Filed under: Recovery, Social Brain, Social Economy, Uncategorized
In mid-summer I received a phone call from Lucy Stewart, a researcher working with Ossian Communications www.ossiancommunications.co.uk. Ossian is an Edinburgh based agency commissioned by the Substance Use Network Edinburgh (SUNE) to undertake research into UK-wide developments in cross-sector (public and third sector) partnerships developing new approaches to service design, partnership working and service user involvement within the field of substance misuse recovery. This initial conversation led to a longer and wide-ranging interview where I shared with Lucy, some of the experience I had gained as Lead Recovery Community Organiser within the Whole Person Recovery (WPR) project in west Kent. As some of you will already know, the RSA’s WPR project is part of a consortium that includes CRI and West Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Our project is a working example of the type of partnership that SUNE, was looking to draw learning and insight from in preparation for imminent reforms within the Scottish public and third sector social welfare communities.
Following the interview with Lucy, I was invited to attend the SUNE event, Getting Ready for Better Services: Learning Day. This whole day event in Edinburgh organised by SUNE, provided an opportunity for Edinburgh-based third sector organisations to participate in a knowledge exchange regarding cross-sector partnership working and service user involvement in service design and delivery. As a guest presenter / facilitator, I offered an overview of the genesis of the Whole Person Recovery model within the RSA’s work, which began in 2007 with the publication of the report Drugs – facing facts, The report of the RSA Commission on Illegal Drugs, Communities and Public Policy. I drew attention to the different contexts in which the WPR model has been developed, first in west Sussex during (2008-2010), as an independent project run with partners form across the public, third and voluntary sectors including GPs, criminal justice system and drug rehabilitation professionals, substance users and individuals in recovery from substance misuse. A further report: Whole Person Recovery: A user-centred systems approach to problem drug use was published offering an account of this work, to the current context of the WPR project. Presently (2012-2014), the WPR project is operating ‘within the system’ i.e. as part of a consortium working within the Payment by Results (PbR) mechanism. The WPR project is one of eight national pilot projects delivering social welfare programmes under the PbR model. In the PbR context there are rigorous governance and reporting frameworks that service delivery partnerships must comply with. These relate to the clinical elements of programme delivery where service users draw on the expertise of specialist nurses, doctors and psychiatrists as they move towards abstinence on their journeys of recovery, and to programme completion rates for service users under the care and supervision of service providers.
I made an effort to foreground the realities of the challenging dynamics and realpolitik expediencies that one has to exercise in partnership working, especially in the dual-contexts of working with relatively unstable user groups and rigorously prescribed reporting obligations. I also made a particular effort to open up our experience of working to engage service users in the co-design and co-production of the RSA elements of the WPR programme. These are challenging and iterative approaches to service provision and are not necessarily straightforward in their development or implementation. This kind of fluidity and the contingent nature of the work can sometimes be at odds with conventional organisational processes and cultures. The business of partnership working and service user involvement is sometimes gritty not pretty; it requires a particular resilience and steadfastness on the part of professional partners.
The event was deemed a success by the SUNE members and I had the opportunity to visit Edinburgh’s first Recovery café – The Serenity Café www.serenitycafe.co.uk, which is an initiative of community development charity COMAS www.comas.org.uk. I was given a tour of the space and a summary account of the genesis of the project from John Arthur, who chaired the SUNE event and is also the Recovery Coaching Development Manager at COMAS. It was interesting to see the way that the cafe was used as an ‘ordinary’ community resource by a range of people from the general public. It was inspiring to see the way that former service users make use of the cafe as community members seeking a social space and a creative and learning space for a range of activities that take place over the course of each week. The grassroots take-up of the recovery model as a real, achievable and desirable path back into the wider community is clearly alive and kicking. There is much that commissioners and others involved in policy level decision making could learn from these projects, particularly the ways in which service users are determining the speed and trajectories of their personal development and reintegration into society as proactive citizens with hard-won experience and inspiring stories to share.
Filed under: Design and Society, Innovation, Social Economy
This post has been re-blogged from the Nominet Trust Website
One of my favourite things is a picture of my Italian grandmother, my Nonna, when she was 20 years old. The war is over, and she is celebrating in a pleated skirt she had sown herself, whilst brandishing a sub-machine gun. Born in 1925 in a tiny hill-top hamlet north of Venice, her lifecycle takes us from the fallout from WWI, the rise of fascism as a political force, the extreme changes that faced Italy post WWII – from latrine outhouses to more cars than children in under 50 years – and the political jokers that we find ourselves with today.
