conference young entrepreneurs Casserole showed how their idea to get people to cook an extra meal to give to others has spread into a national programme – interesting that initially there were fewer takers than givers. So their challenge was – not enough takers.

“Casserole was born out of a desire to help bring communities together. There are a lot of people cooking food and many others who would greatly appreciate a home cooked meal. Our goal is to connect the two.”

Maybe this is about small steps leading to large changes – opening up the conversation about what the gift of Fellowship means: “What is good is given”.

Julia Davis is the Programme Manager for Yorkshire & Humber and North East.  You can follow her @juliadavis111


How I quit my RSA job and started a social venture

December 12, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

Jamie YoungGuest blogger Jamie Young shares the story of how he left the RSA in order to start up his own social venture.

I recently stumbled across a case study of a social entrepreneur who fixed a problem in the energy market. Energy suppliers were colluding to fix the market and charging over the odds for fuel in winter, straining household budgets and pushing people into fuel poverty. The entrepreneur responded by devising a fund that would buy fuel in bulk when the price was low, store it and sell it for a fair price in winter, when rates were artificially high. Facing an initial lack of interest from potential investors, he started with £2,000 of his own savings, but when the project proved popular he was able to recruit more subscribers, and grew the fund to over six times that value. His efforts saved people in his local area about 35% on their energy bills.

One of the partners describes the programme’s aim as being to “get people to quit their jobs and start social ventures”, which turned out to be exactly the effect it had on me.

You could be forgiven for thinking it’s a new case study – but it’s not. That social entrepreneur was William Shipley – founder of the RSA – and his Fuel Scheme was launched in Northampton in 1751. Shipley’s success with his fund is credited with giving him the confidence to found the RSA three years later, with a wider remit to encourage projects and inventions for the public good.

Jamie Young

Jamie talks with the Design Council's Mat Hunter - at the pitching event held by Bethnal Green Ventures (photo credit: Seb Junemann)

Over 250 years later, the RSA has evolved and responded to the 21st century world, but I think it still shares Shipley’s value for early-stage innovations that solve real problems. For the last few years I’ve been able to contribute to the RSA’s modern-day mission from the inside, while working on projects in the Action & Research Centre. I enjoyed the variety; from researching how teams could remain innovative while under resource constraints, to running a micro-funding scheme for environmental activists, to even encouraging cab drivers to adopt more fuel-efficient driving behaviour.

We’re influenced by the idea of being a ‘lean startup’ and are iteratively developing and testing different approaches to overcoming these barriers as quickly and cheaply as we can

Earlier this year Bethnal Green Ventures, an accelerator programme for technology startups working on “things that matter”, called for business proposals. One of the partners describes the programme’s aim as being to “get people to quit their jobs and start social ventures”, which turned out to be exactly the effect it had on me… Working with a friend, we applied with an idea for a digital service that would encourage homeowners to invest in their home’s energy efficiency. We were accepted on the programme, and with the promise of their support (in the form of cash investment, access to their network of mentors, and office space at Google’s Campus) I evolved from being an employee, into a Fellow, of the RSA.

Though the energy business is dramatically different to Shipley’s time, fuel poverty is still a problem and market-fixing isn’t unheard of. Our fledgling idea, Homely, provides personal and unbiased information on measures that improve a home’s energy efficiency. The social benefits of greater efficiency are reduced fuel poverty, lower levels of illness due to under-heated homes (and the associated cost to NHS), as well as cutting our collective greenhouse gas emissions. Though the benefits are attractive to most people, there are barriers that get in the way: the high cost of some of the possible measures, lack of awareness about what’s right for each home, and the inertia that comes with any change that involves some hassle. Government schemes like the Green Deal will make warm homes more affordable – but may not do much to resolve other barriers.

The RSA approach also has a valuable ‘incubation effect’ on its staff, giving people like me the confidence, access to networks and experience to begin new initiatives of their own.

