It’s been a while since my last blog post, and it’s been a busy 6 months for the Partnerships team!
I have been leading on Fellowship partnerships for two years at the RSA (my ‘RSAnniversary’ was in May), and I’ve seen big changes, big challenges and gained insight into the value of the RSA as a convener of networks. My colleague Adam, wrote a great post in February that outlined our general approach to partnerships, which we strive to keep to whilst allowing us flexibility when working with such a range of organisations – my key aim, is to ensure that we can develop collaborative partnerships that use our resources efficiently and can support the charitable objectives of the RSA and the organisation we’re partnering with.
So what have we been doing?
1. Messing around with a new database…
Don’t worry, I’ll keep this brief! Trying to get to grips with a new database is many things, if not challenging. However, with the implementation of this new system of administrative delights, we’re beginning to recognise the exciting possibilities of having all of our partner administration in one place; easily accessible. This will eventually feed into all of the work we do with our Fellows from partner organisations and how we report on the impact our work is having.
2. Forging some new relationships…
Legacy Trust UK: LTUK’s recent report on the impact of Olympic and Paralympic Games on the country’s next generation, was recently launched at a fascinating panel debate held at the RSA, which was hosted by Jonathan Edwards, CBE. You can watch it here.
Following this, we have begun the process of creating a Fellowship partnership, whereby we hope to connect with the present and former programme managers that LTUK has supported across the country. There are some fascinating projects and we hope that Fellowship can further support them through the skills we hold within our networks.
NCVO: As a champion of the UK’s voluntary sector, NCVO provides its 10,000 members with key advice and support for nearly all areas of organisational operation. We met with NCVO to discuss the natural connection between our organisations, and soon recognised this may be an opportunity to make RSA Catalyst support more visible to NCVO’s members. We are also working to discover how RSA Fellows can get involved with NCVO to offer their expertise.
3. Developing our work with existing partners…
Winston Churchill Memorial Trust: The past two years have seen some great developments with our partnership, thanks to key RSA Fellows and staff that have really driven this collaboration. My colleague Vivs, recently wrote about the advising scheme that is bringing RSA and Churchill Fellows together in Wales, East Pennines and the South West (do have a look at her blog).
We are also hoping to do this in an international way too…
The RSA Fellowship extends across the world to more than 80 countries. In many of these countries we have an RSA Connector. RSA Connectors are a new and growing network of RSA Fellows worldwide; acting as a first port-of-call and a ‘friendly face’ for new RSA Fellows who want to find out more and get involved. As part of the RSA’s continuing partnership with the Churchill Trust, we are piloting a facilitated introduction between selected Churchill Fellows with an RSA Connector in the country they are visiting. We hope that this will be a valued connection, and may help Churchill Fellows link up with contacts on their travels that will enrich their research.
UpRising: In January we ran an event to bring together London’s UpRising participants and RSA Fellows, giving them advice from Fellows and making them aware of the expertise and support that the network can offer. The 36 UpRiser’s in London that attended are working on some important Social Action Campaigns: crime, food waste and affordability, education (behaviour management), partnerships and communication, young translators, safeguarding young women, bringing politics to people and housing.
We’re looking forward to running something similar Bedford and Birmingham for the new cohorts this year, as we had some good feedback from the London group:
So what now?
Updating our partner web page, measuring our impact and looking regionally…
Two immediate areas of focus for me, will be to re-vamp our Partner page on the RSA Website, (which will reflect the lessons we’ve learnt over the past few months and give a clear, transparent picture of how we want to work with our partners) and to start along the journey of impact measurement (now that’s a whole different post right there!) It’s easy to get lost in the smog of emails, phone calls and events, without stopping to reflect and explore exactly who is gaining (or losing) from this, and in what way. As yet, reporting on the impact that our work with partners is having for the RSA, and RSA Fellows in particular, isn’t something that we’ve done. However, it has become clear that this is a really key thing to do, not only to for the various stakeholders at the RSA, but also for staff motivation and learning.
I’ve found that some of our most rewarding collaborations exist because our Fellows have connected RSA staff to amazing organisations, and put a huge amount of effort into driving these relationships forward.