The internet is some sort of magic… but it feels a very prosaic type of magic when you are 60 minutes into a trans-European phonecall trying to explain how to re-plug a router!
My nonna has worn many hats. Her dreams of being a teacher or accountant were scuppered at the tender age of 10 when her father died – malaria handing him over to pneumonia in the end. This daughter of petty bourgeoisie sharecroppers became a scullery maid then seamstress then resistance fighters’ runner then market trader. Despite being very tech-savvy for a woman of her time – good on a typewriter, she had cycled hundreds of kilometres at a time during the war and had learnt to drive very early on as one of the minority of women working after it – the computer and the internet had largely passed her by. Until now.
Now I’m networking my almost ninety-year-old Nonna up to noughties. It’s hard work. She distrusts and finds joy in the internet in equal measure. Each day is a new battle; reminding her where the skype button is, ruefully laughing each time she delightedly exclaims “I can see your face! How funny….” The internet is some sort of magic, granted, but it feels a very prosaic type of magic when you are 60 minutes into a trans-European phonecall trying to explain how to re-plug a router!
London to Milan is a very long way when it is your route to grandma. Whilst I know that she has family, friends and neighbours that support her those 782 miles away, there is always that feeling of guilt when I get up to leave. Beyond my nonna, we all know that more should be done to combat loneliness and social isolation, especially in older people. Scientists have found that feeling lonely over long periods of time can kill you: being emotionally isolated can be as fatal as smoking, and common illnesses that are made worse by loneliness include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, and cardio-vascular diseases.
We try to do our little bit to help out in the Social Mirror project: Social Mirror is a way of linking local people to local activities and groups, using local knowledge. Social Mirror is a bit like an automatic magazine quiz: you answer questions and, if you need it, social mirror can issue you with local ‘community prescriptions’ based on your interests; anything from a walking group, to a photography class and much in-between!
My nonna is something of an inspiration for the Social Mirror project. Working with the wonderful Sue at the Knowle West Media Centre we have been using the magic of the internet to ‘plug’ mainly elderly isolated people into the magic that is local community. With developer delays and all the usual jazz the project has suffered from some ups and downs, however we all agree that the initial feedback coming in makes it all worthwhile.
One elderly gentleman has even gone from being largely alone to going to multiple walking groups a week. He has been so enthusiastic about the project that he agreed to speak to the Rev Giles Fraser about it for his upcoming series – Communities through Thick and Thin. Be sure to listen out for us on the 15th December, and do tell us what you think!
Original post here
The image has been taken from this Italian history timeline.
The Home Office is pushing a foolhardy immigration bill that will, among other things, charge foreign students a premium to access NHS care as well as introduce new requirements for British citizens to do the UKBA’s bidding.
British immigration policy has already done quite enough do discourage foreign students, who already pay much higher tuition than their British/EU counterparts. And even if the new policies are designed to discourage irregular migration, they have the effect of creating a hostile and unwelcoming atmosphere for migrants of all kinds (including those who might help to lift the UK from its 18th position in the world competitiveness rankings). The degree to which these policies conflate several analytically distinct migrant categories shows just how blind the Home Office is to human rights and economic strategy as it pursues the much-publicized net migration cuts.
Requiring students to pay £200 to access the health service is a bad idea for many reasons; here are two:
First: public health. Thrifty and cash-poor as students tend to be, the price tag will make students resist seeking medical attention even when they know they should, which threatens their own well-being and that of the community at large. (The same argument also applies to irregular migrants, whose access to the NHS would be further restricted by immigration status checks.)
Second, students tend to be young and infrequent users of health services. The urgency with which Ms May aims to address this problem evokes an image of international students as some kind of gaunt and hunched-over horde of healthcare carpetbaggers, which is hardly how the UK should be characterising a £17 billion export industry. If, as critics claim, there is a problem with many student visa recipients not being genuine students, then a £200 healthcare surcharge is a feeble way to address it.
Now to that other, very different group of people affected by these ham-fisted measures – the unauthorised immigrants. My contention here is not that Britain should swing open its hospital doors to just anyone who might fancy a new knee or two. It’s not so unreasonable to tie some restrictions on non-emergency care to immigration status. What this bill does, however, is pumps that ragged immigrant straw man’s face full of expensive British taxpayer-funded Botox. Let’s not forget that, overall, immigrants contribute more than they take, and that to thrive in the globalised 21st century will require a whole lot more innovative approach than to exorcise the immigrant demons from this small and remote island. (Who better than migrants, arriving with nothing but the drive to build a better life, to create something of value?)
