Filed under: Enterprise, Social Economy, Uncategorized
This week the RSA launched a new report exploring the potential for Post Offices to transform themselves into Community Enterprise Hubs. You can view the report here. And you can view the Twitter coverage here.
The Post Office is an organisation like no other. Local branches contribute enormously to the life and soul of their communities, are an essential vehicle for delivering public services, and provide the vital infrastructure that our businesses need to prosper. Yet we have only scratched the surface when it comes to realising their potential.
In the RSA’s new report, Making the Connection, we argue that Post Offices could do more to support local residents and businesses. They have a presence in nearly every community, are widely trusted and have a resilience and continuity that few other organisations can match. Close to 93 per cent of people live within a mile of their nearest branch, and it is estimated that a third of residents and a half of SMEs visit one at least once a week – the kind of footfall that other organisations would give their right arm for.
A number of Subpostmasters up and down the country are already capitalising on these opportunities and showing what can be achieved with limited resources. Win Morgan from Llangadog Post Office in South West Wales provides packaging and technical support for home-based businesses, while Tanya Vasileva (pictured) from Belzise Park Post Office in London provides shelf space for local businesses to sell their wares. Danielle Barnes from Port Clarence Post Office in Stockton has gone as far as to host a health centre, crèche, training rooms and café next to her branch.
Yet these are the exception rather than the rule. Most Subpostmasters are some way away from running the type of Community Enterprise Hubs called for in our report. This is a loss not only to the community but also to the bottom line of Subpostmasters. By doing more to support local residents and businesses Post Offices could tap into valuable new revenue streams and drive up all important footfall. Indeed, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that Post Offices are first and foremost commercial businesses, and as such need to stand on their own two feet.
Tomorrow’s world also presents more opportunities for Post Offices than many would currently believe. The growth of microbusinesses, self-employment and homeworking presents Subpostmasters with an opportunity to make themselves indispensable hubs for local business communities. Likewise, their ability to understand community dynamics is an attractive trait for potential public service partners seeking to support an ageing society, implement demand management (see another report we published this week) and create bottom-up responses to social problems. Whether it is in smoothing the transition to Universal Credit or improving access to affordable finance, there is nearly always something the Post Office could bring to the table.
With this in mind, the RSA has set out several new proposals designed to encourage and enable more Subpostmasters to make the transition to a Community Enterprise Hub. This includes nurturing a more entrepreneurial culture across the network, rewriting the underlying narrative of the Post Office, and attracting new talent into the cohort of Subpostmasters. In practical terms, this might mean creating a new Subpostmasters Apprenticeship Scheme to bring in fresh faces; or fast-tracking the serial Subpostmasters who want to run multiple branches. The RSA has also suggested inviting social entrepreneurs to become the next generation of Subpostmasters.
In 2014, the RSA and Post Office Ltd will work together to realise some of these proposals.
Hard fiscal reality means that managing surging demand for public services is the name of the game. This requires whole systems thinking and radical innovation by public bodies
The famous jaws of doom graph – which shows demand surging whilst revenue plummets – is now etched in the minds of many in local government. ‘It’s the demand stupid’, is its main message. The central issue for public service reform over the next few years will be how to manage this.
Or, to put it another way, how to change the behaviour of both citizens and services so that we can support an ageing society, improve public health, mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions. And do all this when there will be no new money for public services.
To be sure, doing things more efficiently will be part of the answer. But it won’t come close to responding to the triple whammy of declining revenue, rising demand and greater expectations. The New Public Management solutions of the last two decades have run their course. The status quo will result in service retrenchment and residualisation.
A different approach is needed if we are to avert this grim prospect. The report which we published this week with the LGA, ESRC, Collaborate and iMPOWER (‘Managing Demand: Building Future Public Services’) begins to outline what this could look like.
The good news is that our report draws heavily on some very innovative new practice emerging from councils across the country. Seeking to understand the dynamics of citizen behaviour and the role of family and social networks lies at the heart of this.
There is an ‘emerging science’ of demand management methodologies – ranging from ‘nudge’ through building insight based on ‘values modes’ analysis of service users and applying behavioural insight in areas like recycling and littering. And we document different examples of this in the report. We argue that the game changer will not come from individual approaches alone, however imaginative they are – but from combining these in whole system, whole place reform.
