Guest Blog by Charlotte Britton FRSA, Chair RSA Digital Engagement
There are currently six regional online fellowship networks (nings), which over the coming months will be moved home into the main online space RSAFellowship network. This decision has been proposed by the Digital Engagement group and is currently being implemented by the RSA staff.
The Fellowship Digital Engagement Group (DEGroup) have recommended the regional online fellowship networks are consolidated. In practice this means that some online networks will close and individuals will be invited to join a dedicated regional or national group. This means that fellows can be part of a wider conversation with each other all over the world in a central space! Some of the main reasons for the recommendation (following feedback from Fellows) were:
It is unclear which regional online fellowship networks people should join, especially where there are the regional and main Fellowship Ning. Fellows are unclear which one they should use or become active in.
On the regional online fellowship networks, Fellows cannot connect with other Fellows nationally, as they are not members of the network and hence this limits the scope of collaboration and connectivity.
Communication & Signposting
There is a lack of signposting or communicating to Fellows which regional online fellowship networks to join. On the main Fellowship page on there main Fellowship Network is listed as a place to connect online. The remaining regional networks are not listed and are not communicated in any central Fellowship communication
Activity & Moderation
Levels of activity on some of the regional networks are low. Hence people do not use the regional online networks as there is a lack of people using the sites. Similarly this results in lack of activity or posting on the regional online networks.
New community platform for Fellows
A new community platform will be launched in 2013/14 and it would be easier to migrate the central network rather than all the regional and national networks.
What does it mean for Fellows?
Please take a look at http://rsafellowship.com/and register online. Once you have set up an account join one of the regional groups in the main online fellowship networks.
If you are an existing member of one of the regional online fellowship networks, then you should be receiving an invitation to join the new regional groups, alternatively the groups are listed below:
- East of England
- South East
- South Central
- West Midlands
- East Midlands
Fellows, Digital Champions, Regional Programme Managers and Regional & National Teams will all be actively posting in these groups, promoting events and discussions around projects or themes. If you are keen in getting involved as Digital Champion or would like to learn more about digital engagement across the RSA please do not hesitate to contact me.
Chair RSA DE Group
twitter @ charlottebritto
Guest Blog from Dharmesh Mistry FRSA
RSA Dialogue serves as a fantastic platform for Fellows outside of London that are looking for ways to engage with the RSA Dharmesh Mistry
Fellows in the North West are always keen to try something new. Their latest initiative is RSA Dialogue, an alternative book club method using articles within the RSA Journal. The Chester Network volunteered to run a pilot which offers a chance to discuss a topic and then, vitally, generate output that can be fed back to the Fellows network. Meeting in March at Chester University, the group debated Can Cities Save Us? by Dr Benjamin Barber from Winter 2012.
The session attracted a diverse group of people from local residents, professionals plus many international students with interests ranging from architecture to students of faith and culture, IT professionals and community organisers. The diversity of the group enriched the conversation.
Some of the key points discussed included
- Cities maybe the largest level of organisation that people can conceptualise and identify with. A resident of a city can easily keep track of how different areas are developing. Even for a small country like England, it is difficult to have the level of insight of different parts of the country. For this reason, cities can foster increased participation and can be more democratic.
- Cities are not immune to the conflicts or ideologies that nations are. Currently, conflicts between nations are visible. Regional cooperation such as the EU would be much less possible with city level organisation.
- In the western world, perhaps in UK only, the current generation is much more likely to self organize and not rely on government to do things. RSA and its Fellowship does and should continue to encourage this. The establishment of cross-discipline networking platforms in cities can make a big contribution here. Is this why the RSA should priorities the establishment of City Chapters as considered by Mathew Taylor is his comment piece for the Winter 2012 Journal.
- The idea of the Parliament of Mayors was initially received with cynicism that it could become another talking shop, however through the conversation opinion moved to seeing the value as a platform to share ideas and practical solutions.
One group voted at the beginning and end on ‘whether cities are better at getting things done than nations.’
Start - Yes:9 No:5 Dont Know:5
End - Yes:9 No:2 Dont Know: 8
This change shows the impact and value of dialogue and hearing the different opinions.
Other questions raised during the Dialogue session were
- What can cities save us from?
- What defines a city? Its people or its infrastructure?
- Would the opinions be much more in favour of cities if this conversation happened in London?