And we should also remember that it is absolutely unfair – indeed, it is immoral and destructive – to require members of a society to cast suspicion upon anyone they wish to engage with. The UKBA, either through ineptitude or because of the insurmountable difficulty (and futility) of the task, is diffusing its enforcement responsibility by requiring doctors, professors, banks, employers, and now even landlords to act as border agents. Citizens should have the right to choose for themselves whom they wish to associate with, and should not be put in a position of vigilante authority over anyone they just may wish to harass or exclude. This devolvement of immigration authority creates a toxic and tribalistic axis of subordination in which different people have different rights, and those with more rights are encouraged to treat those with fewer rights accordingly.
This is where Emerson’s insights come in so powerfully. In ‘The Fugitive Slave Law’ (1851, and again in different form in 1854), Emerson notes the insidiousness of the state using everyday citizens as enforcement mechanisms.
“The last year has forced us all into politics”, he writes. “I have lived all my life in [Massachusetts], and never had any experience of personal inconvenience from the laws, until now”.
The law to which he refers required law enforcement officials in northern states to arrest and return to their owners anyone suspected of being a runaway slave. It also made the provision of food or shelter to runaway slaves a punishable offense, to the tune of six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. It criminalised a natural human inclination towards compassion, and for all free citizens made suspicion a prerequisite for engagement.
To be clear, the condition of irregular migrants is not to be confused with that of slavery, although the mockery often made of human rights in the tabloids is disconcerting. I simply mean to observe that more and more British citizens are being turned into enforcement agents for the Home Office, and that should give everyone pause – both because of the erosion it causes to the freedom, openness and cohesiveness of a society, as well as the hostility it creates towards many of the people who make British cities the lively and metropolitan world capitals they are.
As Emerson described it, the Fugitive Slave Law “required me to hunt slaves, and it found citizens in Massachusetts willing to act as judges and captors”. How were Emerson and his contemporaries to know whether someone they met happened to be considered another man’s property? Absent any regularised system of documentation and verification, inquisition was the only viable option. A regularised system, as it became clear, was unnecessary; all that was needed was a handful of those who are always all too willing to appoint themselves arbiters of belonging. Put simply, if exclusion in a society is legitimised at an official level, you are likely to find, as Emerson did, citizens willing and eager to help.
If you watch the BBC interview, May stumbles when asked how GPs and landlords are supposed to know whether people are illegal immigrants. And that’s the wickedness of the subtext here: it’s obvious that the complexity of the immigration system is far beyond what the average citizen can be expected to adjudicate, which means that many landlords instead will rely on intuition—and in all likelihood on prejudice—to judge for themselves whether it appears someone does or does not belong. The Home Office might also open a helpline.
The economic geography of the 21st Century is different from the last. We are at the dawn of an age of unprecedented global connectivity driven by technology. The channels of economic growth and participation this century provide a virtually bypass to the world’s traditional hubs, entrepots and gateways. Bangalore – a sleepy university town 20 years ago – is now India’s booming IT capital. German factories hum in Poznan and in Puebla, and as Bruce Katz highlights, the US is experiencing a metropolitan revolution, as small and medium post-industrial cities capitalise on their rich inheritance.
Globally, “small middleweight” cities – those with 200,000 to 2 million residents – are home to 7% of the world’s population, but McKinsey estimates they will generate 19% of global GDP growth to 2025. The UK, as the seventh largest global economy, must act now to realise the potential of its cities: the ONS defines 32 urban areas in England with populations over 200,000. Despite decades of urban regeneration initiatives from civic and business leaders, only London currently makes a net contribution to the Treasury. In the last 15 years, no cities outside London have grown their proportion of national Gross Value Added.
The neglect in developing a national urban growth strategy by national government must be in part due to the complacency that Westminster feels, comfortably astride the prosperity flowing up the Thames. This wealth doesn’t provide sufficient irrigation for business and industry nationwide. Our river of capital streams into non-productive investment in housing and consumption, led by southerners borrowing to fund both. Will Hutton made this plain in 1995: Britain needs to invest more in its future. Since then the ONS has warned that investment, as a proportion of the economy, has fallen to its lowest level since the 1950s, and 30% lower than the G7 average.
