It has been a tough few months in the South West. The region has dominated the national headlines for the past couple of months, the ongoing wet and stormy weather conditions creating havoc for local residents, businesses and transport services. Returning back to Bristol on the train I was shocked to see the extent of the flooding all along the route from London and travelling through the South West has been badly curtailed by the severity of the conditions. Bristol (where I live) has been lucky for the most part and when the Avon tide was particularly high the flood barriers have held – the main drama seeming to be sightings of the Bristol crocodile!
Many innovative ways are cropping up with how to deal with adverse weather conditions and RSA Fellows have been involved in a number of ways –
The Somerset levels is one of the most severely hit areas of the country with over 65 square kilometres flooded and seemingly still no respite for affected farms, businesses and residents. A group of local Fellows highlighted the issue of flooding after the floods in 2012 and are currently looking for funding for an oral history project, to give local people a voice in the debate that surrounds the issue. The project originated from concerns that local people, who have lived and worked on the land for generations, have largely been ignored when research for solutions has been undertaken. The group consider it vital that these voices should be given a platform in the debate. If you are interested in being involved in this project, please contact Frank Challenger (email@example.com).
Hugh Thomas FRSA of the Bristol Initiative Trust, received £2,000 from the RSA West Venture fund, to fund a ‘learning ship’ that operated as both transport and ‘classroom’ for young people to interact directly with local businessman while exploring the past, present and future of the River Avon and Severn Estuary. The initial voyage was led by experienced facilitators and other business volunteers representing a range of industry sectors (engineering, power, water, finance tourism, and environment) along with wildlife experts and historians. One particular emphasis of the voyage was to increase the young people’s knowledge of the river and issues around the impact of environmental changes around the area and the importance of the river for the future of Bristol and local area. This video has been put together to show how the voyage went.
Last year we were able to link a fire fighter based in Cornwall, who had received a travel fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to visit Canada and the USA to investigate community planning and response to flood events, with a Fellow who is based in a national Drainage Board company. It is hoped this introduction will lead to useful shared learnings and connections on both sides.
Bristol has long been at the forefront of green issues and last year it was announced it would host the European Green Capital in 2015, much work is now underway to bring together not only a programme for 2015 but to embed this agenda into the future of Bristol. A number of Fellows in the city are leading the way with this agenda and it is hoped the local Fellowship can get together to work on projects and initiatives during the next few years.
Hopefully, however small or large these initiatives may be they will all be beneficial for the area in the future. The RSA is also looking at the wider context in which these floods have occurred, through our work on climate change. The winter’s weather has helped to push the issue back up the political agenda, but in a recent report Jonathan Rowson argued that we need to move beyond a recognition that climate change is taking place. Instead, we need to urgently examine our own behaviour, and why people who accept the reality of man-made climate change do not take action to avoid worsening it. You can read more in A New Agenda on Climate Change.
Lou Matter is the Programme Manager for West and South West. You can follow her @loumatter
A fortnight ago, we held our first ‘Introduction to RSA Crowdfunding’ event, open to both Fellows and non-Fellows who were interested in learning more about crowdfunding. People were able to attend the evening session both in-person at the RSA House and remotely over free videoconferencing software. After nearly 6 months since the launch of the RSA curated area on Kickstarter, we have realised that the main difficulty facing project leaders is how intimidating crowdfunding can seem. Fellows often have lots of questions and reservations about it, ranging from how high a fundraising target they should set, to how much work a campaign actually is. In this session we set out to allay some of those fears. By simply going through the basics of crowdfunding, we were able to ‘totally demystify crowdfunding,’ in the words of Jane Glitre FRSA, who attended the event. Here are the answers to just a few of the worries people had about running crowdfunding campaigns.
By simply going through the basics of crowdfunding, we were able to ‘totally demystify crowdfunding.’