Feedback on the format and approach of RSA Dialogue has been very positive. The session served the purpose of engaging locally based Fellows and taking the ideas of the RSA to a wider group. The second RSA Dialogue will be organised again in Chester following the publication of the Spring 2013 Journal.
Thanks for such an engaging session. Our European colleagues gained a unique insight into the RSA Allan Owens, Chester University
If you are interested in getting involved with the Chester Network or would like to organise your own RSA Dialogue event please contact Dharmesh Mistry for more details
Blogging is not my first choice for storytelling. For me the brevity of twitter is my natural comfort zone but blog I must, albeit short, sweet and to the point. The focus for this month’s conversation is the work the Regional Programme team to faciliate partnerships between Churchill Fellows and RSA Fellows. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust award travelling fellowships to British Citizens to bring back knowledge and good practice for the benefit of others. Churchill Fellows are nominated for RSA Fellowship as part of their award. During 2012 we ran a pilot in Wales to partner Fellows who could advise, support and open networks to Churchill Fellows. This year we are expanding the scheme beyond Wales to Yorkshire and South West areas.
The initial Wales based pilot secured 6 advisors working with Churchill Felowships with some interesting results and developments. I am currently using RSA SkillsBank to identify the potential advisors for this years award winners, so far the response from Fellows selected has been extremely positive. The requests from Churchill Fellows varies from links in Sweden and Australia, decarbonisation, research into social benefits of arts studios, and building aspirations for girls through community-based programming. I noticed from the Wales selection of Churchill Fellowships a strong emphasis on health matters including public health and primary care, healthy lifestyles and obsesity.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often Winston Churchill
For me this simple initiative is the RSA Fellowship at its best providing expertise and experience when needed but helping individuals achieve their aims and improve their knowledge, so they in turn can help others. The methodology of encouraging travel to facilitate this knowledge makes it a unique memorial to Churchill. If you would like to help advise a Churchill Fellow it would be great to hear from you, the more energy from Fellows the more we can grow the scheme.
Vivs Long-Ferguson is Deputy Head of Fellowship Regional Programme at the RSA, you can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org or @vivslf.
So how are we progressing with our new year resolutions? Fallen off the diet bandwagon yet? Exercise commitments already forgotton? Has the email inbox exploded from unread spam? Every year I await the media shower of new year commitments and ambitions. Magazines full of diet suggestions, clearing out your closet and managing your time more effectively. As my colleague Emma Lindley has already blogged its clear that we relish a blank page at the beginning of the year and in this digital world its harder than ever to do so (although there is always the reset button).
Don’t get me wrong starting afresh can be a good thing, it’s heartening and positive but I am conscious that too often we feel we have failed and then demoralised from our inability to change the little things and keep to our personal goals. But let’s not be too disheartened and give ourselves a break. 2012 was a challenging but celebratory period and 2013 looks as though we are in for the same, but being a positive person I firmly believe we will get through to the other side.
Volunteer as a business mentor?
The RSA’s involvement in enterprise has long been established. Here is an opportunity for Fellows with business experience to be trained as mentors through the Get Mentoring, which offers free training and supports a community of enterprise mentors across the UK.
Research has shown that 70% of small businesses that receive mentoring survive for five years or more, which is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs. Experienced mentors not only boost capability and capacity in small, medium and micro businesses, but also radically increase survival rates. As well as the benefits for the businesses, Mentors report major benefits including an insight into the hot topics effecting businesses today, development of skills which can be applied to other interactions and the chance to build some meaningful contacts with individuals in the next generation of businesses. Training is free and can be undertaken at workshops or online. Register on the Get Mentoring website
Become a School Governor with SGOSS
The RSA is working to alongside the School Governors’ One-Stop Shop (SGOSS) to try and fill some of the many school governor vacancies that currently exist across the UK. SGOSS is a small charity that recruits and helps place governor volunteers working in partnership with employers, local authorities and schools. It has already helped place over 15,000 volunteers and its services are free to all.
Why do it?
- Children need all the help they can get to equip them for life after school. SGOSS are looking for great school governors who can help improve educational standards across the UK.
- Good governing bodies make a material contribution to the performance of their schools. (Ofsted)
- The need for governor volunteers with transferable skills has never been greater. There are 33,000 vacant governor places in schools in England.
