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.
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 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 email@example.com or tweet me @pickfordrich I love hearing about new ideas especially when they are told over a hot cup of tea and some cake.
Last week I was delighted to be part of a panel discussing regeneration in Pillgwenlly, a community in Newport, South Wales. The invitation came from RSA Fellow Wiard Sterk, who has been working with the team leading a major regeneration project in Pill, and asked me along to share examples of some of the inspirational community projects that RSA Fellows are leading elsewhere.
My family have roots in south Wales, but I haven’t been there in a few years – so I was somewhat intimidated to find myself speaking alongside people who know the area inside out, including RSA Fellowship Councillor Kathy Seddon, who grew up in Pill. It turned out, though, that one of the most interesting things about the evening was how much of what was discussed was familiar from projects I’ve worked with elsewhere.
Of course, it’s risky (and usually wrong) to assume that what works in one place will automatically apply in another, but a project I spoke about that seemed to strike a chord was Changing Chelmsford, a community organisation set up by RSA Fellows (led by Malcolm Noble, now chair of the RSA’s East of England region) in 2010. They’d hoped to start a conversation about how Chelmsford could become a more successful place, hoping to disprove the false notion – familiar to many places – that “nothing happens in this town”.
They’ve done this with resounding success. Since a first summer of events in 2010 attracted 120 or so people, they’ve held a ‘festival of ideas’ every summer, and sparked numerous initiatives and projects across the town. This year, over 500 people came to events, and an estimated 1000+ visited a temporary community space set up in an empty unit in a shopping centre. And when in 2012 Chelmsford bid successfully for city status, Changing Chelmsford was cited in the application as a shining example of community engagement.
What worked about the project? Here are a few rough thoughts I shared at the meeting:
- It worked across sectors. From the start, the project brought together volunteers, in the shape of RSA Fellows; officials from the borough and county councils; and professionals, particularly designers and artists. And, although it took a little longer, local businesses are now in on the act, providing support in kind for the annual festival.
- It focussed on real places. There are several fine buildings in Chelmsford that are currently not used to their full potential, most famously the former Marconi factory (often spoken of as the birthplace of radio). The group have increasingly focused their campaigning on these buildings, and have received some high profile media coverage for their efforts. More importantly, though, this has galvanised people around the project by giving them something solid to focus on.
- It supported practical projects. As well as campaigning, the group have worked to support individuals and groups in Chelmsford who had ideas for doing things differently. One example is Young Urban Explorers, a project led by a local architect Annabel Brown (and funded by RSA Catalyst) that challenged young people to seek out under-used spaces in the town, and then pitch their ideas for remodelling them to the council.
The project has been a huge success. However, as someone I spoke to last night commented, it’s frustrating when people talk about these kinds of initiatives in a way that makes them seem like plain sailing – which they rarely are. The group faced some big challenges:
- Volunteer fatigue. Anyone who’s been involved with community organisations knows that they often depend on ‘super-volunteers’: a small number of fantastically committed, dogged individuals who keep things ticking over. Changing Chelmsford was no different, and a constant concern in meetings I attended was to find ways of compensating people for whom the project rapidly became a full-time job.
- Reaching deprived and isolated communities. A persistent challenge for the project was reaching beyond the ‘usual suspects’ who engage in civic activity. The group made great efforts to reach out to all areas in the town, but in particular reaching the least well-off communities was a challenge. This did change, however, as the project grew in profile, and particularly through partnerships with organisations like the YMCA, who worked with Annabel on the Young Urban Explorers project.
These point to a few basic principles that seem to me to mark out many successful community projects: a combination of campaigning and practical action is often most successful; collaboration between different organisations gets things done quicker; and volunteer roles need to be rewarding and manageable if a project is going to last.
The RSA has worked, through research like our ChangeMakers project, to draw these kinds of conclusions about what works in social projects. In a few weeks, we’ll be sharing a handbook based on this work and the experiences of our Fellows and staff, that provides some basic guidance for people who want to improve their communities, and links to resources that can help them.