- I don’t think my project/social enterprise is suitable for crowdfunding. While it is true that massively, out-of-this-world successful projects tend to be things like video games or technology products, many different kinds of campaigns have the potential to be successful, and there are crowdfunding platforms for all different kinds of projects. Kickstarter, on which the RSA has a curated area, favours ‘creative’ projects. However, the term creative should be interpreted broadly, and depending on how you phrase your project, can accommodate a wide variety of projects that don’t initially seem creative. For example, Nalibeli, a project seeking to create an online wiki educating Nepalese citizens about their rights, successfully crowded for over $3,200 on our curated area. Projects that receive our support to prepare for a crowdfunding campaign can choose to go on other platforms—such as Indiegogo, which is what Sunday Assembly decided to do—but at the moment we can only offer our publicity to FRSA projects on Kickstarter.
- How much work is crowdfunding, really? Anybody who has run a crowdfunding campaign will tell you that it is a lot of work. In fact, we brought in a Fellow who had recently crowdfunded to talk about her experience, and she said that her campaign almost became a second job. However, I think the underlying fear here isn’t the amount of work, but rather the possibility of wasted effort. What we’ve found after six months is that most project leaders who are able to put in the necessary time and effort towards a crowdfunding campaign end up being successful.
Conversely, a common theme of unsuccessful campaigns was that they suffered from a lack of capacity from the start. Kickstarter cites the statistic that of the projects that reach 20% of their target, 80% are eventually successful. It is also worth mentioning that many rewards-based crowdfunding campaigns are selling a product or service directly to its potential audience in the form of rewards, which provides the project leader with valuable information on the demand for the project and experience with marketing it.
- What happens if my project doesn’t reach its target in an all-or-nothing campaign? Even if your project is unsuccessful you will be able to message your backers through Kickstarter. In many cases, some backers are still willing to donate to your project even if the campaign hasn’t been successful because they really want your project to happen. In other cases, you can use the support for your Kickstarter campaign in things like grant applications as evidence of the demand for your project. MAKLab, an FRSA project which did not reach its target on Kickstarter, used their 64 backers to convince foundations to provide the funding for the project, still housed in Somerset House, at a slightly lower budget. No matter what, you’ll have a new group of people who liked your project enough to back it and who can get involved in your work in the future.
Since crowdfunding support is a unique offer from RSA Catalyst, we plan to run several more ‘Introduction to RSA Crowdfunding’ events in the future, open to both Fellows and non-Fellows. If you are interested in crowdfunding for your project or social enterprise, or would simply like to learn more about this fast-growing source of funding register for our next session here, which will be held on Wednesday 19th March, 6:00-7:30pm, both at the RSA House and online.Interested in FRSA projects involved in crowdfunding? Check out This University is Free (IF) on the RSA curated area, a project to provide a free humanities summer school to young people priced out of higher education. You can also read Jonny Mundey FRSA’s Big Idea blog about the project. Learn how to start a crowdfunding campaign for your project with RSA Catalyst – helping to turn RSA Fellows’ ideas into action. Apply for crowdfunding support from the RSA here.
RSA Fellow Ben Byford runs Eulergy, a Catalyst-supported project that helps organisations access top research talent from universities. In this guest blog, he explains how it works and where the idea came from.
I set up Eulergy to help bring together academic researchers and the people who need their skills. It matches higher education students and staff looking to conduct specialised research with industry specialists who have projects for them to work on.
Students and researchers each year have to apply their knowledge and skills to either tired or fictitious problems, or to funded work drawn from an ever-dwindling grant pool. At Eulergy we’d rather see researchers making a real difference: for example, a PhD Psychology student working with a design company to improve hospital interiors for greater patient and staff happiness, or a Materials Science student working with a not-for-profit on renewable plastics for 3D printing.
Eulergy was borne out of the difficulties and frustrations I faced having finishing my MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths University, and trying (unsuccessfully) to connect the research carried out for my thesis with an industry opportunity. I felt that without having already existing contacts in place it was very difficult to “match” my expertise outside of the University.
We feel strongly that the huge changes taking place in the higher education landscape, with increased top-up fees, student debt, unemployment and ever-depleting grant opportunities, call for new innovative approaches. A platform that enables connections to be built outside of the traditional model can address this issue from a new perspective.