As we develop Homely, we’re influenced by the idea of being a ‘lean startup‘ and are iteratively developing and testing different approaches to overcoming these barriers as quickly and cheaply as we can. Our current hypothesis is that there’s a need for a trusted intermediary between homeowners and the companies that provide energy efficiency measures – and that homeowners are more likely to trust and act on energy efficiency advice from someone similar to themselves. To that end, we’re providing personal and tailored advice on warm homes (and lower energy bills) through the Homely website. In practice this means we’re interviewing people from a wide range of homes who’ve already taken steps to make them more efficient – do drop me an email to jamie@wearehomely.com if this describes you!

Shipley established the RSA to incentivise and incubate innovation for the public good. Over the years, the organisation’s approach has included premiums, grand (and small) projects, networks and published ideas. But I suggest that it also has a valuable ‘incubation effect’ on its staff, giving people like me the confidence, access to networks and experience to begin new initiatives of their own.

Jamie Young is co-founder of Homely, a startup that provides homeowners with relevant, personal and unbiased advice to help them warm up their home. Before starting Homely he worked for the RSA, researching projects on behaviour change and innovation, and prior to that worked as an engineer. Twitter: @dt99jay. Email: jamie@wearehomely.com.


Do We Get the Politics We Deserve?

December 10, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Fellowship, Uncategorized 

Tom Brookes FRSA guest blogs about a recent RSA Fellowship event during Parliament Week.  Find out what happened, and what he thought:

Do we get the politics we deserve? Is politics all that bad? Are we only interested in scandal? Is the voice of the public heard?

As part of Parliament Week, the RSA  and a panel of prominent politicians and academics considered these questions. Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sheffield, Matthew Flinders, Labour MP Gloria De Piero and Nadhim Zahawi – Conservative MP formerly of YouGov attempted to answer whether or not we get the politics we deserve. They all then set a question to be discussed afterwards by the audience.

Matthew Flinders argued that actually, we get a better kind of politics than we think we do. His premise, and that of his book, is that politics isn’t that bad really. Matthew argued that the public doesn’t hate politics and politicians, submitting it’s more accurate to say that there is a lack of understanding of what politics is and what politicians can do. Problems in politics can trace some of their roots to public expectations – some sections’ expectations of politicians are too high, missing out what the public must do to affect lasting changes. Matthew argued that there exists an ‘expectations gap’ between what the public expect and what politics can deliver. The healthy scepticism of politicians in the UK has slipped into corrosive cynicism. The constant negativity of political satire, for instance, actually matters – and particularly amongst the young – who get a lot of political information from such shows. Do comedians and satirists have a responsibility to society at large – to represent a balanced view?

The healthy scepticism of politicians in the UK has slipped into corrosive cynicism. The constant negativity of political satire, for instance, actually matters – and particularly amongst the young – who get a lot of political information from such shows.

Follow-up question: Has Democratic politics in the age of the internet and ‘digital democracy’ simply become too easy? Or can we use the digital world to genuinely benefit our democracy?

Gloria De Piero MP (Labour) - Formerly GMTV’s political correspondent, Gloria became an MP after noticing the high bar on GMTV for a political story to get through; namely, it has to be particularly scandalous. For instance when expenses broke, suddenly everyone was deeply interested in registering their disgust. Gloria suggested that part of our problem with politics is that if we only tune in when something untoward happens a lasting negative impression is unsurprising. Gloria’s first project as an MP is a survey asking: ‘why do people hate me?’ (me = politicians). Gloria wants to hear, in people’s own words, why they hate politics and went chatting to people all over the country to find out. The first question Gloria asks all the groups is: “what’s the first thing you think when I say politicians?” – and usually receives generally and specifically negative comments. However later into questioning a consensus emerges that there are two types of politicians – and that it is reaching high office which makes representatives loose touch. Those Gloria surveyed generally disliked the adversarial nature of Parliament and Prime Minister’s Questions – one called it “Jeremy Kyle for posh people”.

Those Gloria surveyed generally disliked the adversarial nature of Parliament and Prime Minister’s Questions – one called it “Jeremy Kyle for posh people”.

There was also an assumption that a degree from Oxford is required to get involved in politics. Asking what it was thought that ‘getting involved in politics’ meant, Gloria suggests that it means fighting for the needs of your locality and resolving its problems – a job requiring no qualifications whatsoever. Framed in these terms, many were interested in getting involved. Further instructive comments from survey participants included: “representing your community isn’t advertised at the job centre” – people don’t know how to get involved; but were interested in doing so. Gloria submits we need more ‘normal people in politics’ – that Parliament should ‘look and sound like the country’. Objection from Matt Flinders on this point asking for a definition of a normal person – which is of course impossible, as normality is a relative concept.

