I love ideas. I suppose it’s one of the fundamental things which attracted me to working for the RSA and which sustains my time as a Fellow and member of staff. My inbox is invariably filled with emails starting “I have an idea I wanted to discuss”, a tantalising opportunity to explore something new, usually over a cup of coffee or four (when asked what I did for a living, my son once explained that “Daddy drinks coffee”).
Of course not all the ideas are achievable or in line with the RSA’s objectives and Change Aims. This is something that is becoming ever more the case as we progress with the strategic review, and the clarity of purpose which it is bringing to our work. We had gone through a period of letting “a thousand flowers bloom” which definitely had its benefits for re-energising the wider Fellowship, however a more focused approach will allow us to bring maximum support to key projects.
Last night, as I was woken up by a drunk housemate coming back from her Christmas party in the wee small hours, I was struck by the oddity of the pre-Christmas indulgence culture.
There are two parts to this issue I found myself considering at 3am this morning. The first is our acceptance of excessive alcohol consumption: something that my colleagues in the West Kent Recovery Team explore. The second is the plausibility of one individual to make a difference to society without sacrificing their enjoyment of the season.
It’s tricky to know how to navigate the plethora of opportunities to do good effectively. So in an attempt to summarise my (somewhat sleep-deprived) thoughts, I’ve categorised opportunities into: Give generously; don’t change your lifestyle, change your supplier; and everything changes.
I recently travelled up to Alloa in Clackmannanshire to support a Fellow-led project named Resonate. Now, Clackmannanshire (and particularly Alloa) is not an area that receives much attention in Scotland, let alone further afield – until relatively recently my knowledge of it had consisted of the football team, personal attendance at the beer festival and their world leading work in phonics – so it great to see such an inspiring project thriving in that area, making a tangible difference to the people in their community. Although it ostensibly started off as a community arts project, Resonate acts as so much more now – it is a vibrant, inclusive heart of its community, passionately supported by service users, creative, activists and other brilliant people. I was in Alloa, on this occasion, to provide for support for Resonate as they have been put forward for a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and Johnny Stewart, the Lord Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, was visiting the project to assess its suitability. So a group of us gathered with mugs of coffee and pastries in hand, ready to meet with the Lord Lieutenant and answer his questions about Resonate.
Help kickstart increased access to arts and gender equality in the UK theatre – All female Richard III production aims to change the conversation
Filed under: Arts and Society, Fellowship
Fellow Yvonne Murphy guest blogs about her all female production of Richard III. Read about her plans and find out how you can help make it happen.
I am a new RSA & Clore Fellow and I run Omidaze Productions. I am staging an all-female production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff in February 2015 and I need your support. I have launched an RSA Kickstarter campaign because we literally cannot afford to pay everyone we want to be involved and make it happen as planned unless we reach our target and I need your support.
Restorative Justice is achieved when the person who has been harmed by a crime is supported by a third party to communicate with the person who caused the harm, to the benefit of both parties, their families and their communities. It is achieved through an impartial communication service, which ensures that the communication is safe, supported, and voluntary. RJ working set up as a social enterprise in Cornwall to provide such a service, and also to tackle the issue of why, in England and Wales, Restorative Justice (RJ) is unknown to the vast majority of people. This affects take-up of the offer of RJ: if it seems like a strange experiment it won’t be so likely to be chosen by victims of crime struggling with overwhelming anger or acute vulnerability. The mainstream population has not yet recognised the potential of this way of working to reduce the frustration, fear, anxiety and sense of powerlessness that are generated when one person harms another. It is not yet normal to request RJ, or to be offered a meeting, as it is in many other countries. Nearby in Northern Ireland over 14,000 Restorative Justice ‘Conferences’ have made a huge contribution to rebuilding community over the last twelve years.
Filed under: Education Matters, Enterprise, Fellowship, Innovation
Imagine reading a Wikipedia biography, and the subject says hello and introduces themselves. That’s the idea behind a project run by Fellow Andy Mabbett, called The “Wiki Voice Introduction Project” (“Wiki VIP”- geddit?)
“Hello, my name is Andy Mabbett, and I was born in Birmingham, England. I’ve been a Wikipedia editor since 2003 and Wikipedian-in-Residence at a number of institutions, most recently the Royal Society of Chemistry”
- If I said that out loud, it would take around ten or twelve seconds, but in that time, you’d know what my voice sounds like (enough to confirm my identity, if you’d heard me on the radio), a little about me (enough to distinguish me from someone else with the same name), and how my name is pronounced (useful if you’re about to meet me, or mention me in a presentation or on air). In fact, you’d have the canonical pronunciation of my name: mine.
Since we started a project to make such recordings a while ago, we’ve had similar contributions from Adil Ray, Alice Arnold, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Emma Freud, Charles Duke (one of twelve people to walk on the Moon) and a host of others – including, of course Fellows of the RSA, like Stephen Fry, Howard Goodall and computer scientist Sue Black.