We launched the beta version of the website in October at Dublin Websummit 2013, to positive feedback from both the education and industry sector. Since the launch we have visited universities and pitched Eulergy at funding events. The site has attracted 160 users, and we’ve had twelve projects pitch for them to get involved.
The scope of the projects has varied, ranging from market research for NGOs to research into renewable energy, ‘fair trade’ 3D printer filaments and the effect of art in healthcare. We have had a total of 1,269 visitors to the site, with the majority of visitors from the UK and US, as well as from India, Canada, Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain.
The RSA has played a big role in the inception and continued development of the platform. Eulergy began operating as the direct result of a RSA workshop, which brought together representatives from several universities as well as the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Since then, it has won two rounds of funding from RSA Catalyst, which provides both financial and non-financial support to Fellows’ projects.
There have been challenges along the way, such as the ongoing search to gain investment and the challenge of marketing the site to our target users and getting them onboard. Despite these setbacks, however, we continue to have responses to the site, having been featured in Springwise and nominated as Startacus’s Startup of the Week in January.
We believe the website will become more and more useful to companies, charities and cultural organisations as they struggle to find disruptive solutions to the problems they face. We also have a big role to play as universities increasingly look to prove the impact of their research beyond the academy. If you’d like to join the community, now is a great time: organisations and researchers can currently register through the beta site for free before searching or posting research projects.
Find out more about RSA Catalyst, which provides money, expertise and crowdfunding to Fellow-led ideas that aim to have a positive social impact.
The Big Idea: This University is Free (IF) is a new project co-founded by Jonny Mundey FRSA offering free humanities courses to young people priced out of today’s higher education market, by using London’s cultural wealth in innovative ways.
Late last year I met my colleague and soon-to-be IF co-founder Barbara for a coffee. Our meeting was billed as a routine catch-up but by the end of our talk we had posed ourselves a question it proved impossible to ignore: what if you could use the free cultural resources of a city, the web and shards of donated time from academics to create a series of free undergraduate-level courses? The IF Project was born.
The principles that have driven the project from day one are that an education in the humanities is an education that should be available to all (not just a luxury for the sons and daughters of the wealthy) and an education worth having, with the capacity to enrich young people’s lives and benefit society as a whole. In short, why shouldn’t the inspirational liberal arts education Barbara and I enjoyed be within reach of all school-leavers and young workers who wanted it?
There is clearly a demand for free self-driven learning: mass open online courses (MOOCS) have been expanding at a furious rate. Unfortunately, a lot of students abandon on-line learning. What they are probably missing is the college-type experience of debating and learning with and from fellow students; the fun and excitement of studying.
The IF project uses London as a giant lecture-hall, guiding students to free events relevant to our introductory short courses in subjects such as history, philosophy, music and the visual arts. It also brings together a network of academics and thinkers to lead weekly workshops, lectures and seminars with IF students. So far, we’ve forged partnerships with academic organisations such as Gresham College (which offers free lunchtime and evening lectures of the highest academic quality); recruited professors from top universities to offer free lectures; and connected with youth organisations who work with the young people who have been priced out of the current loans-based education market.
The IF Summer School
In May we are running our first course - a four-week humanities Summer School taking in history lectures at the Gresham College, visual arts experiences via the V&A’s standing collections and discussions around free concerts at The Festival Hall. We will use the Summer School to test out the logistics of IF and seek feedback and advice from our first students on how to expand the idea into something much bigger.
Get Involved with IF
We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign (as of yesterday!), supported by the RSA, to raise funds for the IF Summer School. We would be hugely grateful for any help in spreading the word.
We would also love to hear from Fellows and contacts interested in being involved in the IF project. To expand we need to connect with volunteer academics who can provide, say, one lecture a year. We need academics and thinkers and post-graduate students who love their subjects and want to talk to and enthuse new students about what they are doing in seminar sessions. We want to hear from organisations who can donate space for seminars and lectures. We want to form close links with cultural institutions sharing our aims.