We examine what’s been learnt so far from some of the whole place budget pilots like Greater Manchester, Cheshire west and Essex. In different ways they are all grappling with the same issues. This includes how to get beyond services to understand the needs of people in the places where they live and the way these then translate into demand.
And it also involves exploring how to reconfigure service systems so that they better support families and the wider networks of which they are part, and are organised around communities rather than vertical silos of traditional delivery organisations. Core to this approach is the belief that demand management has a key role to play in helping places to become more socially and economically productive.
Underpinning demand management is the hard fiscal reality of the need to achieve more for less. The financial case for demand management is based on a combination of early evidence of specific savings with predictive modelling about the potential scalability of these.
EY modelling for the LGA, based on the four community budget pilots, predicts a potential 5 year net benefit of between £9.4bn to £20.6bn. Meanwhile, Greater Manchester has carried out some very interesting analysis of all public spend across the combined authority to conclude that 35% of expenditure is reactive – thereby establishing that part of expenditure which could potentially be reduced by more effective demand management.
But more work is needed on the investment case for demand management and early intervention. Longer term settlements and single pot funding will be necessary, but not sufficient. The local government finance community will need to become much more engaged in helping to develop new financial models for enabling a switch to prevention.
Demand management sounds technical and managerial, but ultimately it’s about people, what they need and want from public services and what they should do for themselves in and with their communities. As our report concludes, this is the proper stuff of politics. A demand management approach will place a greater emphasis on the role of local politicians in leading a conversation with citizens about the terms of a new social contract, based on reciprocity as much as on entitlement.
Ben Lucas is chair of public services at the RSA. The new report is available on its website.
This article was originally published by Public Finance.
Henry Kippin and Anna Randle
New community leadership will be needed to fill a forecast £14.4bn shortfall in services by 2020
Demand management may be a technical term but it is fast becoming the new starting point for a swath of local authorities and public service providers wondering how to fill their looming funding gap.
Making this happen means bringing the politics back in to what has hitherto been a technocratic agenda. Local politicians need to lead demand management by changing the way they work and moving to a new mode of community leadership that is more connected, collaborative and closer to the lives of citizens.
Public services have an uneasy relationship with demand. In the private sector, demand for goods and services is seen as a near-unequivocal good, offering the potential of sustainability, new markets and growth.
For public services, demand is more complex. Officials talk about managing demand “down” – finding ways to reduce the burden on already stretched services.
Policy and economics are key drivers in the public sector and their impact can feel stark at a local level. Local authorities must, for instance, cope with rising demand for child safeguarding, homelessness, adoption or adult care services as much because of welfare reform policy or global economic fragility as the conditions at a local level.
Demand for public services also arises as a result of actions by the state itself. Misaligned or badly designed services can create what is called “failure demand”. The award-winning Gov.uk website was created with this partly in mind, noting a high number of phone calls to government call centres from users who couldn’t navigate previous government websites properly. The design thinking that flipped this logic to put the citizen’s experience at the centre of the service is at the heart of new demand management thinking.
In a new report published this week a consortium of organisations, including the RSA, Collaborate, the Local Government Association, the ESRC and Impower, argue that by taking this to its logical conclusion will bring about a tangible shift in the way public services are designed and delivered.
We argue that there will be a £14.4bn gap between demand and supply by 2020 and that traditional efficiency or supply-side reform techniques can take us only so far. We need fundamentally to rethink the relationships between citizens, the state and public services.
In places as diverse as Calderdale, East Riding, Oldham, Wiltshire, Cheshire and Sunderland, we are seeing the emergence of a range of reforms that prioritise local demand. Some councils are using “nudge” techniques and “values mode” analysis to transform the way they communicate with residents. Others – such as Southampton – have made tangible gains in areas such as recycling and waste management. Excitingly, some are reshaping demand by building collaborative commissioning models that engage the voluntary and business sectors, which are co-designed with citizens.
What is common to all of these examples is a hopeful sense of momentum – from the “emerging science” that can help understanding of demand today, through to ways of using this insight to reshape whole systems and rethink the very role and purpose of public agencies.
This is a journey that requires trust between services, sectors and the public, which is problematic at the best of times. But, as polling by Ipsos Mori for the LGA indicates, there appears to be more chance of building this at a local level than with central government. Around 60% of those surveyed in 2013 said they “trust their local council”: a level of public endorsement that will need to be backed up with tangible engagement in the future design and delivery of public services.