You will need to be 18 or over; however you don’t need to have children or have any detailed educational knowledge. Schools want governors with varied experience from all walks of life. The role involved 6-8 hours per month in term time only. I myself have recently agreed to be a governor for a school in Furness Vale, Disley.
As for my own resolution for 2013? Four years ago I made a resolution not to have any more new year pledges and have stuck to it ever since!
Deputy Head of Regional Programme
As many of you know the life of a Regional Programme Manager is a mixed one; a glamorous combination of travel, meetings, discussions, ideas, meetings, projects, events and meetings. All Regional Programme Managers look after specific areas sometimes with a focus on specific issues. Over the years I have supported a number of areas both regions and nations including Midlands, Yorkshire and North West (where I live). Currently I still support North West but now advise both Wales, and as of October, Ireland.
I worked with Ireland Fellows a few years ago and attended the Networks based in Belfast and Dublin. So far its good to be back. Along with familiar faces I am working with a new team of Fellows leading activity and a new approach one that involves developing the idea of “civic conversations“. Shortly we will be preparing a Development Plan for the areas working with Fellows based in Belfast, Dublin but also Athlone and Derry. I have personally committed to help develop activity in Cork and hopefully we can grow the Fellows in Ireland over the next few years as well as develop some key partnerships and collaboration to develop both projects and activities.
As ever, I welcome suggestions and connections that could assist with Ireland focus specifically organisations keen to work with a Royal Society; albeit one that aims to turn ideas into reality.
Suggestions please on a postcard or simply send me an email.
Deputy Head of Regional Programme
Lilian Barton FRSA outlines a major initiative for the North West.
We have seen the tremendous success of the Olympic and Paralymic games over the summer. Most of us have associated with its identity in more ways than one. it inspired a new generation of volunteers, gave many a sense of pride and joy to see young athletes do so well and for some lifted their mood. The Olympic motto “Inspire a generation” has been everywhere and has been used as the rallying cry for all athletes competing.
“It’s not about the way we live, it’s about how we live responsibly”
In the North West Fellows have been planning a new approach, kick-starting activity with a conference looking at living responsibility. This Conference is called Keep Calm Prepare for Change. So why this branding? Why use it as our rallying cry? We know that you see various ‘Keep Calm’ mottos in gift shops but its origins was a morale raiser in difficult times and we are hoping to help raise peoples spirits by helping them find ways in changing.
The “Keep Calm Prepare for Change” conference takes place on Thursday 18 October and will draw together industry, entrepreneurs, social enterprises and community groups to discuss and learn how we can change the way we live, work and do business in a more sustainable way. We all know people are wrestling with the ‘triple bottom line’ concept and are also struggling to understand how, for example, waste from one produce can be the raw material for another. We aim to help others understand how businesses and communities can create jobs, build up social capital and stimulate entrepreneurship. In addition, the North West team are using the event to identify projects and ideas for further development or incubation.
The Conference has three parts, panel debate, workshop sessions and closes with a Lecture all on the theme of how can we live responsibly. Spaces are still available so if you want to answer the rallying cry why not join us on 18 October you can register online.
Lilian Barton is Chair of the RSA North West
For most people September is a time for putting away the summer linens and unpacking the jumpers. For the Fellowship team it can be one of the busiest periods of the year with the majority of Annual meetings, Annual Conferences and Forums taking place around the UK. From Bristol to Nottingham, Cardiff to Dartington, Belfast to Leeds, Annual Meetings have been taking places all over the country.
The Fellowship team pack up their portable kit bag, RSA Banner and take turns in ensuring there is staff representation at all the sessions. The majority of meetings bring together Fellows, new and regulars, together to talk through ideas, activities and themes. For 2012 we have had a focus on introducing new core Teams, new Regional Programme staff and introducing Development Plans for each RSA area outlining their core aims and objectives. I will post further details on how to the development plans are progressing but there are some overlapping ideas and tasks emerging which include:
- improving communications at a local level, through face to face interaction and social networks
- shifting culture to improve how we live, engage online and develop communities
- audit Fellows skills, strengths and relationships
- develop activity through collaboration and partnership
- nominate new Fellows and grow thematic networks
These are just some of the ideas but all the Regional Teams welcome further suggestions and recommendations as tasks. With a mixture of size and locality across all UK areas no one size development plan fits all and we will be shifting objectives to best serve the relevant area.
