Engage, connect and be inspired

January 19, 2015 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

At the RSA, we always set out to engage, connect and inspire Fellows across the UK and now we will be using a new event format to boost this. Our RSA Engage series has been turbo charged for 2015- moving from its trial phase in 2014 to become a cornerstone of our activity.

The Engage series is a national programme of events aimed at showcasing RSA activity and providing space for our Fellows to meet, share their ideas and offer support to Fellow-led projects in a simple and structured way.  To give you a flavour of what we have in store, here are some of my favourite stories from 2014.



IMG_7791Okay, so this isn’t a story, rather a call out for you to create the story. 2014 Engage pilots saw a raft of great people and ideas brought together. 2015 is going to be bigger and better through our Engage and Connect events will have created space for 184 project pitches and 44 Connect discussion slot. That’s 228 potential new ideas to be discussed and shared. These events are free and open to all, so do invite friends and colleagues that are keen to find out more about the RSA.

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100 x 107 = A formula for the future of Fellowship?

October 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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How do you celebrate 100 years of Fellowship? How about finding 100 younger people to join the RSA as Fellows?

IMG_7801On 24 September the RSA’s new Centenary Young Fellowship scheme was launched to celebrate the centenary year of Fellowship. 100 budding young changemakers joined the Fellowship to support the RSA’s ethos of  ‘Enriching society through ideas and action’. To help turn ideas into action we often need a great deal of support, so we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to this scheme. Our new Centenary Young Fellows (CYFs) are spread across the country with a range of skills and experiences and I have no doubt we will be seeing the emergence of numerous exciting projects from them CYFs over the coming years.  Read about some of this cohorts’ current work and offer your support on our website.


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Can you help broaden the horizons of RSA Academies students?

Question WebAre you interested in helping young people realise their potential?

This summer we are launching an ambitious new project that seeks to improve the career prospects of RSA Academies students – and we need your help. Read more

The forward rush of time: fatherhood, fun and facilitating fellowship activity

May 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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The impending adventure of fatherhood will soon be upon me which seems to have caused a certain rush of blood to the head.  Like chalkboard_logomany soon to be fathers I seem to be trying to get everything done before our addition arrives including a 175km bike ride around Pembrokeshire in gale force winds and hail.  This particular activity was most definitely on the edge of type three fun but that’s for another time. Read more

365 days of Fellowship – from the Contemporary to the Phoenix

September 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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So I’ve been working for the RSA for a whole year – an awful lot has happened, so I thought I’d mark it with a blog.

I owe my awareness of the role to Jason Pandya-Wood after he tweeted the job advert one sunny Sunday morning.  I was intrigued by the 100 days at the RSA blog post reflecting on the first three months in the role from a Regional Programme Manager.  I felt a bit like Alice heading down the rabbit hole when I began exploring the RSA and its multifaceted foci.  There are so many wonders and adventures you can have through the website and across twitter, LinkedIn and RSAfellowship.com.


My journey started in the Nottingham Contemporary.  Whilst I officially started with the RSA on Monday 10 September, I was already taking in my local patch and meeting Fellows on the previous Saturday at the East Midlands annual conference.   This year’s conference, Making a Difference, happened last Saturday in Leicester at the Phoenix.  Fellows showcased projects in their region and looked to inspire ideas and action.  Our regional digital champions live-blogged during the day and collated the online discussions.  You can read what was said by heading across to www.RSAem.org.uk.  One of our regional digital champions – Dave Briggs – talks about how he did this in his own blog if you are keen to learn. You can also view Katie Smith’s photos from the event online here.


I hope those Fellows that attended left the conference feeling the same way I did last year – excited about my new challenge and ready to get going.  Little did I know the vast distances I’d travel or the creative connections I’d make.

I’m honoured to work with so many energetic, motivated and conscientious people with the RSA.  My role keeps me mobile across the middle of Britain and I’m often off visiting Fellows from Northampton to Stoke and everywhere in between.  I’m also working across the RSA Academies network and have been supporting some exciting projects for students and teachers.  We hosted a collaborative meeting between RDI’s and RSA Academies staff before the summer and have been working with others to support the development of Fellow led work in the academies.  I’m always looking to meet with Fellows and to work with them to help develop their ideas.