One thing that came up repeatedly in the discussion last night was the rarity with which good practice in community projects is actually shared between places and organisations. Some of these ideas might seem pretty basic, but I think working out what successful projects have in common – and spreading that knowledge as widely as possible – is time well spent.
The Christmas before last, I read a very important book called The Social Entrepreneur by Lord Andrew Mawson, charting his journey transforming a church in Bromley-by-Bow, East London into a centre delivering arts, healthcare and education services. The overriding lessons for me were a) the success of mobilising untapped creativity and cash in communities to tackle social problems and b) using church space outside of congregation time is as good a place as any to start. I was reminded of Andrew’s work by two Fellows’ ventures supported by Catalyst who have taken a similar approach.
The first venture is led by Francis Davis FRSA to use excess faith-run spaces to incubate start-up or growth businesses and social enterprises, initially across the Solent region but developed for replication by every faith-based centre. He was supported by Catalyst to find nine Fellows who stepped forward to be designated mentors for the businesses. Last week I went down to the Portsmouth Cathedral Innovation Centre and saw Francis launching community shares in the fund investing in the start-ups, with Baroness Berridge, Minister for Employment Mark Hoban and Dean of Portsmouth Cathedral David Brindley there to commit to be the fund’s first investors.
Creating wealth is a good thing, employing people is a good thing, and I think it’s really important that the cathedral gets involved so that the capitalists, the people who make the wealth of the future, do it in a way that’s more socially responsible than we’ve seen in the past – Baroness Berridge, backer of Cathedral Innovation Centre, speaking on Radio 4
The second is The Sunday Assembly who run big public meetings with the aim of helping people to “live better, help often, wonder more”. They get people together in churches and other available spaces to sing pop songs, meet their neighbours, hear how they can help out with local community projects and listen to inspiring speakers to teach them more about the world they live in. As co-founder and RSA Fellow Sanderson Jones put it: “Atheists make a mistake to look at church and throw it all out just because they don’t believe in God.” Mobilising other faith spaces will be crucial to the ability to scale the assemblies to other communities. An encouraging sign came when one Assembly in North London dovetailed with a church service, the Bishop was very encouraged by the Assembly: “in the process of time, with love people will come to know the God that we serve.”
Of course the guardian could not resist citing experts who say “I do think it’s going to appeal only to one particular section of the community… a middle-class cultural elite” and “atheist churches were formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but petered out because people found other forms of social organisation that suited them better”. What Mawson said is relevant to these critiques: “start with people and action rather than research… avoid paralysis by analysis.” Sanderson is getting on with it and with the help of a Catalyst grant wants to provide clear instructions to help others launch Sunday Assemblies in communities across the world.
Atheists make a mistake to look at church and throw it all out just because they don’t believe in God – Sanderson Jones FRSA, co-founder of The Sunday Assembly
I wanted to end with what Lord Mawson had learned from building his Bromley-by-Bow centre, which I think sums up what Catalyst is about, supporting RSA Fellows to try out new ventures. He said that: “answers to macro-political questions must be sought in the micro-experience of local activity… rewarding those who bother to get off their backsides to work together on practical projects and discouraging those who want to take the lazy, pontificating, seminar-attending approach.”
Whilst the London Fellowship have been taking the lead in their highly successful Reboot events, where Fellows share a range of innovative and exciting Fellow-led projects, I have been running Ideas Cafe style events in the West.
The most recent was held in Bristol at the Create centre, where we had a room full of Fellows – some pitching their projects and ideas towards tackling social problems, others assisting with connections, expertise and local knowledge to help develop ideas.
Some of the most valuable outcomes of such sessions can be the connections you make and it seems like this worked well here.