Follow-up question: How do we open up our politics so we get a broader range of people to stand for election?

Nadhim Zahawi MP (Conservative) – A former executive at YouGov, Nadhim’s emphasises public engagement and the importance of feedback to the operation of politicscrowd and how politicians ‘tune in’ with that. Is the feedback politicians obtain meaningful and representative of the population at large? Nadhim submits that the UK is notoriously poor at citizen feedback, being one of the worst nations for taking citizen’s views into account. Nadhim’s key reason for this is the way we (politicians) approach people. Use of consultations and focus groups is unwieldy, placing too much emphasis on specialists and lobbyists without precipitating a 2 way conversation between government and ‘ordinary users’ of services. ‘Nobody’s an insider’, Nadhim argued – presumably referring to the universal use of government services ( though Gloria looked as if she disagreed). The research of interest groups is vital, but requires balancing with views of public at large. In Whitehall, Nadhim further suggests the Civil Service is wary of engagement due to a fear that engagement with the public leads to those who shout loudest getting most attention. There are more egalitarian methods of engagement, the e-petition system being a prime example, though it is often ignored. Nadhim thought petitions are a good start, but is concerned with how to improve further and ‘get ordinary people involved’ – Nadhim said a system is needed to make this happen; surmising that it was impossible, in the past, to get feedback from ‘millions’ – but this is possible now, and we should use this ability to improve politics.

Nadhim submits that the UK is notoriously poor at citizen feedback, being one of the worst nations for taking citizen’s views into account.

Follow-up question: How could a form of direct democracy deliver better government?

I chaired a session based on Nadhim’s question, How could a form of direct democracy deliver better government? We started by discussing the concept of direct democracy to the group, and how the question is somewhat loaded – direct democracy is a form of government, so strictly speaking it’s a slightly oxymoronic question as accepting the case for direct democracy means accepting that form of governance. This generated a heated discussion of whether the UK was a democracy at all, which is always an interesting debate but was off question so I explained that what I reasoned the question was intended to mean: how could elements of direct democracy, like consensus decision making and public consultation, improve the representative democracy we have and what are the issues associated with this? The discussion group split into two and again into two subgroups, making separate conversations hard to follow but the three key ideas/concerns with applying elements of direct democracy which emerged were:

  1. The power of an expert to subvert group opinion – i.e. Lobbyists, self interest – concern that the loudest voice wins. The group recognised that this occurs in current political debates too – however were concerned that this would be amplified in a large group seeking consensus
  2. The ability to publicly ‘veto’ or ‘recall’ dissatisfactory legislation to parliament for reconsideration on grounds ‘x’ was popular and seen as beneficial / inclusive. Rather like recalling an MP for poor performance or misbehaviour, recalling a law for reconsideration if its implementation doesn’t marry up to its principles was seen as very pro-democratic
  3. Similarly to point one was a concern over agenda setting – if politics was mass-participatory, who sets the agendas and decides what to prioritise?

Another idea being discussed was how to ensure that debates were meaningful as well as inclusive – focussed conversations centred upon issues; not large talking shops. This seems to answer the concern of point three – agendas set based upon issues and needs makes priorities moral issues as well as practicalities.

If there had been more time, I would have liked to respond to some of the objections to ideas of direct democracy and advance the conversation but it remained deeply satisfying to see that a brief chat about the concept of direct democracy opened up a healthy debate on the very nature of UK democracy and pitfalls of the direct system, pitfalls which could be said to equally apply to the representative system. Direct democracy is a theme that should definitely be explored further – I’d even suggest a lecture title: “The UK’s Problem With Democracy”.

And I throw that question out to other Fellows and readers of the blog – do we get the politics we deserve? What do you think?