Joanna Massie poloThe regional team of programme managers also welcomes two new starters.  Joanna Massie (@joannacmassie) has moved out of the House to take the reins across the East and South East and Becca Massy-Chase (@becca_mchase) has joined the RSA to support and develop Fellow-led activities in London and the South Central regions.  I know you’ll offer them a warm welcome. We are always uncovering fresh faces and have continued to grow and expand the Fellowship.  Our network has uncovered a new team member in the West Midlands and I’m really pleased to welcome Lorna Prescott (@dosticen) as the new Fellowship Councillor.  Lorna is passionate about social change and is already exploring how she can get more involved in Fellowship.  Look out for a new blogging site for West Midlands Fellows as well as social media surgeries and other activities that she’s planning.

Rebecca polo
They, like me, are always seeking to support Fellow-led ventures and will be busy working to promote activity across their areas.   Please get in touch via email or twitter, or leave me a comment below to talk about your projects and ideas whether they exist in the East or West Midlands or within the RSA Academies group.

Richard Pickford
RSA Regional Programme Manager
East & West Midlands | RSA Academies

The Big Idea: changing mindsets for the environment

July 29, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

inklusivelogoI come from an outdoor education background, playing in rivers, scaling rock faces and tramping over hills and through woods and it has always been instilled into me to leave nothing behind.  I spent a few years working in Canada where the ‘no trace camping’ ethic is very strong.  When I came to the RSA almost a year ago I was really interested by the work that was beginning on recycling and circular design.  Having been inspired by Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surf and his company Patagonia’s work on recycled clothing it was great to see such an esteemed organisation stepping up.  There is a growing awareness that we need to reconsider our attitudes to waste, and recycling.  The RSA has been busy exploring circular design ideas through the Great Recovery project to reduce waste and promote cradle to cradle design and the RSA has also embarked on an exciting piece of work exploring makers and designers which was launched in June at Somerset House which hopes to raise awareness of new design and making principles to shift the conversation and create a new breed of designers and creators.

Part of the brilliance of Fellowship is that individuals and groups of Fellows are always seeking ways to improve, adapt and develop everyday products, practices and ideas for the betterment of society alongside our ARC Team.  We have Fellows in West Wales working to promote sustainable business practices using biomimicry and a better understanding of the environment and Fellows re-designing products that keep breaking on them.  Through theSocial Entrepreneurs Network and as East Midlands Regional Programme Manager I’ve also come across another.

Steve Ralf has been working with printer ink and cartridges.  Tired of the waste that occurs environmentally and economically he set up Inklusive Community Interest Company.  Steve is this fortnight’s Big Idea blogger.  We spoke to him about his work and this is what he has to say:

The Big Idea: Steve Ralf FRSA runs Inklusive CIC, a social business that supplies ink and printing products. They hope to change the mindset of people when purchasing ink so that they consider the impact on the environment, and the harm caused to individuals, communities and the planet.  Steve wants to help people to adopt environmental and economical-friendly printing practices that reduce waste and support the growing interest in cradle to cradle manufacturing.  

The project hopes to change the mind-set of people when purchasing ink so that they consider the impact on the environment, and the harm caused to individuals, communities and the planet.  Inklusive is fully aware that as well as offering an environmental alternative it also has to offer high-quality products and a cost-effective alternative to the purchase of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges.  We have also developed an industry leading warranty that guarantees to replace your printer if our inks cause it any harm whatsoever.  To date, we have never had a claim against our warranty!


Through this project we have reduced the amount of lead and heavy metals found in landfill and saved thousands of tonnes of CO2 that would have been used in manufacturing processes by recycling, refilling and reusing existing ink cartridges.   We have also supported the development of printing and IT social business in Meru, Kenya and supported three schools to have electricity, the internet, computers and printers.

Inklusive like any good idea often needs a little support along the way.  The RSA Catalyst funding helped us to ascertain our best supply chain options. Instead of competing against businesses with shared ethics and environmental objectives, we have formed partnerships and built capacity in these organisations so that we are stronger together. Catalyst funding can be a great early intervention for new social businesses to refine their offering before embarking fully with their project. In addition to the funding, there is a plethora of knowledge and information amongst Fellows just waiting to be tapped. The value of this far outstrips the financial contribution!  So please sign up to SkillsBank so projects and ideas can be supported by like-minded Fellows.

How you can get involved

We are doing well but Inklusive would like to explore the most effective methods for taking our products and services to market. At present, we sell via our website www.inklusive.co.uk and word of mouth and do not have a dedicated sales team. Despite this, we have experienced strong sales growth and believe that with the right strategic sales plan, we could grow faster and be more effective. We would like to explore social franchising or ways in which other like-minded businesses could benefit from selling our products.  So if you are interested in talking to us about either of these please get in touch with me on twitter where I’m @InklusiveCIC.