Just as we have been inspired by the community of UK “free university” projects along the way, if we succeed in London, we hope others will copy the IF model.
Jonny Mundey FRSA
To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage
Starting up on your own is certainly no easy feat – in fact we often discuss the potential obstacles that lie ahead at the RSA’s monthly Social Entrepreneurs breakfast. However, one thing I have noticed is that the first barrier is not (as you might think) imagined lack of capital; it’s simply getting started.
Seemingly, a number of skilled, imaginative people are just unsure how or where to begin.
It wasn’t until I began working at the RSA that I fully appreciated the value of having a support structure. I thought breaking out on your own was something you should do…alone? I soon learnt that successful leaders do quite the opposite: they join a network, get training and tap into all the help that’s available.
A couple of weeks ago, we hosted an evening event at RSA House for thirty individuals currently undertaking the Clore Leadership Programme which focuses on those with experience working in the Arts, and the Clore Social Leadership Programme which is primarily for people with careers in the social sectors. We were privileged to have a mixture of current Clore Fellows join us for some drinks, networking and an historical tour of the building.
For those who don’t know, the Clore programmes are designed to develop strong leaders in the cultural and social sectors so that more individuals are better equipped to engender positive change in their communities, organisations and the world around them.
Given the electic mix of experience and knowledge in the room a number of interesting conversations were initiated – from discussing the trajectory of the Walt Disney corporation, to the role of art in school curriculums – Clore Leaders are inspiring and inspired company. For more information about the current cohort of Clore Cultural and Social Leaders you can view full profiles on the respective websites.
We were also joined by Asma Shah FRSA who spoke to the room about her social enterprise Ladies Who L-EARN. Asma demonstrates exactly how transformative the Clore programme can be. With a background in the Arts, Asma was a Clore Cultural Fellow though as she pointed out, you wouldn’t know it now as her current work sits firmly within the social sector.
Upon finishing the programme she joined the RSA Fellowship and by applying to RSA Catalyst, Asma was able to get her project off the ground. Since then she has been able to access further funding, attract more volunteers and ultimately, help more women.
Asma was keen to point out the combination of the Clore Fellowship and RSA Fellowship is a powerful one. This cannot be overemphasised. Asma began working with women in her community who had limited access to the kind of training or social capital that she had gained from joining influential, supportive networks like Clore and the RSA.
The RSA has partnered with Clore Leadership for nine years now and we continue to work together because of our mutual belief that investing in individuals is one of the fundamental ways to improve society.
Part of investing in people is offering them a framework to carry their ideas, so that getting started is never an obstacle.
Alexandra Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordiantor at the RSA
If you would like more infromation about RSA Fellowship or any of people or projects mentioned above, then contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a guest blog from South Central Fellowship Councillor Bethan Michael.
Between June and December 2013 Fellows in the South Central region of the RSA offered their spaces, their time and their minds to the Ideas in Education series. For me, organising this series has been an extremely personal journey and the distance travelled has been considerable, in more ways than one. I’ve been frustrated and excited and stressed and anxious. And I finally know where Winchester is on a map.
I was convinced that the best way to learn was to do, so the team at John Adam Street helped me to stand for Fellowship Councillor in my region
In 2012 I completed the UpRising leadership programme, which supports a diverse range of young people to access opportunities and undertake real-world learning. Through them, I was privileged to have the opportunity to apply for Fellowship of the RSA. After nine months of UpRising I was convinced that the best way to learn was to do, so I discussed this with the team at John Adam Street and they helped me to stand for the role of Fellowship Councillor in my region. They introduced me to the wonderful team of Fellows that constitute the South Central committee. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my age, gender and background were quite different from those of the rest of the team. This didn’t faze me and it didn’t seem to bother them. They offered me their support, their friendship and their expertise, and I am extremely grateful to have worked with and learned from people I can’t envisage having had the opportunity to meet in any other way.
I am extremely grateful to have worked with and learned from people I can’t envisage having had the opportunity to meet in any other way.