Tom Brookes FRSA

Follow @TomBrookes_86

Fellows and our Family

December 5, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters, Fellowship 

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of supporting 40 student leaders from the RSA Family of Academies who came together to discuss ‘Enrichment Though Student Leadership’.  Students delved into question webs and explored what it meant to be a student leader in their schools before settling down to plan and devise their own enrichment activities.  My colleague Temi Ogunye has written a post about the event and can tell you  that the Family of Academies are in the process of deciding if they should support RSA-lympics or the myriad of other creative and exciting project ideas that students created.

The Student Leadership Conference was supported by RSA Fellow Matt Kepple of makeworldwide.com fame.  Matt gave students a whirlwind tour of his experiences at school, university and beyond and highlighted the importance of being a leader and making the most of your opportunities.  The best parts of school for Matt were the extras that enriched his experiences and expanded his horizons.  These experiences highlighted the benefits of extra-curricular activities and showed him that you benefit most when you dip your toe and give something a go.  Through university he held onto this philosophy and came out the other end with a bank of friends, experiences and knowledge which reminds us that we should always think holistically about education.  Matt also took the time to speak with students over lunch about his experiences and may even have been persuaded to head to one of our academies to support their enterprise group. They were a convincing bunch.

My role with the Family of Academies is to support as may interactions between Fellows and students, teachers and the Academies as possible.  I am always looking for Fellows to support the RSA and the schools to enrich, enliven and enhance time at school.  If you would like to know more please contact me by email at Richard.pickford@rsa.org.uk or on twitter where I’m @pickfordrich

Showing some civic heart

December 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

Here in the Fellowship department we are very keen to forge partnerships with organisations that share similar values to our own, the overall idea being that through mutual collaboration we can make a much bigger impact. Recently, our thinking has turned to how we can open up the expertise within our network of Fellows to a younger audience.

Since the summer we have been working with an organisation called Student Hubs to develop a partnership which will bring together the collective expertise, enthusiasm and ideas of RSA Fellows and Student Hubs participants.  Working across the UK, Student Hubs seeks to transform student involvement in social action. They act as a catalyst, empowering students to become active members of their community by promoting social action, social entrepreneurship and citizenship.

As with all of our Fellowship partnerships, by collaborating with like-minded organisations we hope to reach out to new audiences – making a bigger impact and helping our partners to do the same.   With the support of Social Enterprise Berkshire’s Tony Davis FRSA, we held our our first joint event in Oxford two weeks ago, where students from the Oxford Hub met with RSA Fellows for an evening workshop to brainstorm ways to use Oxford’s empty shops to address a social need.

Be it youth unemployment, sustainable food production or community isolation, people came armed with ideas and possible solutions…

Set in the amazing Turl Street Kitchen (Oxford Hub and Student Hubs HQ), the event had a dual purpose: to introduce social enterprise by thinking about how we could use empty spaces for social good, and to encourage a mix of ideas and collaboration between different generations.

And this is what happened (click to enlarge)…

Great conversations made for some great ideas!  But where can we go from here?  Well, Student Hubs offers access to a range of funding bodies to support new ideas, and of course RSA Fellowship provides access to small grants through the Catalyst fund and the expertise of Fellows through the SkillsBank. The RSA South Central region is also launching a pop-up shop advice line for Fellows and RSA friends who want to know how to go about taking their ideas forward – get in touch with Alice Dyke, Regional Programme Manager at the RSA, for more information.

Next up…

We’re hoping to run similar events and initiatives with Student Hubs in 2013 – so watch this space!  Student Hubs are based in universities across England such as Southampton,  Bristol and Cambridge – if you live in one of these areas and want to get involved get in touch with Amy Anderson, Oxford Hub Manager.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

We’re always happy to hear about potential opportunities for collaboration and partnership at the RSA – if you’d like to find out more, please contact our Partnership Development Co-ordinator, Jo Painter.

For more pictures from this and other RSA events,  join the RSA Flickr group.

How to run an FRSA ‘Reboot’ session – guest blog

November 30, 2012 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

Jemima GibbonsSixty RSA Fellows enjoyed an evening of lightning talks and speed networking at 3Space in Oxford Street – and heard about a range of innovative and exciting Fellow-led projects. London Fellow – and Regional Digital Champion – Jemima Gibbons guest blogs about the event, and how to organise one yourself.

I live in London and have been a Fellow since 2006 – but I only know a handful of Fellows here. In fact, I know more than most – around 80 – but that’s still just ONE per cent of the 8,000 Fellows who live and work in London.