As Mariana Mazzucato has recently highlighted, the wider supporting environment for growth is influenced heavily by government. No entrepreneur is an island. Cities need autonomy in regulating and taxing business, and in supporting a skilled and fluid labour market. This reform is needed at a time when local authorities are hugely challenged. They must redefine public services in an era of constrained spending and increasing demand for health and social care. Public services must be fundamentally transformed to support people to thrive in 21st Century cities, matching contemporary social geography. This isn’t a competing agenda to the challenges of stimulating productive economic activity – it is fundamental, complementary and necessary.
Over 15 million people live in England’s 15 largest metropolitan city-regions outside London. If they are to lead socially productive and fulfilling lives, investment must be attracted and enterprise must flourish, providing jobs that pay sufficiently to raise living standards. Growth needs to deliver for all who propel it, and adapt to the increasingly apparent environmental limits.
The potential for people to work, to learn, to find funders and collaborators, will only be realised at scale in cities. Cities offer critical mass: providing enterprises the breadth of markets – labour markets and consumer markets – to grow. Currently, getting people back to work is not delivering growth because worker productivity is stagnant; we have returned to pre-2008 levels of numbers of people employed and number of hours worked, but not of GDP. If we are to address labour market challenges, this must mindful of the scale at which these markets operate.
A London growth strategy for the UK will not suffice. We must develop a network of cities to serve as centres of productivity, home to businesses which power the UK on the world stage. We face a delicate balance between capitalising on agglomeration effects and concentrating economic power, and providing assistance to people and areas currently less competitive – potentially undermining that power.
Last week, the RSA launched the City Growth Commission – chaired by Jim O’Neill, outgoing chair of Goldman Sachs Asset Management – to develop a comprehensive roadmap to deliver a programme of change. Recently the Heseltine Review, the City Deals, and the London Finance Commission have suggested an array of levers that could alter the relationship between our national government and our cities, and the current RSA Journal brings together several innovating voices on the power of cities. There is a growing consensus that cities represent the best scale at which prioritise investments and redesign the political economy, thus unleashing the potential of the innovators, social entrepreneurs and active citizens to pull the UK through its current challenges.
A century ago, municipal government in the UK was among the most progressive and ambitious in the world, pro-actively investing in the transport infrastructure and human capital to fuel an industrial economy. The next national government of this country must empower urban authorities and urban residents to join the global momentum of city-led growth for economic, social and environmental benefit.
Mondays. Rainy Mondays. Not much to smile about, you might think.
And yet broad grins were breaking out in Tipton town centre last Monday as intrepid members of the ‘Secret Smiling Society’ made it their mission to run around during an afternoon downpour, pulling faces at strangers, telling jokes to shopkeepers, and challenging schoolchildren to race to the bus stop.
This was all part of the ‘Clear Fear’ game, designed by Dr. Martin Webber at York University as a project to combat social anxiety. Participants are encouraged to think about what their ‘superpowers’ would be if they were superheroes, and then to use these powers for good in order to make strangers smile.
Tipton, as one of the Connected Communities team’s seven action and research sites for the Big Lottery funded Social Inclusion and Wellbeing programme, was chosen to help road-test the intervention, with RSA staff joining students and staff from the RSA Academy to play the game as a way of making connections with other local residents. The Connected Communities team will be following up on the feel-good momentum by launching a small community grants fund available for local residents and Fellows to bid for up to £1,000 to spark new projects that bring people together and support mental wellbeing. If you live in the area, contact email@example.com for instructions in how to apply.
In the meantime, the Clear Fear game is looking to go from strength to strength. Martin and his team are currently using the RSA’s Kickstarter crowd-funding page to raise money to create a gamers’ toolkit, allowing individuals and groups to play the game across the country – and beyond.
Martin needs your help to reach this goal. So to find out more about his project, or to donate a few pounds towards the cause, head to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/982434134/clearfear-game
With your help, the Secret Smiling Society can spread smiles around the world!
Filed under: Enterprise, Social Economy, Uncategorized
The RSA and Post Office Ltd. are soon to publish a report on the future role that Post Offices could play in catalysing change in local areas. Below is a summary of the discussions we had at a series of roundtables during the 2013 party conferences.
Party conferences are well known for their unveiling of grand policies. For the Lib Dems, it was free school meals. For Labour, it was a freeze in energy prices. And for the Conservatives – well, we’ll have to wait a few more days to find out what they have in store. In any case we can expect something that will grab the headlines.