It is only by working together at a local level that politicians, practitioners and communities will be able to forge the strong relationships that can help public services get beyond delivery and place demand management at their core.
Dr Henry Kippin is director of Collaborate, and co-author with Anna Randle of Managing Demand: building future public services.
This article was originally published by The Guardian.
RSA Fellow Ben Byford runs Eulergy, a Catalyst-supported project that helps organisations access top research talent from universities. In this guest blog, he explains how it works and where the idea came from.
I set up Eulergy to help bring together academic researchers and the people who need their skills. It matches higher education students and staff looking to conduct specialised research with industry specialists who have projects for them to work on.
Students and researchers each year have to apply their knowledge and skills to either tired or fictitious problems, or to funded work drawn from an ever-dwindling grant pool. At Eulergy we’d rather see researchers making a real difference: for example, a PhD Psychology student working with a design company to improve hospital interiors for greater patient and staff happiness, or a Materials Science student working with a not-for-profit on renewable plastics for 3D printing.
Eulergy was borne out of the difficulties and frustrations I faced having finishing my MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths University, and trying (unsuccessfully) to connect the research carried out for my thesis with an industry opportunity. I felt that without having already existing contacts in place it was very difficult to “match” my expertise outside of the University.
We feel strongly that the huge changes taking place in the higher education landscape, with increased top-up fees, student debt, unemployment and ever-depleting grant opportunities, call for new innovative approaches. A platform that enables connections to be built outside of the traditional model can address this issue from a new perspective.
We launched the beta version of the website in October at Dublin Websummit 2013, to positive feedback from both the education and industry sector. Since the launch we have visited universities and pitched Eulergy at funding events. The site has attracted 160 users, and we’ve had twelve projects pitch for them to get involved.
The scope of the projects has varied, ranging from market research for NGOs to research into renewable energy, ‘fair trade’ 3D printer filaments and the effect of art in healthcare. We have had a total of 1,269 visitors to the site, with the majority of visitors from the UK and US, as well as from India, Canada, Australia, Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Spain.
The RSA has played a big role in the inception and continued development of the platform. Eulergy began operating as the direct result of a RSA workshop, which brought together representatives from several universities as well as the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Since then, it has won two rounds of funding from RSA Catalyst, which provides both financial and non-financial support to Fellows’ projects.
There have been challenges along the way, such as the ongoing search to gain investment and the challenge of marketing the site to our target users and getting them onboard. Despite these setbacks, however, we continue to have responses to the site, having been featured in Springwise and nominated as Startacus’s Startup of the Week in January.
We believe the website will become more and more useful to companies, charities and cultural organisations as they struggle to find disruptive solutions to the problems they face. We also have a big role to play as universities increasingly look to prove the impact of their research beyond the academy. If you’d like to join the community, now is a great time: organisations and researchers can currently register through the beta site for free before searching or posting research projects.
Find out more about RSA Catalyst, which provides money, expertise and crowdfunding to Fellow-led ideas that aim to have a positive social impact.
The Big Idea: This University is Free (IF) is a new project co-founded by Jonny Mundey FRSA offering free humanities courses to young people priced out of today’s higher education market, by using London’s cultural wealth in innovative ways.
Late last year I met my colleague and soon-to-be IF co-founder Barbara for a coffee. Our meeting was billed as a routine catch-up but by the end of our talk we had posed ourselves a question it proved impossible to ignore: what if you could use the free cultural resources of a city, the web and shards of donated time from academics to create a series of free undergraduate-level courses? The IF Project was born.
The principles that have driven the project from day one are that an education in the humanities is an education that should be available to all (not just a luxury for the sons and daughters of the wealthy) and an education worth having, with the capacity to enrich young people’s lives and benefit society as a whole. In short, why shouldn’t the inspirational liberal arts education Barbara and I enjoyed be within reach of all school-leavers and young workers who wanted it?
There is clearly a demand for free self-driven learning: mass open online courses (MOOCS) have been expanding at a furious rate. Unfortunately, a lot of students abandon on-line learning. What they are probably missing is the college-type experience of debating and learning with and from fellow students; the fun and excitement of studying.