So that’s a huge living resource that I could be connecting to in order to make a difference, develop projects and more. But I’m currently mostly missing out.

It was a great event and we had amazing feedback. People seemed to feel really energised and inspired – just as we intended!

One reason for this, as with so many RSA regions, is that there’s no structured face to face networking. Our regional drinks dwindled out. The London committee has events, but they are usually paid (due to venue costs), and are topic rather than network-led. And there’s the public lecture programme at John Adam Street (which we’re lucky to have), but again, these talks are very specific and – unless drinks are scheduled – there’s no real space to gather afterwards.

The venue
Back in March, I went to an RSA Mental Health workshop at 3Space on Oxford Street. It was a great venue and, it turned out, free for charities (such as the RSA) to use.

Bingo! How about hosting something there?

The great thing about 3Space is that it’s UK-wide. As well as London, the organisation currently has venues in Aylesbury, Blackpool, Bury St Edmunds, Cardiff, Falkirk and Wigan. So if any FRSA would like to hold events in those areas, you’ve a free venue readily available.

Lee Hazzard tell Fellows about his project, Game Plan

Designing the London #FRSA event
I got together with Roxanne Persaud (London Region Fellowship Councillor) and Matthew Mezey (RSA Online Community Manager) to hatch a plan.  We wanted an event that met Fellows’ needs while also encouraging engagement, collaboration and community (things we’re all passionate about through our work with RSAde).

Feedback from the recent Fellowship Survey, and from previous London Region events, showed that the two main things Fellows want is to:

1.    Connect with other Fellows who share their interests in their region
2.    Hear about current projects and initiatives they can get involved with

So, we agreed what we hoped would be a “magic” formula…

The format

1.    Lightning talks
2.    Speed networking
3.    General chat and “collaboration huddles”

The evening would run over three hours with each activity repeated in short, sharp, bursts. The idea was to keep things moving and create a dynamic atmosphere to get everyone buzzing, spark conversation and maximise idea-sharing. This is the schedule breakdown.

A Wordle created from Fellow's feedback on the event

The name #FRSA London Reboot! was inspired by the Reboot Britain event three years ago. A “reboot” is, of course, what you do to a computer to get it up and running again after a software update. We felt it was a great way to re-ignite the London network and kickstart collaborative activity.

Lightning talks
For added inspiration, we gave the event a broad theme, “Positive deviants”. This was the “peg” for speakers’ presentations. We offered ten slots of 4 minutes each, broken into three “rounds” (at 6.30, 7.15 and 8pm). The speakers were allowed to talk about any type of project or initiative they wanted – the only requirement was that they needed some kind of input – whether it be skills, support or funding – from other FRSA.

3Space provided a projector so were able to show one slide containing basic information (name, website etc) behind each speaker. There was no time for multiple slides although in retrospect some of the speakers could have done with more illustration (Mark Power, for example). But equally, it would have been quite possible to run the talks with no slides.

In feedback, people said that there was a lot of information to take in and at times they felt quite overwhelmed. One attendee suggested we hand out speaker details so they could keep track of all the projects, and make notes. (Next time we can send these out with the reminder email so that people can print out and bring with them).

Collaboration huddles
After each round of lightning talks, we split the room in half: people had the choice of either chatting with one of the speakers in a “huddle” (on the Oxford Street side of the room), or taking part in speed networking (on the Soho Square side).

Read more

Talking religion, faith and local action projects

November 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

I have always been keen to stay connected to previous projects that I have worked on, and was pleased to be able to attend a recent conference on New Forms of Public Religion.  The conference was an outcome of a 6 year research programme, Religion and Society, funded by the Arts and Humanities and Economic and Social Research Councils.  Professor Linda Woodhead, Director of the programme says “The Religion and Society Programme has produced a huge body of new research on religion, and some of the new findings were presented at our Cambridge conference.  There is so much still to learn from the research that we be will be presenting findings over the coming years in events like the Westminster Faith Debates, and on our website

I had been involved in the programme from its inception through my position at the AHRC, and this conference was a chance for me to learn about the findings of the projects that had been funded.  I was particularly interested in a project about the portrayal of religion in the media, led by Professor Kim Knott. She and her team replicated an investigation of media portrayals of religion first carried out in 1982-83.  In 2008-09 she and her team analysed a month’s content from the same newspapers: The Sun, The Times and The Yorkshire Evening Post; and seven days TV from the same channels: BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV. Using the same methods, they found that there has been increased discussion of religion in the British media. A full synopsis of the research and its results can be found here.