We have contributions in Welsh, Dutch, French, Polish, Catalan, and Russian, too – some people record themselves in more than one language. The contributors include scientists, authors, journalists, artists, explorers, librarians, a peer of the realm, and even many Eurovision Song Contest competitors! Each recording is – like all Wikipedia content – available under an open licence, allowing anyone to reuse it.
How you can help
I want to invite anyone – everyone – who is the subject of a biography in Wikipedia, to provide a brief recording, saying the same kind of things about themselves – or a little more if they care to. Many fellows will have Wikipedia articles about them (but please – don’t write a Wikipedia autobiography; it’s really frowned upon) and can make a recording on their phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer and email it to me for uploading, or upload it to Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikimedia Commons themselves.
While not every Fellow has an article about them, I bet every one of us has a colleague, friend or relative who does. Some Fellows no doubt work as PAs or agents; they can supply recordings of their clients.
Imagine if we could hear the voices of RSA fellows of the past. Let’s make sure future generations can hear ours.
Andy Mabbett, FRSA
• View Andy’s blog ‘Pigs on the wing’.
• See a guide to making a Wiki VIP recording, and more examples
• Contact Andy by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Filed under: Enterprise, Fellowship, Innovation, Uncategorized
Disrupting Eye Care
Start-up accelerators are going through an evolution, generally becoming more focused on verticals, such as digital health or fintech. I have taken this one step further, establishing an accelerator focused on eye care.
I am testing the idea that a very focused accelerator can offer better support for the start-ups, but also that it can act as a catalyst to build out an ecosystem. In this instance we are building the eye-care innovation ecosystem.
The accelerator is a 12 week program, and therefore a short, focused period of activity around which to cluster people. It is not labour intensive for partners and mentors, yet due to its intensity is very content rich and has high returns for those involved.
The returns are more than just supporting the start-ups. Mentoring is a great way to learn about new innovations, to challenge your own ideas, and to meet other mentors. Equally, our partners and sponsors are getting involved in a very focused networking opportunity. We hope to create value for the whole ecosystem, whilst at the same time offering intense support for our start-ups. Read more
Fellow Kayte Judge has been working on an interactive ‘culture map’ of Bedfordshire alongside a ‘culture checklist’ setting out a cultural entitlement for young people, based on curriculum needs and research with support from RSA Catalyst.
The Culture Challenge is the second Catalyst fund I have been awarded. For my first I ran pop up shop projects over 2 years in Bedford and while I achieved a lot and learned a lot, what I didn’t do was build a sustainable model. Therefore I was determined that any new venture would need to evolve from the ‘fuelled by raw energy’ school of social entrepreneurship and be something much more sustainable and partnership driven. Read more
Filed under: Fellowship, Recovery, Uncategorized
Practivate, led by Fellow Leslie Alfin, provides a gateway for former gang members and ex-prisoners to work in social enterprises. Abilities that have been fostered in destructive patterns of deprivation and loss are rewritten as valuable business skills that can create a positive, sustainable future in society. RSA Catalyst is supporting Practivate’s Indigogo crowdfunding campaign ‘Keepin’ It R.E.A.L. Homeware for Life’, live until November 18th; support their campaign here.
The current rate of prison recidivism in the UK is approximately 30% at a cost to UK taxpayers of more than £10 billion annually. The cost of addressing street crime perpetrated by gang activity is over £40 billion annually. The human costs paid by individuals and society can’t be measured. This pattern is repeated around the globe.
As a global society we currently spend more time and money re-purposing plastic bottles than we do re-claiming the vast intellectual and creative human resources that can be found sitting behind bars “spending all day in their cells rather than being engaged in training and rehabilitation.—BBC News” .
Government or institutional “solutions” tend toward manual, low paying labour. This undervalues the potential of individuals who have, from a very early age, collected impressive business experience and skills, a portfolio of innovation ‘know-how’ and tools that could rival (and perhaps trump) the best from business schools.
The assumption that certain “disadvantaged” individuals or communities are less capable of meaningful and valuable contribution may be short sighted at best and stereotypical at worst. Read more
It’s been a pretty exciting time to live in Scotland recently. The small matter of the referendum on independence and its implications have been debated to the smallest detail, but as a Scot living in Scotland the most exciting aspect for me was the vibrant discussion around politics, democracy, identity and representation which overtook the country. I remember standing in some very un-Scottish sunshine at the Kelpies sculpture outside Falkirk watching my children play in the park, and being astounded by the fact the at least 75% of the conversations around me revolved around debates on currency, the long term viability and capacity of north sea oil fields and the future development of Scotland as a democratic nation. Not topics you would normally expect to hear on a sunny summer’s day!