This is a guest post from the Library Team.
American business writer Tom Peters once said that ‘almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures.’ Bearing this in mind, and much like my flat before my mum visits, the RSA Library website pages have recently undergone a good clean and tidy. They’re now better designed, clearer, easier to navigate and much less likely to be the subject of motherly disappointment.
Gone are the days when a Fellow would have to send a letter to enquire about the library opening hours, as former Fellow Karl Marx once did. All of the information you could hope for is available at the click of a button – Communism might have been very different if Marx had had the internet!
If you haven’t visited the RSA Library before, or even if you have, you’ll find a wealth of information compiled on the new pages, from opening hours and contact details to information about how to borrow or return books by post if you can’t easily reach the House.
You’ll also find a complete list of all of the journals that we carry, and a description of each. From the New Yorker to the New Statesman and New Internationalist, and plenty of magazines that don’t begin with the word ‘New’, all of our journals are relevant to the work and aims of the RSA in some way and we aim to provide a broad spread of opinions and points of view.
If you want to see if we have a book you’d like to read, or whether a book is currently available to loan; if you’d like to see if we have any titles by a particular author; or if you can’t make it to the Library in person and want to have an electronic browse, the Library web pages also link directly to the Library catalogue.
So, as Tom Peters and Karl Marx both famously didn’t say – head over to the RSA Library web pages and see what we have to offer!
The library is one of many resources available to Fellows. Check out some more on our Fellowship Resources Page.
(…as well as all of the silvers, bronzes, the Olympic torches, the Velodrome and the cauldron).
We thought that might get your attention. The Olympics may have been and gone, but as we gear up for the Paralympics it seems like an appropriate time to ask – did you know about the RSA’s association with the world’s greatest sporting events, both at London 2012 and throughout the history of the modern Olympiad?
For example, this year’s Olympic torch, the Olympic cauldron and all of the Olympic medals were designed by RDIs, all of whom are also RSA Fellows. The title of Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) was introduced by the RSA in 1936 to honour designers of excellence, and to promote the important contribution of design in manufacturing and industry. It is now conferred to designers who have shown significant benefit to society, sustained design excellence, and work of aesthetic value.
The eye-catching Olympic torch was designed by Edward Barber RDI FRSA and Jay Osgerby RDI FRSA. Thomas Heatherwick RDI FRSA designed the centrepiece of the Olympic stadium, the magnificent Olympic cauldron, and all of the Olympic medals were designed by David Watkins RDI FRSA. The engineering firm Expedition, co-founded by Chris Wise RDI FRSA, was also responsible for building the impressive Velodrome.
On 29th August 2012, Royal Mail is issuing a set of stamps to celebrate the start of the Paralympic Games, the first time Paralympic stamps have been created by a host nation. The designs are by Pearce Marchbank RDI.
Guest blog from the Library Team
The Every Day Lives of Recovering Heroin Users is not like other studies. It tells the story, or stories of people in recovery, their struggles, fears and hopes, and avoids impersonal statistics.
As a joint effort between academics Joanne Neale (Oxford Brookes), Sarah Nettleton (York) and Lucy Pickering (Glasgow) and produced by the RSA, the book complements and informs the RSA Recovery project’s work in West Kent.
It’s the culmination of a series of interviews with people in recovery, setting out first-hand the difficulties of getting over heroin use. As Steve Broome mentions in his introduction, the most interesting detail to emerge from these interviews is a simple desire to feel ‘normal’. And what is normal? Washing your hair, going to the shops, playing football, meeting friends, relaxing with family, all that. As one of the interviewees says:
“Brushing my teeth didn’t happen. I’ve got teeth missing all over my mouth, they look disgusting… I didn’t wash my hair… I used to have a shower when I really, really had to. [I] was a complete skank. That’s what the heroin does to you.”
Arranged thematically, the book allows you to dip in and out of it. Not only is it a great resource for those working in drug rehabilitation, as people repeatedly mentioned at the book launch, it can provide inspiration for everyone.