Steve Ralf
Founder & CEO Inklusive CIC


If you want to talk to your Regional Programme Manager about a project you are proud of or that needs that little bit of Fellowship support contact Richard Pickford who is @pickfordrich on Twitter or Richard.Pickford@rsa.org.uk on email.  We can connect you to other Fellows, sign post you to interesting groups on www.RSAFellowship.com and provide advice on applying for Catalyst.

Seeing the wood from the trees – A tale of two Fellows, a volunteer and some woodland

May 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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At the RSA I have the opportunity to meet and work with a diverse and motivated group of Fellows.  I’m always amazed how they manage to juggle the range of different ideas and enterprises that they are developing.  With 27 000 Fellows there are so many stories it can sometimes feel like you can’t see the wood from the trees but today I’d like to tell you a story of Fellows getting together, discussing an opportunity and providing a solution that helped the environment but more importantly a young man called Sam.


This year the RSA Fellowship brought together Hill Holt Wood founder and CEO Karen Lowthrop and Steve Coles, Salvation Army Social Enterprise Development Manager.

Hill Holt Wood lies on the borders of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and is home to an award winning social enterprise.  If you get the chance to visit please do, you’ll be welcomed with open arms and always offered a cup of tea.  In just over ten years of operation, the enterprise has transformed the woodland from a failing, flooded rhododendron-smothered patch of trees into a thriving broadleaf wood.

The main stay of the enterprise has been as a supplier of alternative education.  The woodland provides a developmental resource for excluded or marginalized young people to build skills, confidence and improved prospects.  Benefits to the young people and to the woods feed back positively one on another.  Kids need the woods to learn and in turn the woods are maintained by kids. So year on year a trickle of woodland converts graduate from Hill Holt Wood who are interested in sustaining woodland and so the story goes on…


The wood itself was privately owned but is now open to the public and community owned and the social enterprise operates from a stunning eco-build that incorporates an eco design team, meeting rooms, and a café.

Salvation Army enterprise manager Steve Coles was looking for a similarly sustainable project in which to invest a small fund of £10,000 donated as a bequest by the Booth family for the purpose of planting trees.  Hill Holt Wood seemed ideal and proposed the money be used to support a young person through a horticultural apprenticeship AND plant trees.   The long-term on-going gains are obvious.

Sam WelchSam Welch was 15 years old when he first visited Hill Holt Wood.  As part of his school curriculum he attended for a day a week on a junior rangers scheme.  He developed an unexpected passion for woodland and went on to attend Riseholm College in Lincoln but when he graduated with Level 2 and 3 qualifications in arborioculture he could not find work in Gainsborough. At this point a Job Centre advisor suggested that he return to Hill Holt Wood as a volunteer on the flexible support fund.  Sam proved to be a fantastic volunteer and an obvious candidate for the Salvation Army fund.

The award was given to Hill Holt Wood and they have funded Sam’s on-going apprenticeship in horticulture.  He says he has two main goals in life “the biggest one is to get a full time job at Hill Holt Wood which I would love, or work somewhere doing the same sort of job…

The Fellowship Team are always looking to hear about Fellow led projects.  If you know of work that is going on that would benefit from Fellows support and advice please get in touch directly, shout about your work at rsafellowship.com and apply to RSA Catalyst.  If that work is based in the East and West Midlands then I’m your first point of contact, email me at richard.pickford@rsa.org.uk or tweet me @pickfordrich I love hearing about new ideas especially when they are told over a hot cup of tea and some cake.

The revolution won’t come from above: young people driving the future with 2020 Education

April 12, 2013 by · 5 Comments
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Andrew Hadley and his team has set up 2020 Education with support from two RSA Catalyst grants to recognise the powerful work of young people to make a difference in their future.  In this guest blog Andrew sets out the thinking behind the idea and calls on Fellows to get involved:

2020 Education is a movement in the making. In a nutshell it is about showcasing what schools and community groups can do to prepare young people for the challenges facing them – and the world – in the decades ahead.

This initiative has been started by a group of Fellows and others. An RSA Catalyst grant has helped us get the programme off the ground, and we’re now starting to roll it out more widely across the UK and internationally. We hope Fellows will be instrumental in making this happen so we’re calling for the support of everyone who shares our belief that education needs to be more than simply classroom learning and exams.

  • Could a school run its own fair trade coffee business?
  • Could it propagate rare orchids and sell them on the commercial market?
  • Could you link up students from a deprived rural area with the astronauts on the international space station?
  • Could you excite young people about engineering by getting them to build and race electric cars?