Here is a taste of the ideas pitched on the evening, which demonstrate the strength and depth of the Fellowship –
Richard Guise – The paved street heritage - Richard believes there is a skills deficit for people who can lay traditional paving materials; and that it is worth developing apprenticeships for people to learn this skill and generally to raise awareness and interest in the heritage of our streets. Bristol offers the ideal street environment for this project Contact Richard
Jon, Sam and Dave – Bristol Story Lab – Children have incredible imaginations, they just need somewhere to unleash them. The Story Lab’s writing workshops let childrens minds run riot, while they build confidence, self-respect and communication skills. The Lab follows the model established by www.826valenica.org and www.ministryofstories.org, which has been proven to do all of this and improve academic performance. Contact Jon
Penny Hay – Artspace for Bath – An encounter with the city - their vision is to create a vital contemporary arts space in Bath that encompasses an art/gallery/workshop/café/studio: a place of serious creative play. Contact Penny. In follow-up to this, Penny will be presenting to Fellows in Bath at their May networking event to see if any local Fellows are interested in getting involved.
Alex and Jamie – New Dawn Traders – they hope to lower the carbon footprint of long-distance transport through raising public awareness creatively – including sailing voyages across to the Caribbean to fair-trade products. Contact Alex, if you are interested in getting involved they are holding an event on Wednesday 12 June in Bristol about one of the projects they are involved in.
Deepesh Patel – Deepesh is keen to connect university students to small enterprises and charities, to help find solutions to social problems within the local community. Contact Deepesh
Laura Pictor – Trowbridge Town Hall - Laura works on a team to develop the creative space in the heart of the community, “introduce, involve, inspire”, our vision - to reconnect an iconic building to its original purpose; providing a cultural hub to its community. The Town Hall will become a place where the arts are accessible to all; introducing new experiences, involving everyone, inspiring and enabling people to learn, share, create and play. Contact Laura, her and the team involved in the Trowbridge Town Hall project have recently linked up to share learning from Ed Whitelaw (Fellowship Councillor at large) at the Real Ideas Organisation’s Devonport Guildhall, which stemmed from a similar project and is a social enterprise hub and cultural venue for the community of Plymouth.
— Ed Whitelaw (@EdWhitelaw) April 26, 2013
Francesca Wakefield – The Ideas Arcade – Francesca envisions an online collaboration hub, looking at creative ways to inspire people to live better and understand the links between the big issues. Contact Francesca
Some of the most valuable outcomes of such sessions can be the connections you make and it seems like this worked well here. There are also avenues available to apply for seed funding, through the RSA’s Catalyst scheme and West seed fund.
I am hoping to hold some more ideas cafes in the South West region in the next few months, please get in touch if you are interested, or have other project ideas you would like to discuss.
If you are interested in running an Ideas cafe type event, below are some simple tips, and if you need support for your Fellows’ meetings, network or projects? Go to the Fellows’ tools & techniques page - for guidance, how-tos and other support.
- identify thematic areas that are of interest to attendees
- ask attendees to gather around tables they are interested in the themes of, think about the overarching question – “What themes/ideas are coming out of the this region that Fellows can take forward” – how can these be taken forward by Fellows?
- Facilitator finish with future steps, make sure there is a follow up to the event sent round to attendees, ask for people interested in leading in projects/ideas, facilitie connections with other Fellows regionally/nationally
Lou Matter is the Programme Manager for West and South West. You can follow her @loumatter
Tog Studio host ‘live-build’ events. This means that people who are usually excluded from the construction process take an active role in building their own project. In doing so participants are empowered to learn practical skills and teamwork to deliver a valuable community asset.
This is made possible by the architects and engineers behind Tog Studio designing buildings which are consciously low-tech to build. This allows participants to be fully involved in the process after a brief introduction to a few key skills (such as measuring timber, sawing, clamping and screwing).
About the project
“(working on the Sitooterie) gives me a purpose to get up in the morning and gives me the self-satisfaction to do a decent days work and see what comes from your hard work”.