The IF project uses London as a giant lecture-hall, guiding students to free events relevant to our introductory short courses in subjects such as history, philosophy, music and the visual arts. It also brings together a network of academics and thinkers to lead weekly workshops, lectures and seminars with IF students. So far, we’ve forged partnerships with academic organisations such as Gresham College (which offers free lunchtime and evening lectures of the highest academic quality); recruited professors from top universities to offer free lectures; and connected with youth organisations who work with the young people who have been priced out of the current loans-based education market.
The IF Summer School
In May we are running our first course - a four-week humanities Summer School taking in history lectures at the Gresham College, visual arts experiences via the V&A’s standing collections and discussions around free concerts at The Festival Hall. We will use the Summer School to test out the logistics of IF and seek feedback and advice from our first students on how to expand the idea into something much bigger.
Get Involved with IF
We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign (as of yesterday!), supported by the RSA, to raise funds for the IF Summer School. We would be hugely grateful for any help in spreading the word.
We would also love to hear from Fellows and contacts interested in being involved in the IF project. To expand we need to connect with volunteer academics who can provide, say, one lecture a year. We need academics and thinkers and post-graduate students who love their subjects and want to talk to and enthuse new students about what they are doing in seminar sessions. We want to hear from organisations who can donate space for seminars and lectures. We want to form close links with cultural institutions sharing our aims.
Just as we have been inspired by the community of UK “free university” projects along the way, if we succeed in London, we hope others will copy the IF model.
Jonny Mundey FRSA
To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage
Have you seen our latest RSA Short: How Cooking Can Change your Life?
“Eat anything you like, as long as you cook it yourself?” Pretty intriguing advice, no? Did it make you want to get home and buy, unpack, wash, peel, chop and fry some potatoes?
Not quite? Well this reheated blog post full of hidden salt, sugar and fat from July 15th might help to convince you.
I wrote it after listening to the podcast, which gives a much fuller picture of the important argument, and which I would strongly recommend listening to, ideally in your kitchen with a good chopping board and a few willing vegetables.
More than half a year later, I am even more sure that the idea is worth heeding and reflecting on for its political implications. The basic idea sounds trivial (let’s all cook more, ha ha…) but it might just be the kind of small revolutionary act that could lead to significant systemic change if it really took hold.
The idea that we should (in the pragmatic and moral senses of the term) all cook more might even be relevant to the RSA’s emerging world view around the power to create; at its heart it’s about shifting the balance of power from big to small, and distributing a daily act of creativity much more widely. It’s also fun, good for your health and ecologically beneficial, but those arguments are small fries….
Potentially much more motivating is the Bachanalian carnival of aromatic delights that lies dormant within your very own unsuspecting kitchen.
Why not start tonight by adding some cumin to your beans on toast?
That title (Is Cooking a Subversive Act?) makes the content sound like a combination of self-help and how-to, but it’s much more political than that. The speaker, Michael Pollan, is a professor and activist who sees food in general, and cooking in particular, as a critical driver of the economic and social order.
That might sound a little bourgeois and worthy- Who has the time? Who has the kitchen space? But the evidential case is pretty strong. Processed food generally tends to be much less cheap and convenient than we imagine, for instance, and the relationship between cooking and health is apparently very robust.
He starts the talk with the example of the fries sold at a famous fast food restaurant having to be long to look right in the red boxes, which means a special kind of long potato has to be grown, and that that strain of potato has to free of blemishes, which means you need a certain kind of pesticide which is highly toxic…and this is one example of thousands- the food we see every day carries with it a huge range of generally hidden public health and environmental issues.
The familiar argument is that our reliance of processed foods is a huge public health problem, but the twist is that one of the main things that perpetuates the problem is the idea that cooking is a kind of problem or drudgery that the market should solve for us, rather than a creative and joyful act that we should do for ourselves and each other. In this sense cooking is the fulcrum around a much broader argument for an economy, promoted by nef amongst others i.e. an economy that properly values time and the costs of not having time, and allows us to be a bit less like time-starved consumers and a bit more like time-plenty producers (who, on balance, tend to be happier).
The familiar argument is that our reliance of processed foods is a huge public health problem, but the twist is that one of the main things that perpetuates the problem is the idea that cooking is a kind of problem or drudgery that the market should solve for us, rather than a creative and joyful act that we should do for ourselves and each other
A few ideas/quotes from scribbles on a train (check audio for verbatim quotes):
- Poor women who cook are healthier than rich women who don’t.