We’ve already found examples of exactly these things, and more.


We’re not creating a prescriptive model and asking schools to adopt this (and we’re well aware of the pressure that teachers are under). We’re not setting fixed criteria of what a “2020 Education” project looks like. Quite the opposite: if we want to inspire more people to start something, the best thing we can do is to show them the variety of outstanding examples of innovation already happening in schools and communities, and then let them replicate these ideas or come up with their own. At the same time we will create opportunities for peer-to-peer education among young people , via social media and face to face. And we will show the teachers involved that their projects are not isolated examples but a powerful model of what education can be in the 21s Century.

Projects can be based around all sorts of themes, such as social enterprise; science, technology and engineering; environmental protection or ecology; humanitarian and social issues; intercultural understanding; and more. Broadly speaking, they:

  • are school or community based
  • raise awareness of global issues
  • make an impact locally
  • empower young people through active participation, and so develop employability skills
  • are innovative and newsworthy

So how can you get involved?

First, sign up to the 2020 Education site where you will find more information, including films of individual projects. Then put us in touch with any school, youth group or other organisation you know of which is running an amazing project, or where there are inspiring adults and motivated children who would like to do so. Finally, tell us if you would like to become a mentor to a project (giving as much or as little time as you are able) – or any other way you feel able to contribute.

As Sir Ken Robinson says, don’t expect the revolution to begin from above. With your support, 2020 Education will harness the energy of the people who are already making it happen on the ground.

Andrew Hadley and his team want to hear from you, please send him an email if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the website and remember if you want to get your idea off the ground you can contact me via email or twitter @pickfordrich.  I’m currently working with Fellows in Derby to develop a project that will supply Raspberry Pi’s to schools across the area.  What are you doing?


Whitley Arts – Creating a platform for budding creatives

March 20, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters, Fellowship 

It’s nice to be able to show others our work, especially my grand parents who live far away. Laura Warick-Student

As part of my role within the RSA I am lucky to be able to constantly see the creativity of students of our Family of Academies.  On a recent visit to Arrow Vale and Ipsley I saw some highly original and thought provoking pieces; this is of course true across many of the nation’s schools, youth centres and community spaces.  At Whitley Academy the same is true. They are especially passionate about student artwork and creative thinking.

Staff, students and parents are really proud of the original and inspiring student work.  It is great to share! Lorraine Allen-Principal

Milliner to the stars, Stephen Jones, visited the school for a day in early November of 2011 to advise pupils doing A-level Art and BTEC Art on how to design a hat. They handed in their finished designs as course work to count towards their final marks. Mr Jones designs hats for celebrities as diverse as Marilyn Manson and Beyoncé Knowles at his studio in London’s Convent Garden.

The Principal Lorraine Allen has been considering her students exceptional artwork and felt that students work should not be kept behind Whitley Academies four walls.  She has been working with staff to create a belief that students should be working to “be the best they can be”.  From then on it became a case of how student art work was shown to a wider audience and not when.  The school worked in partnership with students and agreed that Whitley Arts would be developed as an online portal to promote and inspire current and budding artists from Whitley Academy.  There are separate pages to promote work created by students in Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 along with an e-commerce page which allows anybody to purchase works of art that students have created in a range of different medium from postcards to A2 canvas prints.

Whitley Arts will underpin learning and interest in the Creative Arts at Whitley Academy by using student artwork as a focal point, and by encouraging a culture of innovation, inspiration, and personal development. The RSA/RBS report Disrupt Inc. highlights the need to allow young entrepreneurs to develop in their own way. Hopefully Whitley Arts will help open students eyes to the possibility of creating work that is admired and coveted by the public in the future.  Through negotiations with artists and the Academy it was agreed that artists would receive 25% of the sale price of each piece sold with the remainder used to support the arts, the students, and their learning at Whitley Academy.  Please visit the site to see some of the creative work developed by students.

I am sure our students are as proud as I am, especially as it is now no longer just our community who gets to see our students talent, but also an international audience. Miss Riach-Creative Arts Teacher

The RSA’s Family of Academies are continually looking at ways to improve student learning and enhance their experiences.  If you have any ways of supporting the Academies in the arts or any other field then please feel free to contact me via email at richard.pickford@rsa.org.uk or on twitter where I’m @pickfordrich

Next month on the 18th of April we will be hosting our second Fellowship Roadshow.  RSA Academy in Tipton will be opening its doors to Fellows who feel they can support the work of staff and students.  Please contact me for more details.