So dear reader what objective would you like to include in a development plan? Which task would you like your area to take forward?
Deputy Head of Regional Programme
A long, long time ago, well it seems like it, I took on the role of Deputy Head of Regional Programme. For the uninitiated the Regional Programme supports Fellows develop their projects and connect them to other Fellows, organisations and institutions to achieve their aims and maximise their impact. We work closely with our colleagues the Specialist Programme team who develop tools such as RSA Catalyst. Over the coming months we will be looking at developing key areas; making sure core Regional Teams are in place, ensuring all UK Regions and Nations have a Development Plan, helping to implement their strategies, looking to improve how we ensure all our volunteers have a rewarding experience. For the past few months this has felt like a dream with Alice Dyke and me keeping the Regional Programme flame alive with support from a variety of colleagues and Fellows. This week though the dream becomes a reality and we welcome some new faces and help an existing one take on a new role. So let me now introduce you to the new Regional Programme Team:
Julia Davis joins us to support Fellows in the North East, Yorkshire and Humber. Julia previously managed the Museums, Libraries & Archives Renaissance programme developing strong learning initiatives for communities. Julia’s first task is to set up a York Network, where she lives, but is also keen to develop activity linked to arts, youth and social enterprise.
I am very much looking forward to working in a way which truly supports debates and open-minded thinking Julia Davis
Richard Pickford joins us from Endeavour Training where he helped challenge and inspire young people through a variety of programmes. Rich will be working across the Midlands regions with a strong focus on education and supporting engagement with the RSA Family of Academies four of which are based in the Midlands. Rich lives in Long Eaton, nr Nottingham.
Lou Matter has been with the RSA team for almost a year working closely with Catalyst, SkillsBank and Fellowship Council. From late September Lou returns to Bristol and joins the team supporting in South West and West. Lou is keen to revitalise an Arts Network for the RSA as well continue to support administration for RSA Catalyst.
Lastly, but certainly not least Alice Dyke has continued to work hard to support three big areas, South East, South Central and East of England. Alice previously worked with Parliament Education Service, working with MPs and Peers to engage young people with democracy and politics. Alice is keen to ensure the RSA can become better and support a generation of young entrepreneurs.
I like the fact the RSA is an ambitious and multidisciplinary organisation, and the Fellowship is a diverse and wonderful community, so I am constantly challenged and thinking and never ever bored Alice Dyke
Complementing this core group we also have Michael Ambjorn advising London for the next few months, Jamie Cooke working with Scotland and myself continuing to champion North West, Wales and from October, Ireland.
The priority now is to ensure our core Regional Teams are working together effectively and exploring ways to maximise their impact whilst continuing to refine our tools and techniques.
It’s been ages since I posted a blog here on our Fellowship pages but this doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. Whilst we all bask in the olympic glow I am currently thinking about three key areas of improving the Fellowship offer, specifically from a regional (and in some cases national) offer namely; Regional Development Plans, Innovation and Volunteering.
The RSA has recently gone through a major period of governance review; the outcome of this is the creation of new regional/national teams across the UK bringing together a core team of Regional Chair, relevant Council member and Programme Manager. These working teams will have mixed approaches and styles but all will be focused on one objective over the next few months – the preparation of Development Pans for their relevant area. These plans will be outline proposals project development, local activity, objectives - all led by Fellows. It will be interesting to see how some areas overlap and others differ in their approaches and respond to local priorities. I hope to encourage all Regional/National Chairs to post guest blogs here and provide an overview of their vision.
Innovation is a theme close to the RSA mission. I think it will be a topic appearing more frequently on these blogs. Recently we have been running Catalyst roadshows and the need for case studies of practical and innovative projects that have received Fellows support and resources remains the number one request. Today, I provided a Fellow in the North West some examples of community-based projects as case-studies for a new community wellbeing project in Cheshire. I found myself recommending Social Spaces and the work undertaken by Tessy Britton FRSA and Laura Billings FRSA to collate local community projects and share positive stories and ideas for others to adopt, replicate and refine.