- The food industry don’t speak of fat, salt and sugar in terms of ‘addiction’. Instead they tend to use the words ‘cravability’ and ‘snackability’
- Food marketing tends to operate by creating anxiety and the providing a solution (at one point Pollan makes reference to feminism giving rise to a domestic redistribution of labour, in which women who work couldn’t possibly be expected to cook as much as they used to…However this change doesn’t happen without resistance, and the ensuing arguments are then placated by adverts that implicitly say – don’t fight about it, we’ll do it for you…)
- “Special occasion foods become every day foods when we let industry cook for us.”(One example Pollan gives is french fries or chips. They taste great when you cook them yourself, but the process is highly labour intensive(washing, peeling, cutting, pan, oil, splattering, oil, washing up etc) so left to our own devices we might eat them only every month or so as a treat, but many Americans now eat two batches of french fries a day because they have become so convenient.)
- The diet that would work for everybody is: eat anything you like, just cook it yourself.
- Michele Obama’s original speech about food and the subsequent ‘let’s move’ campaign was really powerful/radical, but its impact was lessened when she got into a conversation with the food industry about reformulating the ingredients of processed food. The speaker compared this to ‘low fat’ food being a mixed blessing, because it tends to mean other ‘bad things’ are put in to replace the fat.
- “Slightly improved processed food is a trap”
- “Health is a collective property of the human microbiotica”
- “The environment is not just ‘out there’, it’s passing right through you.
By Jonathan Rowson, Director, Social Brain Centre, Follow at @jonathan_rowson
Why do David Cameron and Ed Miliband love small business so much? As Ben Dellot points out, there’s an increasing number of votes in it but beyond that both leaders are clear about the two reasons they are falling over each other to back small business. Firstly, SMEs create more jobs than big business. Secondly, they will help the UK economy win the “global race”.
The problem with both of these claims is that they have two rather ugly cockroaches in the rhetorical ointment.
Firstly, small business may well be a good generator of employment but jobs there pay less than in big business. Even if you’re the top dog in your own SME, it’s hardly a sure-fire route to a yacht and a Lamborghini.
Secondly, as for the global race, small businesses are very rarely as productive as big business. That’s one reason, after all, why small businesses have an exceptionally high tendency to stay small.
Logically, one might think this means politicians should end their love affair with small business and cuddle up to the big players instead. It’s not that simple of course.
Small businesses are growing apace – not far shy of five million in the UK and growing at a rate of 100,000 a year. As a result, they account for a big wedge of GDP (now around 40%) and a significant slab of the labour market (no less than 60% of private sector jobs). The internet is also allowing small businesses to raise their visibility and reach out to markets once closed to them. The truth is no policy maker could or should set themselves against trends of that scale.
But while politicians fail to acknowledge the two inconvenient truths above, their small business policy will remain incomplete. Why create complex policy frameworks to encourage more start-ups and a bit of SME growth if all this means is a less productive economy and lower paying jobs? I’d suggest three steps that might begin to resolve this problem.
1. Accept most small firms will never be highly productive
Politicians could begin by admitting that the majority of small businesses will not be highly productive, high growth operations. They should also accept that’s not a disaster. The rise in small business should be welcomed because it is about millions of people turning their ideas and vision into reality – what we at the RSA call ‘unleashing the power to create’.
It’s because of this that surveys show that people who run their own small business feel more satisfied and autonomous. Productive or not, that’s a good enough reason to support small business.
2. Free the small firms that are highly productive
However, there are a small number of SMEs that are highly productive. If you want to ‘win the global race’, this is the place to look. What is needed there is not the current policy vogue for lots of advice and state-sponsored finance, it is making sure these firms have the power to be creative free of any blocks. One of the reasons the US is more productive than Europe is because of a dynamism which means sluggish uncreative whales are quickly replaced by hungry innovative piranhas who themselves get replaced once they run out of ideas.
In short, it is about an economy where those who exercise their creativity to the max get justly rewarded. Achieving this means stripping away the regulations, tax arrangements, public sector procurement and monetary policies which keep unproductive bigger businesses alive at the inevitable expense of new smaller players.
