Fellow’s response to the RSA’s recent report Disrupt Inc

June 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Guest blog from one of our Yorkshire Fellow’s, Jane Walton:jwalton-twitter

“The RSA’s recent report Disrupt Inc. aims to plug the gap in knowledge about young people and entrepreneurship. The report is based on accounts of young entrepreneurs and challenges what it suggests are widely held assumptions about how young people start and run businesses. Whilst I am prepared to support the challenge to the entrepreneurial stereotype perpetuated by the media in the form of the Sugars, Bransons and Jones’ I would argue that we do know a lot about young people’s entrepreneurial journeys and what is missing is a policy framework that builds on the experience of organisations like Enterprise UK, Young Enterprise and Princes Trust.

I have been working with potential entrepreneurs in Yorkshire for the past 13 years and have always recognised that they come in many different guises. My mentees have included DJs, chimney sweeps, inventors, accountants and stand up comediennes to name a few. I have also worked with young people who want to change the world or improve the communities they live in. In most cases they have not been introduced to the idea of self-employment as part of careers guidance and have not been introduced to the many  examples of entrepreneurs in their own communities.

What all these young people have had in common is the need for information and inspiration which appears sadly lacking in most education institutions. The RSA had a huge opportunity to both challenge this gap and promote the need for a curriculum which builds on students ideas and enables them to be realised. RSA Fellows are a great resource as speakers, mentors, role models and community members who can offer both encouragement and challenge to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Where next? I would ask all Fellows to consider what they could do to promote entrepreneurism in all its guises, how they could support young people and how we can make the case that enterprise education is crucial to economic and social well-being not an add on activity at the end of term.”

Jane is part of our active Fellowship in Yorkshire.  If you want to know more about what is happening across Yorkshire please get in touch @juliadavis111, Regional Programme Manager

The Big Idea: Using Empty Homes in Leeds

March 11, 2013 by · 5 Comments
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Rob Greenland is one of our Fellows in the Yorkshire area working with his local community.  He is  one of the successful applicants to RSA Catalyst, the RSA’s seed fund for Fellows’ early stage ideas seeking to find solutions to today’s challenges.  He is running Leeds Empties, a project which Rob has blogged about here: 

 The Big idea: Leeds Empties aims to bring people together to develop a range of enterprising approaches to bringing hundreds more of Leeds’ 5000 long-term empty homes back into use.

About the project

Newspaper at event

The Call To Action enjoyed lots of local media coverage - including this piece in the Yorkshire Evening Post

We launched Leeds Empties in 2012 with a ‘Call To Action’ – and more than 100 people joined us for the day to explore enterprising ways to bring more empties back into use.

The Call To Action also featured a “Pledge-A-Thon” – hosted by TV architect and empty homes campaigner George Clarke – with more than 20 local business pledging thousands of pounds worth of support to bring back into use an empty home recently purchased by a local social enterprise.  The Call To Action also attracted lots of media coverage – we were lead story on local BBC news all day.

Since then we’ve developed the ideas that were explored at the Call To Action, and with support from Leeds City Council, an RSA Catalyst Award and Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy Fund we’re now ready to fully launch during Leeds Empties Week  later this month (18th and 22nd March.)

The aim of the Week is to engage a wide range of people in bringing empty homes back into use – and we’re keen to involve RSA Fellows, particularly around the following themes:

  • Attracting investment – eg through community share issues
  • Green homes – ensuring empty homes are renovated to high environmental standards
  • Jobs, training and apprenticeships – in particular for young people
  • Support for social ventures – supporting existing social enterprises and encouraging new self-help schemes

The Catalyst grant is helping us to engage more local Fellows, primarily by supporting our Leeds Empties Week launch event.  This is vital as the success of the Leeds Empties approach depends on us making the most of the wide range of skills that local people can bring to help us to tackle this complex social issue. Our role is to encourage people to get involved – and then to help them to work out how best to use their expertise to contribute towards tackling the empty homes problem. The grant is also contributing towards a Leeds Empties website which will help us involve more people in turning empty properties into decent family homes.  

The success of the Leeds Empties approach depends on us making the most of the wide range of skills that local people can bring to help us to tackle this complex social issue.

How you can get involved

Fellows can find out more by coming to our Leeds Empties Week launch on Monday 18th March – which is supported by the RSA, where Chair of the RSA’s Yorkshire Region Pam Warhurst will talk about Leeds Empties in the context of the RSA’s aspirations for Yorkshire as an Incredible Region, investing in enterprise and self-belief.

To sign up for the Leeds Empties Week launch, you can register online.  You can also visit the Leeds Empties website for more information.

Finally you can contact me, Rob Greenland FRSA by email or by calling 07905 800 710.

This is a great project taking place in Leeds and hope you’ll be able to make it.  If you are a Fellow based in Yorkshire and the North East, and have an idea you would like to connect with other Fellows about or which you think might be eligible for Catalyst funding,  I’d love to hear from you.  You can contact me at: julia.davis@rsa.org.uk

Julia Davis
Regional Programme Manager,  North East & Yorkshire


What is good is given

December 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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‘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


It’s warm up North!

November 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
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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