You can find The Every Day Lives of Recovering Heroin Users in the Fellows’ library. Other titles in the library on this topic include:
Heroin Century by Tom Cornwath & Ian Smith
Drug Treatment: What Works? by Philip Bean & Teresa Nemitz
Heroin Addiction and the British System by John Strang & Michael Gossop
Drugs: Cultures, Controls and Everyday Life by Nigel South
To find out more about the RSA recovery project why not check out their blog or their recent papers ‘Drugs – facing facts’, http://www.thersa.org/projects/past-projects/drugs-commission/drugs-report
A lamentable aspect of friendship involves watching movies.
Specifically, when one friend has seen the film and the other hasn’t. For me, it’s a simple truth- not because I’m (that) disagreeable, moody or withdrawn, but because some of my friends succumb to the temptation of announcement. You know who you are.
We’ve all been there:
A living room, two friends, X and Y are midway through a film:
X: Oh, this part- mate, this, this is such a funny bit- watch this:
Event happens in the movie.
X reels with laughter, seeks confirmation from Y that it was, truly, oh so funny.
Y is silent.
X: Wasn’t it funny? I love that part.
In Hitch-22 ,the late Christopher Hitchens cited Theodore Adorno on this point:
Adorno made a beautiful corkscrew or double-helix-shaped aphorism about the Hays Office, which was then the headquarters of moralistic and ideological invigilation of the movie industry. Under its unsmiling rules, no double beds could be shown, no “race-mixing,” no untoward conduct or risqué speech. Nonetheless, ventured Adorno, an intellectually and aesthetically satisfying film could be made, observing all the limitations prescribed by the Hays Office, on the sole condition that there was no Hays Office.
Or, by enforcing, endorsing or applying a proposition or plan, one defeats or perverts the intended outcome. Y almost certainly would have found the part in the movie funny if only X hadn’t announced its funniness. Or the deflation New Year’s Eve revellers feel after making overzealous declarations of debauchery at the start of the night. A Parisian friend swears the least romantic thing a handholding date can do is swoon at the Eiffel tower, pout beneath his fringe and say ‘oh isn’t it romantic’? Feel free to add your own.
New technologies and social media however influence behaviour subtly. They permeate our lives ubiquitously, allowing us to snap, update and share wherever we like. So frequent is our online activity that we’re amateur photographers, reporters or commenters without even realising it. Of course, activity and accomplishment are not the same things; I’m not suggesting that a photo of dinner or giving the peace sign before a monument will be recognised by the WPO.
Why do we do it? Well, precisely because there is no imperative to do so. People seem to prefer doing things without overt prompting or advertising. I’m certain the Social Brain team here in the RSA can explain or refute this with something more than mere assertion. But consider it: using a social network is not normally the result of a heavy-handed advertising campaign. Indeed, all David Dimbleby has to say during Question Time is ‘if you’re following us on Twitter, the hashtag is-”. If.
Therefore, you don’t need me to tell you that you can interact with the RSA through social media. In fact, given Adorno’s gorgeous thought-problem, you’d probably cringe with shame if another human being told you that it was ‘really great to upload your photos to our Flickr group’.
So I’m not. I’m just going to leave a link here, which you can choose to click or not: RSA Flickr Group.
Whether or not you click on the first group in the list, I promise not to tell you how fun it is, or how much I love it or how it’s my absolute favourite site…..
Gurmeet Singh is a Fellowship Researcher. You can contact him on email@example.com
How do you take a social enterprise abroad? What challenges would you face? Would social enterprise even make sense where you were going? Don’t ask me. My minimal mastery of social enterprise basics permits all sorts of fantastic solutions: tell the embassy, alert the press, we’ll be fine.
Would social enterprise even make sense where you were going?
My ignorance also forces me to ask: what even is a social enterprise? On the train to the joint RSA and Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship event in Oxford, RSA Catalyst Programme Manager Alex Watson offered an answer: it’s an organisation that aims to reinvest in human and environmental development, not merely to maximise profit. Satisfied with the answer and a few healthy examples, I began to consider the initial question again: how would you take that abroad?
In my previous post, I briefly explored how James Barry’s ‘Distribution of Premiums’ sets out guiding principles for the RSA, with reference to the Society’s commitment to equality. In this post I’m looking to see how the painting captures something a lot less abstract about the Fellowship.