Tog Studio recently collaborated with the Salvation Army (TSA) to build a ‘sitooterie’ (Scots slang for an outdoor seating area) with the service users of a TSA LifeHouse in Edinburgh; a project which was funded by an RSA Catalyst Grant. Tog Studio hosted a number of design workshops with the participants to agree how the Sitooterie would be used, where it would be sited and what it would look like. The team then spent three days building the project in April 2013.
The innovative structure was partially prefabricated at MAKLab, an open-source digital fabrication facility. MAKLab, which is also part of the RSA Scotland network, makes access to tools and equipment available to anyone who wants to make things; from jewellers to electrical engineers and school children. MAKLab helped Tog Studio deliver the Sitooterie by pre-fabricating the ply-box portal frame structure. MAKLab, who are based in Glasgow but plan to roll out their service across the country, were invaluable supporters of the project and warmly welcomed the TSA service users to tour their facilities and watch the frames be cut on the high-tech CNC router.
Delivering the Sitooterie increased the confidence and motivation of those involved. Kev Kelly, a TSA service user who had been involved in the project since its inception, commented that “(working on the Sitooterie) gives me a purpose to get up in the morning and gives me the self-satisfaction to do a decent days work and see what comes from your hard work”. Micheal Holliday, FRSA and architect at Tog Studio, commented that ” delivering the Sitooterie was an emotional project. It’s been a really intense build and we’ve made new friends along the way. We’ve learnt from each other and worked as a team; which is incredible given the short amount of time we had together.”
Tog Studio also recently hosted their inaugural summer school on the Isle of Tiree, off the west coast of Scotland. This event was attended by architecture students from across the country who wanted a hands-on alternative to their classroom-based education. The team delivered a 5m-high temporary timber ‘lighthouse’. The project was a huge success, winning national architecture awards, was published internationally and featured at the New York Architecture Film Festival. A further summer school is planned for June 2013 where the team plan to build a permanent community-owned boathouse on Tiree with a boat-building local charity.
“delivering the Sitooterie was an emotional project. It’s been a really intense build and we’ve made new friends along the way. We’ve learnt from each other and worked as a team; which is incredible given the short amount of time we had together.”
How you can get involved
Tog Studio are looking to bring their expertise to a greater number of projects across the country. Fellows who are looking to deliver innovative buildings through an inclusive construction process should get in touch; the team have experience of working at a range of scales and on a variety of building types. Tog Studio are currently working on proposals for affordable, self-build accommodation and work-space would be interested to collaborate with like-minded organisations looking to commission such projects.
Fellows who work in the construction industry supply-chain and can donate time, materials or equipment in exchange for sponsorship of projects like the Sitooterie should also get in touch.
Tog Studio would like to thank the RSA Catalyst Grant for their funding towards the Sitooterie, without which the project wouldn’t have happened.
There is more information about Tog Studio, including a short film about the making of the Sitooterie, at www.togstudio.co.uk
I’ve recently been playing a lot of The Great Brain Experiment: an app created by UCL and the Wellcome Trust. It’s a crowdsourcing game in which users (or players, or participants, or bored commuters – take your pick) do a series of brain games, which then get fed back into a research project. It’s a great game – it justifies my timewasting by feeding into research and allows me to develop my response and memory skills (by which I mean feeds into my competitive side by seeing how I do versus the average user).
Whereas previously you’d identify an issue, try to solve it in the lab or officespace with people who also work in the same building, now you can use the power of the internet, for information, communication and interaction.
Crowdsourcing like this has been around for a while, with the internet speeding up the process and influencing areas beyond plain research. It can go wrong – Reddit, the user-generated content sharing site recently got it very wrong by incorrectly crowdsourcing the identity of one of the Boston bombers. It’s not without criticism either: if you crowdsource business ideas, you rely on free labour to develop a potentially profitable idea for very low cost, perceived as a cheap person’s idea development.
However, crowdsourcing also has huge power. Whereas previously you’d identify an issue, try to solve it in the lab or officespace with people who also work in the same building, now you can use the power of the internet, for information, communication and interaction. Wikipedia is crowdsourced. Crowdsourcing health research means that cost-ineffective R&D can be opened up to a global audience. The Guardian uses crowdsourcing techniques to process large publications, for example when records of MPs expenses were released. Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter are changing the way that entrepreneurs finance their project.