What party conferences aren’t so well known for, however, is discussing the nitty gritty of policies and how it is they will be implemented on the ground. Ed Miliband spoke of the importance of doing more for small businesses, yet it is unclear how the government and its agencies are to reach out to entrepreneurs – particularly the 500,000 new microbusinesses that have emerged since the recession. Likewise, Nick Clegg and his party have raised the idea of a green bank, but there is little understanding of how residents and businesses will interact with such an institution in practice.
These gaps appear to indicate the need for a certain type of local infrastructure that can bridge the centre with the local, orchestrating new policies on the ground and turning them into something tangible for everyday people. Such ‘community anchors’ – if we can call them that – might be able to ‘deliver’ new services themselves, but more importantly they should provide the shared space for citizens, public services, businesses and others to come together and create value. So far, so theoretical – the important question is what does this look like in practice and who is going to fulfil this role?
Enter the Post Office. The RSA’s party conference roundtables with the Post Office Ltd. this year explored the potential for branches to transform themselves into key catalysts of change in their local area, taking on some of the functions previously owned by a now retrenched state. While our conversations acknowledged the priceless contribution that the Post Office network already makes to communities, there was a sense it could do a great deal more with its defining assets. Namely, the trust that people put into it, the presence it has across the country – over 90 per cent of people live within a mile of the Post Office – and the continuity it enjoys, in that Post Office branch numbers are set to remain stable for the foreseeable future.
With such assets at their disposal, Post Offices would appear to have all the ingredients in place to become these so-called community anchors. But what will they actually do? While it all depends to some extent on the specific needs of a given area, there were several broad public policy debates that our roundtable participants touched upon. Those at the Liberal Democrat event talked of Post Offices as being future gateways of business support, for example by signposting entrepreneurs to relevant information and advice, helping them to deal with new real-time reporting procedures, or raising awareness of schemes such as StartUp Loans.
On the Labour side, the discussion tilted more towards the role that Post Offices could play in addressing emerging social challenges, such as those associated with poor access to finance. One idea raised was to link Post Offices with credit unions and CDFIs, enabling the latter to raise their profile and reach out to more individuals at risk of predatory loan sharks. It was also suggested that Post Offices could help residents in their area make the transition to the Universal Credit system, not least by helping them complete the new mandatory online forms. Other themes and policy areas touched upon were regional banking, the localism agenda, social care, and cities and local economic growth.
No one, however, was under the illusion that any of this is possible without a fundamental shift in the way that Post Offices are run. Impediments highlighted at the roundtables include the availability of space within branches, the financial viability of providing or hosting new services – many Subpostmasters are already under severe financial pressures – and the level of demand that exists among people for a wholly different kind of Post Office.
Yet there was also a sense that the assets of Post Offices are simply too valuable to be left untapped. Nor was it hard to recognise how Post Offices themselves could benefit from enhancing their community role. Indeed, we know from our own research with Subpostmasters that there is often a strong business case for ‘going the extra mile’ for residents and businesses, not least in terms of the footfall it can generate. As the adage goes, what is good for society is also good for business – and that no doubt includes Post Offices.
So in years to come, after the dust has long settled, don’t be surprised to see at your local Post Office the remnants of those policies that echoed throughout the party conference season of 2013.
Benedict Dellot is Senior Researcher within the RSA’s Enterprise Team. Follow him @BenedictDel
Filed under: Design and Society, Social Brain, Social Economy
Did you see the one about Apple Maps mistakenly directing people to drive across the runway at an Alaskan Airport? The coverage provides an indication of how much we’ve outsourced our intelligence to our smartphones, and how we are likely to erode our own intelligence as a result.
An excerpt from the BBC coverage:
“They must have been persistent,” the airport’s assistant manager Angie Spear told the BBC.
“They had to enter the airport property via a motion-activated gate, and afterwards there are many signs, lights and painted markings, first warning that aircraft may share the road and then that drivers should not be there at all.
“They needed to drive over a mile with all this before reaching the runway. But the drivers disregarded all that because they were following the directions given on their iPhones.”
So here we are in 2013. We can carry in our pocket a device which can instantaneously direct us, aided by a network of satellites we’ve launched into space above our planet, between any two points on earth. When there are glitches in this remarkable system, we appear to be losing our ability to engage our auxiliary senses of navigation. We increasingly trust our smartphones, simultaneously giving our innate sensual systems less trust in connecting to our cognitive comprehension. When people put themselves in danger, we vent anger at the technological miscues they may have received. How did people drive to airports before SatNav? We expect technology to be perfect: an upgrade to our own human fallibility.