Ideas in Education
In my new role I wanted to do something that would showcase the diversity of existing Fellows’ ideas, and bring Fellows and non-Fellows together in their own communities. The RSA aims to ‘enrich society through ideas and action’, so – in the hope that one would lead to the other – I emailed all of the Fellows in the South Central Region with a call-out for one idea to develop and promote new (or not so new) ways of thinking about education. I received around 50 emails from my initial request. After much discussion, and an enormous amount of work from Fellows, colleagues and me, we held seven events over seven months: the Ideas in Education series.
The events began with The Slow School Movement at Eton College in Windsor; moved to Shenley Brook End School in Milton Keynes to discuss Supporting Social Mobility; traversed to the Jelly ArtPad in Reading to examine Creativity in the Early Years; headed to Winchester to learn about Building Learning Power; trekked to Portsmouth to try out Citizen Science; migrated back to Winchester to explore learning environments and ended in Oxford considering ‘DIY higher education in the global swamp’.
From these events opportunities have emerged, connections have been made, friendships developed and ideas shared. But I don’t doubt for a moment that I am the one who has gained the most from this series, in the form of the opportunities it has afforded me to meet new people, discuss ideas, reflect and learn. When I embarked on my new learning experience trying to deliver a successful series of events, I faced two particular challenges. As the committee members and Fellows who provided me with countless lifts across the South Central region will attest to, both my appalling grasp of geography and my struggle to pass a driving test have been problematic. Both made for some eventful journeys in and out of London and, much to my embarrassment, to my being late to the first event. Luckily, throughout the series Fellows have reminded me that it is from our mistakes that we often learn the most. Thanks to the excellent hosts and speakers there truly was a fantastic energy around the discussions of The Slow School Movement.
I took advantage of the many train and bus journeys to read the authors that Fellows recommended to me during the series. These included Richard Hoggart, W.E. Deming, Richard Sennett, Donald Schön, Paul Goodman and Shirley Brice Heath. Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy, discussed at the second event in the series, struck a particular chord with me, as I have always felt somewhat ‘anxious and uprooted’ in my own formal education, initially at a bilingual comprehensive in Wales, then a private sixth form in Oxford, and then at university. My experiences have taught me that education is difficult, requiring reflection and a willingness to challenge your own assumptions, to ‘climb out of your own skin’, as Hoggart says, and be challenged: to undertake personal exploration and be ready to fail and to persevere.
Many of the authors I read on those journeys were already familiar to me. My parents both worked in education, my father in Coleg Harlech, a further education institution for mature students. The discussions around social justice, community, lifelong learning, and the increasing marketisation taking place in education that featured throughout the series were strikingly similar to those I overheard as a child, and those I continue to have with my parents now. When they had five children, they didn’t anticipate university fees. Nor did they anticipate the vibrant town of Harlech would suffer such dilapidation and neglect over time. During the series I went home to take a fourth attempt at my driving test in a location with fewer roundabouts. I failed. I also found more boarded up buildings, fewer jobs and higher rates of child poverty than I did the last time I went back. There was some discussion that the local school will be shut. At Coleg Harlech you can now take a course in willow basket making or wedding flowers, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be offering the second chance, that it seemed to when I was a child, to those whose social and economic background never offered them a first one. Frustrated and angry at the radically changed landscape of the home in which I grew up, I returned to South Central, (finally) passed my driving test, and attended the final event of the series.
What all of these events had in common is that the Fellows who attended are committed to addressing the challenges that individuals and communities face in the 21st century.
The Ideas in Education series has allowed me the opportunity to share my feelings of frustration, anger, enthusiasm, hope, and ambitions for education with others who have shared with me their own. What all of these events had in common is that the Fellows who attended are committed to addressing the challenges that individuals and communities face in the 21st century. There has also been a consensus that to be truly transformational, socially just and effective, learning has to be broad, real, in-the-world and exploratory.
Although these seven events haven’t brought me any closer to an understanding of how to bring about the level of change I feel is required to ensure this happens, or how to address the challenges that face the communities I have called home, it has given me some ideas.