It also gave me an opportunity to catch up and meet people involved in this area of research.  One academic I met told me about the work he does in his local community in Victoria, Canada, which is based around conducting lessons in empty shops and educating people within the community, an example that might be useful to the recently funded Catalyst project Leeds Empties, which is looking to transform empty shops/businesses in Leeds.

One academic I met told me about the work he does in his local community in Victoria, Canada, which is based around conducting lessons in empty shops and educating people within the community

The Religion and Society programme was so encompassing of subjects and research areas across the spectrum that I was interested to see a recent Fellow-led project on Faith and Disability that covers an important area that hadn’t been covered by research in the programme.  The project is led by Dr Deesha Chadha FRSA and Philip Rosenberg of Faith Forum 4 London, and is based on the idea to create a learning opportunity for around 80 religious leaders to offer teaching on issues around faith and disability.  Its aim is to flag both the challenges and the positive stories, with resources that communities can use to improve their inclusiveness and challenge prejudiced attitudes.  If anyone is interested in being involved in this project, please contact Dr Chadha.

The interaction between research and projects that work towards a solution to tackle a pressing social problem that the RSA support through the Catalyst scheme is integral and I hope we can see more of this in the future.

Lou Matter is the Programme Manager for West and South West.  You can follow her @loumatter


How to create and not just consume – with RSA Catalyst

November 29, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

I saw two main strands to the RSA’s recent Generation Enterprise report written by Adam Lent, our Director of Programme. One charts the increase in entrepreneurialism among today’s generation of young people and analyses its causes and effects. This was explored both by the headlines that the report received in CityAM, Evening Standard and in the RSA Event with Madsen Pirie and Martha Lane Fox. I want to explore the other, Adam’s identification and analysis of the social effects of what he calls ‘self-generated value’. ‘What’s that?’ you might ask:

“in a growing number of areas, the consumer no longer has to rely on the insight of the entrepreneur to obtain value. Instead, the consumer can generate that value for him or herself. Think, for example, how the most potent source of detailed factual knowledge across the world is now an online encyclopaedia written by its readers.” (See my colleague’s blog for some well-known examples of where SGV has been applied in practice).

As Adam, says, the phenomenon has been identified before, and called pro-sumption (the merging of the production and consumption). But he goes on to say:

“What is truly revolutionary about the new worm-hole [caused by the creation of the internet] is not the collapse of the distinction between production and consumption per se but the new capacity of individuals to start generating value for themselves in ways which continue the capitalist trend towards the creation of ever greater value for millions of consumers.”

Though I will be reading Tapscott and Williams’ Macrowikinomics and Doc Searls’ The Intention Economy to find out more, I wanted to illustrate my initial understanding of this through some of the RSA Fellows’ ventures supported by RSA Catalyst in a few different areas of value-creation. In one sense, these examples don’t really do justice to what Adam is focusing on. His focus is on quite conventional products and services purchased in the private sphere (music and t-shirts) rather than any kind of service in the social sphere (personal education, food waste and care). Indeed, half the point was to show the value to society of improvements in private consumption. But I think hope these examples demonstrate the trends Adam identifies in the private sector to an audience from the public and third sectors, drawing on manufacturing and commercial expertise to deliver more effective undertakings explicitly for the public good.

Production of knowledge-based goods. Services like facebook and twitter offer blank slates upon which users inscribe their own value and meaning, together creating huge value for its participants.

  • Omnifolio is building a service for users to track their traits, work experience, formal and, crucially, informal educational (such as books read, lectures attended). They hope resulting profiles will help people find, train for and better communicate one’s suitability to potential employers.

Pricing and distribution. Adam gives some examples of sites dedicated to getting consumers to club together to negotiate on price over a product the ‘crowd’ desires and how consumers now exert greater control over when their purchases are delivered.