There is a broader danger associated with the ubiquity of smartphone use. We withdraw from engaging with the places we are in and the people with whom we share them. Mobile technology enables local disconnectedness through providing a ubiquitous connection to everyone we know (and many we don’t), regardless of where we are (or where they are) in the world. As a result, our other communication skills become degraded. Smartphone users are constantly interrupted and distracted, less present in the place and the moment something that a recent Apple ad celebrates. We are unable to switch off – indeed the more technology enables us to work flexibly the more anxious we are to demonstrate to our work colleagues that we are not slacking, as the latest RSA Animate explores.
Comedian Lewis CK recently noted that constant connectivity spares us from the emptiness and sadness (and subsequent tranquillity and happiness) that we find when faced with overcoming periods of being alone. Taking notice of the world around us is one of the five “ways to well-being”.
Just walked into my neighbours house by accident while texting. I only noticed when someone called out and I looked up and saw it wasn’t my flat. Christ. - From Facebook, 26/9/13
With a phone in hand, we are less likely practice mindfulness (recognising our thoughts and feelings). And inter-personal communication skills are at risk of deteriorating as we avoid talking with neighbours or chitchatting with shopkeepers.
As Richard Sennett argues, learning to cooperate with different people, outside of your regular networks, is a key rite of passage to adulthood and civility and is contagious in a population. If that sounds too pretentious, then even on a basic level we’ve got to connect the dots: listening to others talk is the most important aspect of learning in early years. My fear is that the rising rates of social isolation, autism and technology penetration are inter-related. On the tube these days it’s becoming rude not to look at your smartphone: we can’t tolerate the gaze of fellow passengers.
I’m not saying we should give up this powerful technology. Many technological applications support local connectedness (such as Streetbank), while other applications support our offline social well-being (such as the RSA’s social mirror). SatNav gives people the confidence to navigate and explore, and mobile phone cameras empower citizen journalists across the world, but we need to know its OK to switch off and unplug. Smartphone adoption may be the most rapid technology adoption of all time – 45% of under-11s in the UK regularly use a smartphone or tablet. We need to understand the implications for public and inter-personal engagement, fast.
Consider those moments where you pause and think to yourself “this is what life is all about”. Its likely you’ll be mentally present. Think of your favourite streets, parks, squares, or bus routes. We can be entertained us for hours watching what Jane Jacobs calls the “sidewalk ballet”: an urban, social, public experience. At the height of our powers of human perception we can learn silently, discretely admiring the athleticism of streetballers and joggers, the daring of skateboarders, and the technique of a street performer. We develop visual literacy to comprehend the age of our buildings, the fashions of different generations, and the processes which clean our streets. Taking a walk, sitting on a bench or at a cafe, we guess the age of a passing infant, the profession of their parent, or simply where someone got those shoes. And we can mindread, discerning the causes of the argument between two lovers and enjoy from the deduction of awkward body language between two people that this must be a first date.
This role (sometimes termed the “flaneur” – the strolling observer) is a somewhat romantic and privileged notion, but we need to protect the time and space for activity which develops our social skills: reading other people’s faces, body language, tone of voice and emotional signals. Indeed our most skilled public servants – social workers, police officers, nurses, school teachers – recognise that inter-personal intelligence is essential in co-producing desirable outcomes, especially with vulnerable people with barriers to verbal or written communication.
The time each of us has to engage with our surroundings is precious, and the design of the spaces which surround us are often disengaging. Several initiatives have shown that often space the looks like public space is not: subject to surveillance, regulation and restrictions on use and participation. A true public space might include a shared institutional setting where we experience a base feeling of equality because we’re all accessing the same thing.
No doubt we will develop better maps, location-based apps and global 3G coverage, but we need to engage in real places to support the development of our capabilities as social creatures.
Jonathan Schifferes is a Senior Researcher in the Public Service 2020 and Connected Communities team (and does use his smartphone for Twitter).
Sarah Osei* moved to London from Uganda a number of years ago. She trained as a social worker, and currently manages a community centre which supports migrants who are at risk of violence and homelessness. She frequently travels back to Uganda where she runs a number of business and charitable projects, supporting girls to stay in education and working with women to maintain financial independence through making and selling cheese. She is just one of more than 500 people who have applied to take part in the RSA’s new Diaspora ChangeMakers programme since the recruitment process started three weeks ago.