Which of course leads me to volunteering. This is an area that I am keen the Regional Programme Team (which I lead) take an active role in developing further with Fellows. Fellows are volunteers and we need to ensure that we use this valuable resource wisely, effectively and most importantly to mutual benefit. Whether its mentoring a young entrepreneur or simply advising on Fundraising for a potential project the connection Fellows share through knowledge, expertise and skills is the most valuable resource I know. So dear reader (hello Dad!) could you please signpost me to the examples you know about volunteering management and mobilisation. I want to hear how volunteer engagement works and learn why some organisations are so successful.
I have a personal objective to ensure the RSA improves its understanding and development of all volunteers. So over to you – please let me have your suggestions.
Deputy Head of Regional Programme
Julian Dobson FRSA recently organised High Street Camp
When Mary Portas conducted her review of the high street last year the popular view was that it was a response to decline. But the real issue for our high streets is divergence. Some retail centres, either out of town, in malls like Westfield Stratford City or in hubs like central Birmingham or Reading, will continue to succeed commercially. Others are changing rapidly and for some, this has reached crisis point: the story of the high street in Rochdale where even McDonald’s is leaving is often quoted. The question is how to rethink such places before it is too late.
Usually the question is posed in terms of a threat, and it certainly is a threat if we don’t revive vacant and underused spaces with activities that will make them attractive and useful to people. But, as I and others argued in a submission to the Portas Review, it’s also an opportunity to create what we call a ‘21st century agora’: a multifunctional social centre that can be a hub for the ‘civic economy’, where participants work to create shared value, as well as the traditional shopping economy.
The event was supported by the RSA Fellows, and chimes not only with its historic mission to encourage arts, manufactures and commerce – all of which we need to see on our high streets – but also with its contemporary concerns with the connections and motivations than can enable us to live well and productively.
The high street of the future, as Matthew Taylor commented in his reflections at the end of the day, should be one where we can and do meet anyone: and to enable that to happen, there must be something for everyone. Retail will play its part, but it will be retail based on distinctiveness, experimentation and local relationships. The centres that succeed in reinventing themselves will be those that embrace diversity and imagination, and are rooted in the needs and wishes of their communities – not the ones that try to mimic their out-of-town competitors.
That imagination was evident in abundance at last month’s High Street Camp, the UK’s first ‘unconference’ bringing together people who want to breathe new life into our high streets. Drawing together experts and activists from across the country, with a visit from Mary Portas at lunchtime, it demonstrated the wealth of ideas waiting to be tapped by the many emerging ‘town teams’.
Hosted at the Willesden Green Library Lab in northwest London, it provided an opportunity for participants to see at first hand not only some of the problems of our high streets, but some of the creative solutions being developed for disused spaces such as Queen’s Parade, a row of empty shops now trialling new business ideas.
The format may have been relaxed, but the content and the objectives were serious. With half the UK’s high street and shopping centre leases due for renewal in the next three years, the vacancy rate in struggling centres will only increase. Where the big retailers are moving out, we need new functions and a new sense of purpose.
I think there are three points we can draw from the buzz and excitement of High Street Camp. The first was captured by Mary Portas. Social capital, she said, creates economic capital. In other words, wealth is created by making connections and building trust and friendship. The more connected society can be, as the RSA’s Connected Communities work has begun to show, the more equal it can become. And the more equal the society, the better chance all have to thrive in business.
The second was from Matthew Taylor. He provided a helpful foil to Mary Portas’s get-up-and-go, encouraging participants to think and research before rushing ahead with apparently good ideas, and putting in a good word for the oft-maligned bureaucrats whose job is to balance competing interests. His call to ‘hug a planner’ may not be a headline-grabber but was an important reminder of the value of public servants. They can be key allies in achieving progress.
The third point is about the scale and speed of change, which we are only just starting to get to grips with. Many people start thinking about planning or community action because they see the impending loss of something they value, rather than because they have a vision for creating something new. For many high streets, it may be too late to prevent the loss, so creating the new becomes more urgent.
I think we are only just beginning to get to grips with the scale of the challenge as the nature of retail changes and global economic storms break, but the possibilities are as great as the problems. This belief that we have a chance to create places that add value to their local communities, rather than just extracting value from them, was at the heart of the paper the High Street Camp organisers submitted to the Portas Review.
We’ll be following the event up at the Revive Our Town Centres forum, and RSA Fellows are more than welcome to join in and post their own thoughts.
for further information on High Street Camp contact Julian direct