The Big Idea: Rick Hall FRSA is lighting sparks all over the shop!

February 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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The Big Ideato develop creative free spaces for young people to be inspired and educated by science, technology, engineering and maths.  

3-2-1-Ignition* is a new type of shop.  Not one where you go to buy things from but one that you go to acquire knowledge, inspiration and enjoyment. Led by Rick Hall FRSA and Ignite!  a science pop up shop was created to enhance curiosity amongst the people of Nottingham.  Although Nottingham has been designated a ‘Science City’, research showed Rick that young people and their parents did not see science, technology, engineering and maths as careers paths for the future. (STEM for short; just like the RSA it’s a bit of a mouthful). 

I first met Rick Hall briefly at the East Midlands Annual Conference before I was an RSA staff member, talk about keen!  We did not meet again until I popped into the shop prior to its grand opening.  Rick was conducting an evaluation with the design and build volunteers.  He was full of energy and enthusiasm and could not wait to open the shop.  It wasn’t long before I was helping try to solve the mystery of the multiple light switches.  Rick is a writer and consultant in the arts, education, creativity and youth sectors.  He has a passion for developing partnerships that promote creativity and learning for young people.  Through Rick’s hard work at Ignite! 25 organisations gave their support to 3-2-1-Ignition* Rick also persuaded a panel of Fellows that 3-2-1-Ignition* was also worth support from the Catalyst scheme which helped to make the project a reality.  Critical to its success was the work of a wide range of volunteers.  Students from Nottingham Trent University helped design and curate the shop in just 8 days turning it from an empty shell into a wonderful den of curiosity.  You can watch the transformation of the shop via a selection of videos by Hasmita Chavada.  Volunteers also spent time on the streets of Nottingham doing stints of science busking where they played drying racks and made marmite turn white!  Young people who run Lab_13’s in their schools also came to use the space and inspire others.  By partnering with Nottingham Hackspace the shop attracted 250 young people who soldered, drilled, made and even got to play Pong powered by a bicycle.  There were also opportunities to connect to the British Geological Survey and the Royal Society of Chemistry – the list goes on.

Over 3300 people visited the 3-2-1-Ignition* and didn’t pay a penny to do so.  100% of young people surveyed asked for the shop to remain open longer.  Not willing to disappoint the public they listened to their audience and stayed open for a further 2 weeks meaning the shop was open for 27 days.  Its aim was to inspire, teach and entertain people from all walks of life about STEM and to show young people that you can go into STEM careers and be creative.

Next Steps

Following from 3-2-1-Ignition* in the Broadmarsh shopping centre in Nottingham the team had to decide what to do next.  They have produced an evaluation of the project that will tell you all about the activities, projects and partners but more importantly they are moving ahead spurred on by comments from participants who said ‘It’s the funnest place on earth’ ‘I was enthused and enthralled to see how much my grandchildren, boys aged 8 + 11, responded to interactive displays, They loved it all.’  They will be taking the concept south of the Watford Gap to the Barbican’s Festival of Neurosciences Weekender and the Wonders Street Fair on the 2 – 3 March & 7 – 9 April.  Go take a look and ‘tempt your curiosity and your mind to do some making. There’ll be jars to peer at and sniff, thoughts to create and space to ask the brain-related questions you’ve always wanted to know’.  It’s all about doing, touching and getting involved.

How Can You Help?

Rick and Ignite! have also been busy exploring how Ignite! can develop the 3-2-1-Ignition* model further.  As Rick says they have a ‘proof of concept for programmes like Lab_13 and the 3-2-1-Ignition* pop up shop, but lack the resources and know how to convert these successes to wider adoption.’  Is this something you can help with?  The one-off travelling sparks of 3-2-1-Ignition* will be tested at the Barbican events but they won’t be able to attract such an audience and will not reach as wide a demographic as they did in the Broadmarsh.  They are considering setting up a 3-2-1-Ignition* Hub in Nottingham and could use  similar  models used by Pirate Supply Store of 826 Valencia a US creative writing project and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies that supports the Ministry of Stories. One of Rick’s grand plans is to support Leeds to be free of NEET (Not in education, employment or training) young people by 2020, an idea that can only be done in collaboration.

One thing is for sure Rick will be busy making plans and talking to people so if you are interested in this agenda and think you could help please be in touch.  You can contact Rick at: rick@ignitefutures.org.uk or follow him on twitter where he is @Rick_Hall

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