The Big Idea: Auntie Daisy is a new service that delivers sanitary towels and tampons discreetly through women’s letterboxes every month. 100% of profits go to Camfed - a charity educating and empowering girls in Africa. Matt Lill FRSA is the co-founder of Auntie Daisy.
When my partner Claire lived in Tanzania and taught English to young girls, she noticed how some of them would often miss school at certain times of the month. Without access to sanitary protection and without proper toilet facilities in schools, some girls in Africa can miss a whole week of lessons every single term – just because of their period. This leaves them way behind, which is just not right.
One evening many years later, Claire told me about the girls she met and the problems they faced. My brain automatically turned to my background of working with social enterprises, and a few glasses of wine later Auntie Daisy was born!
Auntie Daisy is not just about supporting girls’ education with our profits. We want to hit a chord with women in the UK by relating to something they use every single month.
We aim to inspire women to change their shopping habits ever so slightly, and buy their sanitary products through Auntie Daisy. By buying social, they can have a direct impact on girl’s lives in Africa and help Camfed educate more young women of the future.
The RSA Catalyst grant has been fundamental in getting Auntie Daisy off the ground. We invested the funding in the packaging for our boxes, which will be hitting women’s letterboxes soon. The boxes look amazing and hopefully women who receive them will agree and enjoy opening them each month.
As well as funding, the RSA has provided us with some invaluable advice from its fellows, including those with expertise in marketing – essential for helping as many women as possible to hear about Auntie Daisy. We have also received a lot of advice and encouragement from other fellows we’ve met, including at the excellent recent #RSAEngage event (and I don’t say that just because I was speaking at it!). We look forward to meeting more inspirational fellows over the coming months.
As for next steps – well to be honest as a new business everything’s a next step at the moment! But we definitely have some exciting times ahead. The first thing we want to do is find out what women really want when it comes to their periods. Together with Mumsnet, we’ve launched a survey about women’s monthly trends and habits. The responses will help ensure that we’re offering the best service we can, that appeals to women and gives them one less thing to think about each month.
Auntie Daisy needs you!
Auntie Daisy provides convenience, discretion and a contribution to a cause for our customers – we want to get these messages out in front of as many women as possible. We think that one way to do this is through partnerships with established women’s networks. Accordingly we would be grateful for advice from anybody who has held a senior position in such a network, or negotiated such a partnership, to make sure we get our pitch right, in a way that will be valuable for both sides.
RSA Fellows can help Auntie Daisy get it right from the start – please take the survey and pass it on to any women who might be interested. If you think Auntie Daisy is a service that could work for you, please visit our website and sign up. Again, please pass the link on to any women you know. You can also show your support and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.
We’re really excited about what the future holds for Auntie Daisy and we strongly believe in everything it stands for. But we’re always very open to more suggestions and ideas. Please do get in touch at email@example.com – we look forward to hearing from you!
To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage
One evening over the Christmas break, I found myself at the home of a friend and her partner, both of whom happen to be psychoanalysts. Over dinner, whilst attempting to steer the conversation away from work, we began discussing the role of storytelling in our lives; the social narratives we believe in, the stories we pass on to others and the ones that resonate at a personal level.
The conversation led us to conclude that whilst a good story will always have readers, a really powerful story, will inspire people to act. In the Fellowship department, we often discuss how to make this shift. When there is so much great material available, it can be difficult to know how to piece it all together and the power in a story can easily be lost.
At first glance, social change appears to lend itself well to narrative. For a start, there is natural beginning; if we are trying to solve a problem, first we have to understand it. The starting point has to be-
What exactly is happening here?
This is especially poignant when encountering subjects that people might be uncomfortable talking about. Rachel Clare FRSA is Assistant Director at the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) which deals with the issue of male suicide. According to recent government statistics on mortality rates, suicide is a bigger cause of death in young men than HIV, traffic accidents and assault combined, with 77% of all cases of suicide in the UK every year being male. CALM was born from a simple need to generate greater awareness of the problem.