For the moment, there will be a few things that I will be focusing upon to draw success stories from our partners. I’m keen to show how existing and new Fellows are benefiting, so story- telling will be just as (if not more) important than the number crunching. Two immediate examples come to mind; firstly, as I mentioned earlier, through our work with WCMT, RSA Fellows that are getting to use their time and expertise to help with Churchill Fellows’ research across the country. Secondly, a relatively new Fellow that joined the RSA through our partnership with the Emerge Venture Lab, Juan Guerra FRSA, was awarded Catalyst Funding and mentoring from the Fellowship Council for his crowdfunding platform, Student Funder. Juan’s project recently made it to the final 10 from 600 entrants to the EU’s Social Innovation Prize.
One continual theme that runs through our partnerships, is the central role that Fellows play to develop these relationships. I’ve found that some of our most rewarding collaborations exist because our Fellows have connected RSA staff to amazing organisations. They also put a huge amount of effort into driving these relationships forward, and I very much look forward to updating you about the regional/national work with partners in the coming months.
Finally, interested in becoming an RSA Fellow or partnering with us?
Then get in contact with me via firstname.lastname@example.org
Jo Painter is the Partnership Development Manager at the RSA.
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.
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.
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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.
For the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the value of partnerships and collaborations between organisations. My role at the RSA is to lead on strengthening and diversifying our Fellowship networks with new pools of expertise and experience. And one of the best ways to do this is by broadening the range of partners that we work with on a variety of projects and ideas.
Partnerships are really about sharing resources…
In a tough economic climate, finding effective low cost ways to collaborate between charities is becoming increasingly important, and partnerships based on the exchange of human and intellectual resource even more so.
RSA Catalyst funding is available for Fellow-led start up projects, along with an expanse of expertise in the Fellowship and the ability to connect Fellows around the world
At the RSA, we are fortunate enough to have built extensive networks of skills and experience through our Fellowship, which itself extends to 101 countries across the world. In our ongoing search to strengthen these networks and the impact of the work our Fellows are doing, partnering with other organisations offers an effective way of bringing in new skills and best practice to the RSA.
I’ll give you a few examples:
Ashoka – an organisation that’s a world leader in supporting social entrepreneurs. Ashoka is one of our newest partners and we’re very excited about the potential positive impact working together can have. With the RSA’s Social Entrepreneurs Network, RSA Catalyst, RSA SkillsBank and our Fellow-led networks across the world, both the RSA and Ashoka will benefit from sharing our networks of people with extensive skills and dedication to tackling social issues; supporting both of our core missions.
UpRising – a leadership programme whose mission is to open pathways to leadership for talented young adults aged 19-25 from diverse backgrounds. Through this partnership, not only is the RSA able to offer the expertise of our Fellows and staff by running Catalyst workshops and mentoring for the UpRiser’s, but we are also able to increase our engagement with young people in London, Bedford, Birmingham and Manchester, as well as the local Fellow-led networks in these areas.
Winston Churchill Memorial Trust – An organisation that awards British citizens from all walks of life to travel overseas, to bring back knowledge and best practice for the benefit of others in their UK professions and communities. Our partnership with WCMT brings together two communities of people across the UK: RSA Fellows and Churchill Fellows. A pilot in Wales this year has matched these two networks and various RSA Fellows are providing advice and support to some of the Churchill Fellows’ projects.
Our existing structure is also well placed to support returning Churchill Fellows to develop their projects and support the impact they make.
With Catalyst funding available for Fellow-led start up projects, the expanse of expertise amongst the Fellowship and the ability to connect them with Fellows around the world, you can see the benefit in sharing human and our organisational resources.
We have many other fantastic partners (you can find out more information here), and each demonstrates how we in the RSA Fellowship department approach our collaborations; with the mindset that we can fulfill our own historic mission and objectives by supporting and sharing with other organisations.
And that is one of the RSA’s greatest attributes…
You see, as a convenor of networks, we can connect top social entrepreneurs with young leaders from UpRising, and projects looking
to start-up overseas with RSA connectors and a network of like-minded individuals across the world (psst! We had a great partnered event with the Skoll Centre on starting up a social enterprise overseas, have a look!)
There will be more from me in the coming year, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface and am very excited to share with you our work and the fantastic impact our partnerships have in supporting people to change the world – you see, sharing really is caring.
Jo works in the Partnerships Team and you can follow via @Jo_Painter