Here at the RSA we love a good idea, we love good people working together on these ideas and we want to support you with this. Our Catalyst fund offers financial support to start-up ideas from Fellows, but also we work to put you in contact with Fellows who can help with the expertise you need. We’re doing a series of Catalyst roadshows around the country, for people to promote their idea. I recently went to one in Bristol – there were some really strong ideas, and it’s amazing what having an audience can do to help refine your idea, build new connections and open up new channels of thought and support. If you live in the South Central region, why not pop along to the Catalyst event in Reading?
A similar event coming up in the London region is the Reboot 3, led by Fellowship Councillor Roxanne Persaud. Part speed-networking, part speed-ideas-sharing and part pitching, it’s a really good way to have, shape and develop an idea – find out more about how it works and how to run one.
I’ve been working at the RSA for nearly six months and this is my very first blog; every time I tried, I found myself sitting in front of a computer screen, mulling over the same problems. Then I spoke to colleagues, and found that through conversation an idea grows and develops, and suddenly you hit upon a solution. I love ideas, and much like a school of fish, I think that they work better together.
To find out more about how you can engage and develop your idea with us, check out our four ways to engage. For more information about local ideas-sharing activities in your region, keep an eye on the website, and to find out more about Catalyst visit the web pages.
Joanna Massie is Fellowship Programme Coordinator. You can follow her on @joannacmassie.
The RSA’s Whole Person Recovery project’s first anniversary is this spring. You may have been following our progress in West Kent through the fellowship newsletter, the Whole Person Recovery Newsletter or the Recovery Blog. Maybe you’ve attended a Public Event Programme lecture or a Recovery Alliance Meeting. If this is the first you’re hearing of the programme it’s a perfect opportunity to get involved. You don’t need to have personal experience of addiction or recovery to contribute to the programme. Recovery is a complex and individual journey with which we can all relate to in respect of its organic or non-linear nature.
Attaining ‘recovery’ and achieving a balanced, healthy and engaged life obtaining the things many of us take for granted such as a job, a car, and a family waiting for us when we get home can seem a difficult place to reach. However, Whole Person Recovery is based on the acknowledgement that both addiction and recovery do not occur within a vacuum and are based significantly on social, personal and community influences.
Statistical evidence strongly suggests that one in five of us will know someone who has experienced problems with drugs and/ or alcohol. For those of us who know these individuals, we recognise that alcohol and drugs are usually just a symptom of deeper problems yet to be acknowledged or resolved. Today’s world throws us all tough challenges; for the most vulnerable in our communities these challenges are more hazardous.
Our aim is help programme participants mainstream their lifestyles and plug back into their communities and tap the abundant social resources available so that their recovery encompasses work, housing, friends, family and purposeful activity, in employment, education or enterprise. So what if someone is stable and on their feet again after accessing available support? What comes next? This is where the RSA’s network of Fellows is an invaluable resource.
People in recovery span all strata of society – from the man who used to live on the streets to the mum who has seen her children grow up and fly the nest, but they generally all have one thing in common – they have had to take ‘time out’ to work on their recovery. This time may have left a sense of insecurity or limited or outdated professional skills. There will be a time when such individuals well on the path of recovery will want to achieve goals beyond the sphere of their health and physical wellbeing.
Fellows in West Kent and the South East can make a huge difference to our work in often, quite simple, ways.
- Offering a space on a training course
- Inviting someone to shadow you at your workplace for a number of days
- Attending or giving a talk at one of our West Kent hubs
- Mentoring someone aspiring to enter your field of expertise
Across the world Fellows are working together on innovative new approaches designed to have a positive impact on the communities they live and work in. One new idea which has recently been attracting a lot of interest is the RSA Reboot events which are designed to support Fellowship collaboration and networking. Intrigued I caught up with Roxanne Persaud (RP) @Commutiny, Fellowship Councillor for London, who developed the Reboot format, and Alex Dunedin (AD) @RaggedTalks, a Fellow from Scotland who has recently been working in London and attended the second London Reboot, to find out more.