3. Address low pay in small businesses
Finally politicians need to acknowledge and help resolve low pay amongst entrepreneurs, the self-employed and those who work for them. The truth is you won’t create a new generation of ambitious entrepreneurs or create good jobs in the burgeoning small business sector without making it a place to earn more.
The key here is not byzantine tax breaks for living wage deals – a policy that will probably favour big over small business anyway. A more straightforward route would be to create an extremely favourable tax environment for small businesses and for the people who work in them.
More important, however, is the establishment of that creative, dynamic economy where big business is less featherbedded. The truth is that when 60% of the economy is shared out between the public sector and 6,500 large corporations and the other 40% is left for 4.8 million firms, it is hardly surprising there is less cash to splash around for those smaller businesses.
You can follow me on Twitter here.
It may not feel like it but the next general election is getting very close. Each party will already be poring over the stats thinking about which demographics they most need to appeal to. Thatcher supposedly depended on winning over the Essex Man, while Blair is said to have courted the vote of Mondeo Man.
But what about this time round in 2015? Will it be the growing BME demographic as some have claimed, or the so-called ‘purple vote’ of people with disabilities? No doubt each of these will have a big impact on which way the political barometer swings in 15 months time. But there is one group in particular that will prove an electoral force to be reckoned with: the self-employed.
Why? Because the number of people working for themselves has skyrocketed in recent years. Since 2008 more than half a million people have moved into self-employment, and as a result they now make up 16 per cent of the workforce. Nor does this trend appear to be slowing. The latest figures from the Labour Force Survey show that the numbers running their own business increased by over 140,000 in the last quarter – one of the biggest jumps seen for years.
Putting this into context, it means that the growing community of self-employed will soon outnumber the once sizeable public sector workforce (hat tip to Hamish McRae for first pointing this out). The graph below projects the future size of both these groups based on average growth rates since 2010. On the RSA’s own measures, the crossover will take place sometime in late 2017 or early 2018.
By 2015, at least, we can already expect there to be around 4.4 million self-employed people – a huge number of potential voters to be courted. True, this is around half the clout of the grey vote (10 million people are over the age of 65), two thirds of the purple vote (6.9 million working-age people are disabled) and a third of the married couple vote (12.2 million couples are wedded). Yet it is a formidable and growing electorate nonetheless.
How this group will affect the political and policy landscape over the coming years remains to be seen. They will no doubt insist on greater support from the state to protect their own livelihoods – and rightly so. In practice this may mean demanding support to secure fairer mortgage rates (currently very difficult for the self-employed), to find help in contributing to private pensions, or to access better terms on the Universal Credit, which as it stands will require business owners to go through several onerous hoops before they receive assistance.
The voice of the self-employed will also become louder on wider political issues affecting the health of their business. They could add greater weight to arguments for looser immigration rules, given that many will rely on outside talent. Likewise, they may boost the numbers on the pro-Europe camp if they happen to export abroad.
They might also add to calls for a stricter welfare state and the sharp cuts to out-of-work benefits – the rationale being that if they were able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps then why can’t anyone else? The last British Social Attitudes survey in 2012 showed that the self-employed were the least likely to support an increase in taxation and spending than any other labour market group – and by some margin.
Of course, these predictions are based on stereotypes and conjecture. Moreover, many of the people who started their business reluctantly – including those made redundant from the public sector – may be less concerned with securing better rights and terms for business owners then getting themselves back into a typical job. Yet these caveats notwithstanding, it is clear that the self-employed will soon be a political force to be reckoned with.
As mentioned in my last blog post, both Labour and the Conservatives are already vying to become the party of small business. Indeed, David Cameron recently described them as the “lifeblood of our economy”. But let’s be serious: it’s going to take more than the backing of Small Business Saturday (Labour) or a video message of support on YouTube (Conservatives) to win the votes of this energetic, driven – and most importantly – growing electorate.
The RSA and Etsy are exploring similar themes in a new project, The Power of Small. Click here to find out more.
Follow Ben Dellot on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BenedictDel
Starting up on your own is certainly no easy feat – in fact we often discuss the potential obstacles that lie ahead at the RSA’s monthly Social Entrepreneurs breakfast. However, one thing I have noticed is that the first barrier is not (as you might think) imagined lack of capital; it’s simply getting started.