Once a problem is defined, we have to figure out the best way to solve it – how do we improve the world around us?
Monday night’s Fellows event RSA Engage demonstrated that within the Fellowship there is a wealth of ideas about how we can transition from the beginning to the middle; problem to potential solution. Amongst the seven Fellows who pitched their project at the event, was Richard Blissett FRSA. Richard was recommended for Fellowship by a previous Catalyst winner and in turn decided to apply for funding for his own project. Through RSA Catalyst, his digital tool Edukit is well on the way to helping teachers find the appropriate resources to support disadvantaged students, quickly and easily. For Richard, the how lies in getting the right tools to the right people.
However, for a modest enterprise like Edukit to earn a place in the grander narrative of social change, it must also create a story around itself. Tools will not reach people if it’s not clear why they’re relevant, so creating a strong, individual narrative is critical – it is not enough to be heard, you have to be understood.
New RSA Fellow Emily Farnworth founded her social business Counter Culture on precisely the understanding that powerful stories are the key to changing indiviual behaviour, yet when tackling complex issues such as poverty or climate change, a simple beginning, middle and end doesn’t always cut it.
Emily believes that ‘the only way to solve the world’s biggest problems in a meaningful way is to see all sides of an argument.’ Counter Culture was established to help businesses and charities reach their audiences through a more agile form of storytelling that incorporates multiple and differing perspectives.
This can be achieved in many different ways. Even if you don’t recognise it immediately, brands, charities and individuals are communicating with us all the time without ever needing to put pen to paper. New Fellow David Pope, filmmaker, consultant and member of the British Council’s Creative Economy Pool of Experts, is interested in the storytelling possibilities offered by new technologies because this evolution is creating opportunities for a more diverse range of voices and stories to reach wider audiences.
New mediums can transform the way an issue is presented and the type of people who can tell the story. An example -
In December, Mark Leruste FRSA joined the Fellowship. As well as being an ICF Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), he is a Country Manager for Movember, the infamous worldwide men’s health charity that invites men around the world to grow a moustache for 30 days in November to raise awareness and funds for men’s health. This in itself proves that a serious message can be communicated through the power of a moustache.
A story can still carry weight even if the chronology is disjointed or the medium unconventional.
Movember shows that a life-threatening disease affecting a particular demographic can gather mass support using humour and facial hair. If that isn’t re-writing the story, I don’t know what is.
If you would like to find out more about any of the projects or Fellows mentioned above, or would like to know more about joining the Fellowship please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexandra Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordinator at the RSA
It was a great lecture and one that makes you want to buy the book at the end of it. However, as I spied the stack of tomes outside the Great Room my enthusiasm quickly drained, at 768 pages it’s not for the faint hearted. I added it to my ‘books I’ll read at some point in the future when I’m sure I’ll have lots more time’ and headed back to my desk.
people don’t tend to think enough in advance about what to do if their strategy fails
While talking about the History of Strategy he also gave some insights into what he had learnt. Two of these were that people don’t tend to think enough in advance about what to do if their strategy fails and that people tend to think of a strategy as aiming to achieve a goal – win the war, become the top selling product, win the election – and don’t spend enough time thinking about what comes next.
While they might seem obvious when stated it immediately bought to mind many examples where people had failed to do this. The Lib Dems strategy at the last election was to win as many seats in parliament as possible. If they had put more thought into what might come next, such as forming a coalition, they might have been more careful about making promises they couldn’t keep such as on student tuition fees. Last week-end Harriet Harman made a plea to Labour colleagues not to think about coalition after the next general election but concentrate on all-out victory. If this is a rallying cry to inspire the troops, fine, if it’s what she really thinks then she could live to regret it.
people tend to think of a strategy as aiming to achieve a goal and don’t spend enough time thinking about what comes next.
If Gordon Brown had thought more about what would happen if his strategy didn’t work, he might not have banged on quite so much about the ‘end of boom and bust’. The coalition would have done well to think more in advance about what would happen if the Universal Credit Scheme proved more difficult to implement than they had thought and might have started with the slow roll-out they’re now being forced to adopt.