  • Plan Zheroes; rather than businesses throwing away and paying councils (sometimes by the tonne) to take good food to waste, this map makes it simple to find a charity nearby and organize to drop off surplus food to a local soup-kitchen, community group or food redistribution programme. Over 300 businesses have signed up so far. By giving the market small amounts of information about waste, participants are helping others provide a service that takes away the guilt of throwing away edible food at the end of the day.

Marketing. It may seem strange to see marketing as an integral part of creating value. But it is indeed since advertising can make low-value product look or feel valuable and that consumers are swamped with a huge variety of products and services, the difference between which is increasingly meaningless.

  • Rate My Care; an online platform for rating social care providers, providing a resource for people unsure where they should residential to an elderly loved-one. As well as opening up marketing of particular services, these ventures also emphasise the need for consumers of services to give input into the re-design and improvement of the services.

The Generation Enterprise publication is a good read and the lecture a good listen. I hope it sparks ideas for a new solution for people to generate value for themselves. If it does this, feel free to throw your idea into the Catalyst programme.

Alex Watson is Catalyst Programme Manager – follow him @watsoalex

It’s warm up North!

November 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

And at the RSA… I have now been working for the RSA for a couple of months alongside the wider teams of Fellows in Yorkshire & Humber and the North East.  Our two new Chairs are bringing together a strong and warm Fellowship, focusing on  sustainable programmes of work in our regions. 

Simply by using this language of food, we have opened up conversations, new ways of looking at space, new ways of working across our communities, new ways of bending existing investment
- Pam Warhurst

Autumn events have so far included challenging questions at the RSA Yorkshire lecture delivered by Professor Michael Arthur on world class education in a changing landscape.  In both Leeds and Newcastle, in partnership with UnLtd, social entrepreneurs came together to look at the ‘social’ and ‘entrepreneurial’ aspects of their work.

Some interesting conversations:

  • “Do organisations ask the question ‘are we wanted’ often enough?”
  • “Bridging of services portfolio – investment against long term return”
  • “Not the inspiration but the perspiration that needs resourcing … emphasise the hard slog in the middle bit”

And looking forwards to the future: Incredible Edible – if you have just 2 minutes go onto this amazing TED talk to get under the skin of what’s happening in the region.  Police stations have caught onto propaganda gardens…

Pam Warhurst explains:  “Give everyone the opportunity to become the growers of the future. Encourage schools to integrate the story of living soils and sustainable practices into their school culture so kids are inspired to become tomorrow’s farmers.  The list goes on and on because, simply by using this language of food, we have opened up conversations, new ways of looking at space, new ways of working across our communities, new ways of bending existing investment. We’ve even started to think in terms of food yards instead of miles, and the logic of supporting some of the poorest people on the planet by flying their food to the opposite corner of the globe to sit in our supermarkets.  And it’s through this almost organic process, through the recognition of the power of small actions, that we have begun to believe in ourselves again, to invest in our own capacity to deliver a different,  kinder future. To rediscover grassroots democracy for ourselves, not through a text book. And for me, that’s Incredible.”

The North East is developing the social enterprise sector following the excellent Catalyst-funded project Reap & Sow, bringing together a change in learning, expectations and development in prisons through design of furniture.

Take just two minutes to see Kate Welch’s comment – it really shows how social and enterprise come together!

As I say ….it’s warm up North ! …..

Julia Davis is the Programme Manager for NE, Yorks & Humber.  You can follow her @juliadavis111


The global ‘RSA Connectors’ network: China, Canada, Colombia and beyond…

November 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

The growing international network of ‘RSA Connectors’ has broken through the 40 barrier – with our latest Connectors being added in Singapore and Canada.

25 RSA Fellows gathered at the British Council, in Berlin Alexanderplatz, for a live video-streaming of RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor’s annual lecture - with a get-together and refreshments afterwards

You can view all the profiles of RSA Connectors here: bit.ly/RSAconnectors

RSA Connectors is a new and growing network of RSA Fellows worldwide who act as a first port-of-call and a ‘friendly face’ for new Fellows who want to find out more and get involved, and who help local Fellows to organise events and collaborate on projects. (The focus has largely been away from those countries with well-established RSA structures or staff, such as the USA or Australia/New Zealand).