Jamie Cooke (JC) – So what is Reboot?
RP – Reboot is a series of free, lively evenings where Fellows can meet each other as ‘professional friends’ to share their work and interests. Last year I worked with Jemima Gibbons (former Chair of the RSA Digital Engagement Group) and came up with the idea of ‘rebooting’ the local network. We know that face-to-face meetings are the foundation for building productive networks and that the online reports are very helpful for people who can’t make it to events – they can still get connected. So it’s important that we have a lively Web presence and we encourage Fellows to join in. The pilot event was very successful so I’m now putting one on every other month as part of the regional programme. You can see the summary of the first Reboot here and a great roundup of last one here– as an eclectic and energised room of social media savvy people, the tweets were flying thick and fast!.
AD – Very simply, the evening starts out with a light conversation and people pottering in; everyone tries to bring a nibble or a bottle of wine etc; then, over the night, three rounds of ‘micro-presentations’ go on where a clutch of fellows get to ‘sound bite’ what they are doing to everyone in the room and invite input. This is casual, and after each short session, there is speed networking swaps going on where we find out who is in the room and where their interests lay.
JC – Why is that attractive for Fellows?
AD – As a relatively new fellow, this was the tonic I needed to put a face on why I was a fellow. As we all know, the web-side of the RSA is being revamped and there are plenty of formal events which are staged but, for me, there was a great need to be able to connect with and meaningfully communicate with other people in the collective. It is implied in the word ‘fellowship’ and it was the community which attracted me to the RSA; we need to reach out across our silo walls.
RP – There are more than 8,000 Fellows in London with an inspiring diversity of projects we could be connecting to in order to make a difference in society, develop new ways of working, and more. But we’re mostly missing out, especially if you can’t get to the public lectures or easily participate in the online networks. The feedback we got showed that Fellows enjoyed the events enormously and described them as stimulating, interesting, inspiring, useful and fun.
As a relatively new fellow, this was the tonic I needed to put a face on why I was a fellow
JC – What sort of topics were covered at the recent event?
RP – The programme represents the diversity of Fellowship and alternates between rapid presentations and facilitated speed networking sessions. The first one had the theme of ‘Positive Deviants: how left-field thinking solves problems’ and the featured projects included Jubiloo, Voice of Freedom, 3Space, Bloomsbury Babies, Street Doctors and Full Fact. The speakers were allowed to talk about any type of project or initiative they wanted – the only requirement was that they needed some kind of input – whether it be skills, support or funding – from other FRSA. In February we heard about Lightyear Foundation, Project Access, Metro, Costume Institute of the African Diaspora, 3-2-1 Ignition, #KnowYoureSkilled and Alex Dunedin’s Ragged Project.
AD – It was also a useful opportunity to engage with the work of the London Regional team. Roxanne took the chance to present on the Rolling Development Plan of the region. This allowed for a space for participants to give feedback and input to the Plan, surely a sensible way to ensure that it is relevant to Fellows across the region.
JC – So you’ve fired me up, and I want know more. How can I get involved? And could I run my own Reboot event in another part of the world?
RP – If you’re in London look out for announcements in the regional mailing, then sign up to attend or use the ‘contact the organiser’ button if you want to speak (like the RSA public events team we use Eventbrite as it’s free and easy to use). If you can get to London events easily, ask your regional team to put you on the mailing list. We don’t tend to set up the programme far in advance so there’s always the chance to speak. We even manage to slot in an open mike session for Fellows who get fired up during the event and want to present to the whole crowd. Reboot is ‘open source’ so we encourage everyone to adopt the format. A great place to start is Jemima’s blog about the pilot event which includes a lot of practical tips. Reboot has also been shared as ‘best practice’ at Fellowship Council so your elected representatives should know a bit about it. We’re always looking to improve so use a very light touch yet very important evaluation process – if you Reboot your local network it would be brilliant to compare notes.