We’re going through our own strategic review at the RSA. Given we’re already spending a lot of time talking about it, I’m not sure my colleagues would be too happy if I suggested we set aside time to discuss what would happen if it failed! The talk set my mind wondering what happens if certain parts of the review aren’t as successful as they could be (fuzzy aims, partial staff buy-in, unclear management structures etc) but has only made me think more about how to ensure they do work rather than planning for the worst.
One thing the strategic review is aiming to achieve is to ensure we take a longer term view so that we think beyond delivering the next project or funding the next fellow to a more extended, coherent set of overall change aims. This is what Freedman suggests and it is challenging to think further ahead with the added unknowns and complexities that each step further into the future entails. However the benefit of this longer term thinking to the present has been enormously beneficial for us, irrespective of the eventual outcome.
So one out of two isn’t too bad, as the saying doesn’t go. And perhaps I will suggest discussing what happens if our strategic review fails when our executive team meet on Monday, if only to see their reaction.
Oliver Reichardt is Director of Fellowship at the RSA, you can follow him @OliverReichardt
As Chief Executive of RSA Academies I travel regularly to the West Midlands to work with our four RSA Academies, in Coventry (Whitley Academy), Redditch (Arrow Vale RSA Academy and Ipsley CE RSA Academy) and Tipton (RSA Academy). Yesterday I ventured even further north, to speak at the Academies Conference in Manchester.
In a programme that included some essential but somewhat dry topics such as governance structures and admissions arrangements, I was delighted (and not a little relieved!) to have been asked to talk about an area that lies at the heart of RSA Academies’ work: preparing students for life beyond the school gate. The talk was a timely one, with yet another survey published this week showing that the vast majority of young people don’t feel they received enough information about post-secondary education and careers. If there is a crumb of comfort to be found in the survey, it is that UK students are not alone – the survey found a consistent pattern across Europe, with the possible exception of Germany.
So, what are we doing in the RSA Family to ensure that young people in our schools are informed about and prepared for the world beyond the school gate?
Well, firstly we’re recognising that Universities and employers are looking for more than just good qualifications, and so we’re helping our pupils to develop a range of skills and competences. One essential component is the development of leadership skills. Our annual student leadership conference at the RSA in London are a high point of the school year, and the students themselves are setting the agenda for the year’s work, which has included a series of student voice podcasts, and a student led peer review of the schools in the Family. Students at Whitley Academy recently participated in a debating competition, and this clip of the winning entry shows just how far they have come. Our next step is to increase the number of opportunities for younger children by introducing a Family-wide year 8 leadership programme, which will be targeted at children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who may be lacking in confidence, to develop their skills in this area.
We are also developing a strong partnership with Warwick University, building on their existing widening participation programmes, to increase the number of applicants from lower income families or those who would be the first in their family to go on to higher education. The programme has been informed by children themselves, including those at Ipsley CE RSA Academy. These pupils convinced the partnership of the need to start working with children when they’re young, and so it will give children from Year 7 upwards the opportunity to meet lecturers and students from different faculties, and to visit Warwick, giving them the confidence to believe that a University education really is for people like them.
And we continue to benefit from the generosity of our Fellows and Royal Designers for Industry who give their time and expertise in various ways to bring new experiences to our students. The RSA Academy in Tipton have just had their first student provisionally accepted into Oxbridge following coaching and support from Bill Good FRSA who was on hand to support students at a Post 16 evening before the winter break. Other recent examples include a project with Ben Kelly who has encouraged students from Arrow Vale RSA Academy to think differently about the school’s entrance hall. The students successfully pitched to the Governors for funding to realise their designs with Ben coming back to school in the coming months to support the conclusion.
For 2014/15 we want to make it even easier to enable Fellows to connect with our Academies, by developing a menu of things that they might offer e.g. a work-place visit, a careers talk, to be a mentor for a sixth form student. If you have ideas about how this might work, or would like to make an offer, please do let me know.