It’s as lively as the other panels in the series, mingling dignitaries, London awaking and even a falling Lucifer. William Shipley, Edmund Burke, Lord Romney and a bewigged Dr Johnson are among the crowd, debating and discussing, as you’d expect. It’s all very impressive, but why is it relevant to today’s RSA? Well, the painting captures Shipley’s energetic policies to ‘embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine arts, improve manufactures and extend commerce’. He proposed to do this by awarding Premiums to worthwhile social projects, and using the expertise of the Fellowship to bring those projects to fruition.
Mrs. Montagu recommends a young lady to other Fellows and Dr. Johnson does the same, whilst William Locke and Dr. Hunger examine a Premium winner’s work. If I was inclined to contemporary business-speak, I’d say Fellows and the RSA were building capacity by developing the Fellowship network and investing in social capital. Given my preference for the everyday, I’ll say they’re supporting projects by offering to help and getting people involved in the Fellowship.
Renovation of the RSA House is well underway: the Great Room has been sealed off, and along with it the Barry Paintings, The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture. The panels are often overlooked, but over the course of two posts I hope to illustrate the relevance of one particular painting to the RSA Fellowship today.
The Distribution of Premiums depicts founders, Fellows and non-members of the Society involved in valuable social projects (this may sound a little familiar). Alongside William Shipley, the Society’s founder is an interesting feature: women. Not Goddesses or Nereids, but regular, down-to-earth, exceptional women. That statement alone makes for an exasperatingly unremarkable slice of art criticism for sure, but there is a more interesting meaning, I assure you: the Society included women from its early days.
Ladies as well as gentlemen are invited into this subscription, as there is no reason to imagine they will be behindhand in a generous and sincere regard for their good of their country.
In his Scheme for Putting the Proposals in Execution (1753), Shipley wrote ‘Ladies as well as gentlemen are invited into this subscription, as there is no reason to imagine they will be behindhand in a generous and sincere regard for their good of their country’. And he was right. In the panel, Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu can be seen recommending the work of young person to the other members of the society. She joined the RSA in 1758, and was part of a club called the Bluestockings, which was run by educated, intellectual, conservative women who tried to raise the moral, intellectual and cultural standards of their time. The Bluestockings’ Social Reform agenda involved creating philanthropic institutions aiming to help women (often widows with children) become economically self-sufficient.
Earlier this year, FT columnist Mrs. Moneypenny delivered a lecture at the RSA outlining the ways in which women can negotiate the challenges society throws at them. She argued that women currently face much more exacting pressures from society than men, and overcoming these obstacles requires confidence developed through education. It’s a very general gloss of her lecture, but even then it’s easy to draw some salient parallels between her and Montagu. Both argued that the empowerment of women (or people in general) depends on educational measures that foster confidence. Indeed, the RSA’s ambition to close the social aspiration gap obtains to this very point, and our Fellowship and Projects continue to address it. For example, Fellows meeting through our Women Speakers’ Network recently organised debates exploring the reasons why more women aren’t as prominent in public debate as men. They use it as an opportunity to create a positive expectation: women should be respected and confident contributors to public discourse, and indeed can be.
Both argued that the empowerment of women (or people in general) depends on educational measures that foster confidence.
In recognising the achievements of women, the RSA hasn’t limited itself to exclusively considering women’s rights and education. All through its long history, the RSA has rewarded women for attempting to close the social aspiration gap. For example, Mrs Elizabeth Wyndham, wife of the Earl of Egremont, won a silver medal in 1796 for ‘her method of using the power applied to cross bar levers for raising large weights’. And the first woman to receive the Albert Medal was Madame Curie in 1910, ‘in recognition of the services rendered to the world by her discovery of Radium’. 101 years later, Albina Ruiz collected her Albert Medal and spoke about the need for communities to manage their waste better.
The Great Room’s renovation should be complete by the summer and the Barry paintings will once again be on display, reminding us that women have played such a significant part in the RSA’s history. We want continue this wonderful tradition and believe we can make great strides in addressing issues with your help. If you’d like to be a part of this rich heritage, then please get in touch with one of us in the Fellowship department.
Four ways Fellows can engage with the RSA are as follows:
Support the renovation here:
Gurmeet Singh is a Fellowship Recruitment Researcher. You can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org