Diaspora ChangeMakers, funded by Comic Relief and Unbound Philanthropy, seeks to identify and support a network of people from the African diaspora who are passionate about driving social change in their communities of heritage or countries of origin. The project takes its cue from the original ‘ChangeMakers’ work led by my colleague Ben Dellot in Peterborough last year, which posited that there are key individuals, rooted in their communities, who have an appetite to apply their skills to local issues. We believe that by mapping and bringing together networks of these individuals great potential for positive change can be unleashed.
The new project combines these principles with the international interest in the contribution of people in the diaspora in supporting development in their countries of origin. By identifying key ChangeMakers in the diaspora and supporting them with a programme of leadership development courses, peer support, knowledge exchange, mentoring, project development workshops and networking with our 27,000-strong RSA Fellowship, our hope is that these individuals will be able to achieve a greater impact in their various enterprises which benefit the lives of others.
But we’re not simply looking for maverick ‘community leaders’ as commonly defined. In line with our other work in the RSA Connected Communities team, we’re interested in social networks, and we want to find the individuals who seem to be in key positions of influence through having connections to different groups of people. When people apply to take part in our project, we don’t only ask them about what community work they have done in the past and what change they want to see in the future – we ask them who else they consider to be ChangeMakers. We will then contact these other people who have been nominated by others, and encourage them to apply to the programme too – and ask them to tell us about yet more ChangeMakers from their own networks. Over time, this will give us a good idea of how our potential ChangeMakers interact with each other, how they can influence others to share the burden of bringing about the change they wish to see, and how they themselves might change as a result of working with others as part of a network.
Gandhi is often quoted as saying ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ But there is no specific record of Gandhi ever having said this. It is a misquote and a misconception. If we introspectively focus on changing only ourselves and assume that the world will catch up with us eventually, we are unlikely to achieve much more than misplaced self-satisfaction.
What Gandhi actually said was ‘We but mirror the world[…] If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him […] We need not wait to see what others do.’ The key words of this passage are the ‘if’ and the ‘attitude’ of others. Completely changing the self would change the tendencies of the world, but this is difficult or even impossible to achieve on one’s own as we are but ‘mirrors’ of wider society (for more on the importance of understanding the individual as a mirror of society, read about our Social Mirror project). What the individual can do is to take a lead, without waiting ‘to see what others do’, and gradually change the attitude of others towards him or her. Once the attitudes of others begin to change, then the social world might change too. It is because of this necessity of influencing and cooperating with others that the Diaspora ChangeMakers programme focuses on networks as well as individuals, and relationships as well as leadership.
Pleasingly, we can already see some of those networks and clusters of connected people who have nominated each other as ChangeMakers. The image below is a visualisation of the applicants from the first two weeks of the recruitment period – before we had even approached the nominees of initial applicants.
Each dot is a potential Diaspora ChangeMaker who has completed our application survey, and the lines linking the dots represent connections between those people. Here is a close-up of a few of these groups of people and they are connected:
Some of these people are recent immigrants to the UK who have lived most of their lives in Africa, and some are people who were born in Britain and whose families have lived here for generations. Their careers, interests, and ambitions vary hugely. But all of them feel a personal link to the African continent in some way, and all of them are passionate about achieving social change that benefits African communities, either in the UK or in the African continent.
If you are a Diaspora ChangeMaker and want us to know about your place in this network, or if you’re interested in benefitting from the Diaspora ChangeMakers programme activities, then please complete the application survey and find out more about the programme at www.diasporachangeakers.com
*name changed in line with data protection procedures
“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
Just a week ago I was here at my desk, struggling to put my thoughts into words about the 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup. And now here I am again. Heart raw against chest, soul heavy, struggling to find words that are fitting; struggling to remember with lightness; struggling to keep something of the past present.
The news that my friend, colleague and confidante Emma Lindley left us over the weekend is something that I am struggling to accept. The inner child in me is stamping its foot and demanding that the clocks be turned back. And all the adult in me can do is to trust in time. There will always be time, and it will always be too long and nowhere near enough.
In these occasions I feel there is a tendency to try and leave no word unsaid and no stone unturned and no achievement un-feted and no praise unsung. And actually, beyond remembering a person who was excellent, a person who was brilliant, a person who touched so many… I want to remember someone who is – and who will always remain – a friend.