JC – Any last thoughts you would like readers to take away about Reboot?
This is precisely what being a FRSA is about for me…It stimulated, it expanded, it amplified – I want more!
RP – In London the events are always well supported by Fellows who generously provide meeting places, who bring food and drink to share and who come with the objective of making the most of the network. The next step is to run events in partnership with the Fellowship thematic networks (Arts, Social Entrepreneurs, Catalyst Winners…). I’d like Fellows to make Reboot their own and move on to finding new ways to link up and support activity in the region. We have almost a third of the Fellowship – the possibilities are endless!
AD – This is precisely what being a FRSA is about for me. Come along to the next one for a successful, accessible, fun, interesting and constructive evening – I recommend it. It was a chance to clarify how many people share common goals and meet together in Fellowship. It stimulated, it expanded, it amplified – I want more!
During the 2012 London Olympics around 70,000 Games Makers volunteered to help to make the 2012 Games a huge success. Their purple and red shirts seemed to be everywhere, and they were heaped with praise as the games came to a close. And rightly so! To put together a sporting event on the scale of the London Olympics to such a high standard would have been impossible without the thousands of budding volunteers. This spirit of volunteerism didn’t just appear overnight. Over 250,000 people applied, nearly half of whom had never volunteered before. Committed volunteers are out there, but often they are not given the recognition or publicity that their commitment deserves.
One of the greatest successes of the 2012 Olympics was that it destroyed the notion of a nation that was uninterested, unmotivated, and unwilling to get involved. In fact it highlighted the reality that people are willing to give up their time to be part of something they can be proud of. Lessons need to be learnt from the way the Games Makers were able to have such a positive impact on the Games. The main factor behind this success was that they were given something in return. Their efforts were appreciated, their contributions praised, and they were made to feel like a vital part of something special. The same model needs to be implemented to young volunteers that contribute towards positive social change in their communities. By recognising exceptional contributions and achievements we can inspire more young people to become engaged in volunteering, in much the same way as the 70,000 Games Makers inspired a generation during the Olympics.
One of our partners here at the RSA is doing exactly that. The Young Achievers Trust (YAT) is a youth-led organisation that recognises, celebrates and supports inspirational young people who have made outstanding contributions in volunteering. Led by a board of 12 young trustees (who are volunteers themselves), the awards present an opportunity for exceptional young volunteers to be commended for their amazing achievements in the arts, sport, community, and the environment sectors. This year also saw the launch of The Future Leaders Award to recognise the work of young individuals holding a governance position within a charity or social enterprise. Organisations such as YAT can play an important role in motivating other young people to get involved in implementing positive changes within their communities, but they need to be given the publicity they deserve.
I was lucky enough to attend the Young Achievers Awards (YAA) this year. The awards were introduced by Luke Lancaster, YAA winner in 2012 for the Community category. At the age of 17 Luke has been the CEO of his national charity Young Pioneers for six years. In his impressive introduction speech he was keen to heap praise on the Young Achievers Awards and the positive impact being recognised for his achievements had for him. Since winning his award last year, he seems to have gone from strength to strength, and is a prime example of why it is so important that we recognise the accomplishments of young achievers.
The Young Achievers Trust (YAT) is a youth-led organisation that recognises, celebrates and supports inspirational young people who have made outstanding contributions in volunteering
From community initiatives focused on surplus food such as The People’s Kitchen, to student based tutoring service Tutors United, the creativity, innovation and determination shown through the various volunteer projects the winners have been involved in is truly inspirational. As the winners stepped forward to collect their awards, I began to wonder what impact this event would have and the potential to inspire a generation if these achievements were recognised more widely. Would this year’s winners be even more likely to build upon their achievements? Would other young people be inspired to follow in their footsteps? Is the enthusiasm and commitment to make a positive change in society out there in the younger generation? After attending the Young Achievers Awards, all answers led to yes. The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well, it just needs the kind of recognition and publicity the 70,000 Games Makers received to keep people motivated to persevere.