The long-term target – of course – is to have Connectors in all 101 countries where there are RSA Fellows.

a first port-of-call and a ‘friendly face’ for new Fellows who want to find out more and get involved

Live-streaming the Chief Executive’s Annual Lecture – in Berlin
Fellowship activity that RSA Connectors have initiated include a live-streaming video showing of RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor’s annual lecture (link to video) – at the British Council, in Berlin Alexanderplatz. Another event is planned for January.

Led by the Finnish Connector, a delegation of 10 Finns involved in a manufacturing project recently visited John Adam Street – for activities including a workshop led by RSA Director of Enterprise Julian Thompson.

In Poland, the RSA Connector – along with UK-based Fellow Edward Truch – has investigated opportunities for partnerships with the Fellowship, through meetings with the British Ambassador, politicians, academic institutions and think-tanks.

Other countries such as Denmark and France have organised meetings to bring Fellows together and look at ways forward. Following the Paris meeting, a powerpoint presentation was producing – looking at the composition and aspirations of the French Fellowship, ways forward and more. It was sent to every Fellow in France.

* RSA Connectors webpage: bit.ly/RSAconnectors
* How-tos, resources and advice for organising Fellows’ meetings, networks or projects (including how to run an event using live-streamed video from an RSA lecture) are available on the  Fellows’ tools & techniques page: bit.ly/Fellowresources

Older Posts »

  • RSA Fellowship

    A place to find out what the Fellowship team is up to around the globe. Find out more about RSA Fellowship.
  • Welcome to the Fellowship blog

    A place to find out what the Fellowship team is up to around the globe.
  • Subscribe to the Fellowship blog

    Enter your email address to receive email updates:

    Subscribe to Fellowship blog via RSS

  • Fellowship team

    Oliver Reichardt manages the Fellowship team. He represents the Fellowship on the Executive Team, ensuring Fellows remain at the heart of the RSA’s work. You can follow him on Twitter: @OliverReichardt

    Deputy Head of Fellowship - Specialist Team Jamie Cooke works from Glasgow and has a tendency to be on trains which break down. Follow @JamieACooke

    Vivs Long-Fergson develops regional activity, supports and advises Fellows and leads the Regional team. She has had a number of roles at the RSA in relationship management, social media and project management. Previously Vivs worked in marketing and sponsorship in the corporate sector. Follow @vivslf

    Deputy Head of Fellowship Services, Samantha Fletcher, oversees the library service and all the day to day Fellowship administration. She is dyslexic, loves knitting, sewing and F1 Follow @samfletch1979

    Adam Timmins leads the partnerships team to identify potential Fellows who can contribute to the aims and objectives of the RSA. Central to this is developing partnerships with organisations that share similar aims to the RSA – reaching out to new communities and helping our partners to do the same. Follow @Im_AdamT

    Richard Pickford works across the Wales, East & West Midlands. His role is to help RSA Fellows to develop projects and to communicate inspiring work in these regions and beyond. He is the Fellowship lead for RSA Academies, developing ties between the schools and Fellows.Follow @pickfordrich

    As Regional Programme Manager for the West and South West, Lou Matter has previous experience as coordinator of the Programme team working with RSA Catalyst. She is keen to develop projects in her three regions, South West, West and South Central and to revitalise the arts network. Lou joined the RSA from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Follow @LouMatter

    Joanna Massie’s role is to engage Fellows and help them develop projects in the region. She also works on SkillsBank, linking Fellows to projects based on their skills and interests. Prior to the RSA, Joanna worked in communications in the policy world. Follow @Joannacmassie

    As Fellowship Development Coordinator, Mark Hall works with Fellows in London. He is keen to develop a varied programme of activity across the capital and help Fellows connect with each other. Mark previously worked with new Fellows in the Fellowship Development team. Follow @MarkHallRSA

    Alex Barker is the Fellowship Development Coordinator and first point of contact for any FRSA who want to nominate someone for Fellowship. Working in the partnerships team on various aspects of recruitment, Alex is happy to chat about the benefits of becoming a Fellow and is available for tours of RSA House. Follow @alexandrabarke1

  • Tags