Because Emma was a smile. Emma is a smile… And when we have made our toasts, and said our words, and cried our sorrows. When we as players have strutted on our sorry stage what remains is projects left undone, conversations left unfinished and things left unsaid. For the past does not package itself up neatly, ends tied up like the wrapping on a gift. That task is left to us here in the present.
I am proud to say that the RSA will soon be announcing its Emma Lindley prize. The prize, the exact content of which is still being decided in consultation with Emma’s parents, will seek to advance innovation in the field of mental health. The prize will seek to keep Emma and her interests in some way present.
We will update as soon as we know more. But for now… there is just time.
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters, Enterprise, Fellowship, Innovation, Social Brain, Social Economy, Uncategorized
Building a neural net of wishes and sharing experience at the #RSARDIsummerschool filmed by Dr James Furse-Roberts
This week I returned from the 2013 RDI Summer School; an immersive, collaborative design experience created by the RSA’s Royal Designers for Industry. Held over four days at Dartington Hall, Devon, the Summer School brought together designers and others from diverse, cross-disciplinary backgrounds who could learn from each other and be inspired and empowered to think differently and creatively. During the event, the eminent designer and creative leader Michael Wolff RDI shared his favourite quote by the author and poet, Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Having worked on six summer schools with the Royal Designers, I have observed that each event has had a dramatic or life-changing impact on those who have attended. Some of the designers leave with renewed confidence and are emboldened to take more risks, or start their own businesses. Others decide to change the way they work, become more open to collaborating, or begin a new altruistic pathway.
As we developed the 2013 Summer School, jointly directed by exhibitions and interior designer Dinah Casson RDI, and engineering designer Chris Wise RDI, we proposed the inclusion of more ‘wildcards’ in the cohort; participants who were not designers but were somehow touched by design. They might be commissioners, teachers, or civil servants. Could the summer school be as educative and transformative for them as it had been for designers?
The wildcards that were selected this year all shared a connection with the public realm; a healthcare researcher specialising in quality improvement initiatives, and a regeneration manager of a local council to name but two. Here follows a personal account of the Summer School from wildcard Owen Jarvis, a social entrepreneur and Clore Fellow, who is exploring how social leadership can learn from design:
“During my Clore year I’ve been considering how can social leaders make better use of design-thinking in shaping social and public services.
The Summer School involved a series of curated activities to allow us to meet, network, and collaborate away from work. Challenges were introduced for small groups around themes such as “us and them” and explored meanings and expressions of emotions and how these can be used as inspiration for work. These culminated in the sharing of findings, performances and art works on the final morning, with many groups working through the night to finish on time. Pleasure, creativity, play, discussion, reflection and work were delightfully intertwined for a very rich weekend.
The Royal Designers were incredibly open and generous in offering support and mentoring. Often provocative, they demanded honesty, sharper thinking and attention to detail and standards in exercises. Challenges and insights were received and respected in turn. As we moved from discussions to making objects and performances the magic started to happen. The final pieces were surprising and engaging and remarkable given the short time we had together.
So what can be taken away with reference for the social sector? Many of the challenges designers face are familiar and not specific to their profession. How big do you get before you lose the essence of what you are, how do you attract and keep talent? How do you avoid selling out to the agenda of investors in the process of growth? Over the weekend we were called upon to move away from these important but day-to-day issues to ask other broader questions.
In the same way the social sector comes back to a question of social impact, designers are also constantly returning to a question of quality and attention to detail in the pursuit of beauty. This raised some important questions for me. What is in the beauty, design and elegance of a social service and in achieving social change? Is there an aesthetic? How can organisations be designed in their own right to be things to admire? In addressing these questions, do we make a greater impact?
‘Life can be evaded, death cannot’, our final session considered. Everyone faces some apprehension and anxiety in presenting views, ideas, creations. We feel surrounded by judgement yet our real adversary is our own self. Talent that doesn’t fulfil its potential is a tragedy.
The Summer School has been one of the most extraordinary learning opportunities of my career. It has reminded me of the courage needed to step-forward and step-out and embrace the risk of failure. This has lessons for us all to reach our potential and live life fully. That is also a mark of leadership.”
Melanie Andrews is the Manager of the Royal Designers for Industry at the RSA
You can follow her @Melanie_Andrews
Event twitter hashtag #RSARDIsummerschool