The RSA has been working in partnership with the Young Achievers Trust since 2008. We aim to support award winners by helping them to become RSA Fellows, and involving Fellows by asking them to provide money-can’t-buy opportunities as part of their awards package. One of our core aims of working in partnership with other organisations is that we can help them achieve their charitable objectives, thus putting us one step closer to achieving ours. Should you be interested in partnering with the RSA Fellowship, please get in contact with our Partnership Development Manager, Jo Painter.
A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to hold an event at OxfordJam. A three day fringe festival, Oxford Jam runs parallel to the Skoll World Forum, ensuring that all the great and the good in the social enterprise sector descend into Oxford for three days of inspiration, making connections, and learning from all the varied work going on. We held one of our quarterly Social Enterprise Spotlight events there; find out more online about Social Enterprise Spotlight, our case-study of nine social entrepreneurs. Employing the skills and expertise of two brilliant RSA Fellows, the event titled Who do you help and how do you know? set out to look at impact measurement from a more human point of view.
It is important to stop and take a moment to remember why we do what we do.
At the session Steve Coles (Director at Intentionality CIC or as we called him, social impact ‘ninja’) gave us five top tips about what to measure when thinking about the impact you make with your social enterprise. You can find his top tips here. He also made the valuable point that in order to fully understand our impact it is important to stop and take a moment to remember why we do what we do. Which leads me to our other speaker at the event and one of the nine RSA Spotlighters, Becky John.
The Big Idea: who makes your pants?
Becky John runs Who made your pants? a Southampton-based campaigning lingerie brand which started in 2008 and is concerned with two things – amazing pants and amazing women. They create jobs for women who’ve had a hard time, primarily refugees, by producing beautiful underwear from reclaimed materials. We heard Becky speak passionately about the women she helps and the impact they are making, including how one woman has set up her own independent email address without any interference from her family, and another who has decided to stand against tradition and not go through with female genital mutilation for her young daughter.
Many of the things that occur on a daily basis at Who made your pants? are an example of ‘non direct, unintended’ impact, such as their daily lunches together – not something that was planned or originally measured but definitely contributes to the well-being of all the women involved. Becky’s story and desire to help the women she works with is one that may resonate with many social entrepreneurs about why they do what they do. As Becky says on her blog, the reason and idea for Who made your pants?, “came from a passion for equality, a love of pretty underwear and a huge personal change.” Becky’s impact is very clear and her hopes are to continue to positively affect the women she helps and take over the world, “we have come so far since 2008. We want to help more women over the next three years, including making our current team full time and taking on a second team, if not more.”
The reason and idea for Who made your pants? came from a passion for equality, a love of pretty underwear and a huge personal change.
How you can get involved
Who made your pants? has one full time member of staff, Becky, and around ten part time workers (which can change due to the unpredictably of people’s lives). They also have had lots of regular volunteers doing everything from website building to answering the phone and drafting legal contracts. Recently however, a couple of the lynchpins in the organisation have left so Becky is now looking for someone (or some people) to fulfil an office management type role. Becky has written about what she needs so if you are interested, or know someone who might be, you can read about it on her blog. You can find out more about the organisation on the Who made your pants? website and for the Tweeters among us, you can follow her on Twitter @whomadeyour and @beckypants.
More from the Social Entrepreneurs Network
The next Social Entrepreneurs Network event is one of our regular breakfasts held at the RSA House, the last Friday of each month – the next one is Friday 26th April at 9am and will be on social enterprises overseas. You can visit the Social Entrepreneurs Network and find out more online. Our next quarterly event is on 26th June where we’ll be sure to hear more inspiring stories so join the network and hopefully we’ll see you next time.
Sarah Tucker is Fellowship Communications & Events Manager.
You can follow her @SarahTucker10