Seemingly, a number of skilled, imaginative people are just unsure how or where to begin.
It wasn’t until I began working at the RSA that I fully appreciated the value of having a support structure. I thought breaking out on your own was something you should do…alone? I soon learnt that successful leaders do quite the opposite: they join a network, get training and tap into all the help that’s available.
A couple of weeks ago, we hosted an evening event at RSA House for thirty individuals currently undertaking the Clore Leadership Programme which focuses on those with experience working in the Arts, and the Clore Social Leadership Programme which is primarily for people with careers in the social sectors. We were privileged to have a mixture of current Clore Fellows join us for some drinks, networking and an historical tour of the building.
For those who don’t know, the Clore programmes are designed to develop strong leaders in the cultural and social sectors so that more individuals are better equipped to engender positive change in their communities, organisations and the world around them.
Given the electic mix of experience and knowledge in the room a number of interesting conversations were initiated – from discussing the trajectory of the Walt Disney corporation, to the role of art in school curriculums – Clore Leaders are inspiring and inspired company. For more information about the current cohort of Clore Cultural and Social Leaders you can view full profiles on the respective websites.
We were also joined by Asma Shah FRSA who spoke to the room about her social enterprise Ladies Who L-EARN. Asma demonstrates exactly how transformative the Clore programme can be. With a background in the Arts, Asma was a Clore Cultural Fellow though as she pointed out, you wouldn’t know it now as her current work sits firmly within the social sector.
Upon finishing the programme she joined the RSA Fellowship and by applying to RSA Catalyst, Asma was able to get her project off the ground. Since then she has been able to access further funding, attract more volunteers and ultimately, help more women.
Asma was keen to point out the combination of the Clore Fellowship and RSA Fellowship is a powerful one. This cannot be overemphasised. Asma began working with women in her community who had limited access to the kind of training or social capital that she had gained from joining influential, supportive networks like Clore and the RSA.
The RSA has partnered with Clore Leadership for nine years now and we continue to work together because of our mutual belief that investing in individuals is one of the fundamental ways to improve society.
Part of investing in people is offering them a framework to carry their ideas, so that getting started is never an obstacle.
Alexandra Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordiantor at the RSA
If you would like more infromation about RSA Fellowship or any of people or projects mentioned above, then contact email@example.com
The RSA’s Social Mirror project was featured on BBC points west yesterday. Footage will be available online until 7pm tonight, and our slot starts around the 18 minute and 50 sec mark.
Social Mirror is a way of operationalising network analysis and wellbeing science to make tangible differences to peoples’ lives. In the Social Mirror: Community Prescriptions project, people waiting to see GPs in Knowle West, Bristol, are asked to complete a short questionnaire via an app on a tablet computer and are then given a ‘social prescription’. This directs them to community activities or groups such as coffee mornings, sports classes or local history clubs – instead of being prescribed drugs or other health interventions. It’s essentially 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 interest: from a walking group to a photography class.
In the BBC Points West video I explain why Social Mirror is important, and why our human and community-based approach to health and social care demand management is so necessary and timely.
“We know that social isolation can be as bad for you as smoking, with effects ranging from depression to cardiovascular disease. It’s often very small changes that make big differences in our lives; and Social Mirror is that first step from being alone or feeling that you are not doing great things in your life, to feeling part of your community”
From small acorns, great oaks. What has been described by Radio 4’s Giles Fraser as a ‘small local project’ is one participants have claimed has made their ‘life is worth living’. One participant who was given a prescription for a walking group has never looked back. He says:
“It has changed my life. I would recommend it to anyone. I wasn’t doing anything; I’d been a recluse and for three days a week I wouldn’t go out of the flat and the weight was piling on. I’ve now lost a stone and I can talk to people quite freely which I couldn’t before.”
The benefits are also being felt by local activities. Mary Hall runs a lip-reading group at Knowle West Health Park for those with hearing loss. She has had referrals from Social Mirror and says her group really benefits those who attend. She explains:
“They come and meet other people like themselves and compare notes to their heart’s content – it’s much less isolating for them. I reckon I keep people out of doctors’ surgeries because of depression. They come once a week and we are like a family here.”
As I have said elsewhere, my hope is that one day Social Mirror and other community approaches that change social relations to transform economic and community potential will be available for all. For now, fingers crossed!