Nature vs. Nurture? Are you (banana) split?

August 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

They say of authors, and aspiring ones, that they are either architects or gardeners.

Architects like to have things planned out; a beginning, middle and end. On the other hand a gardener just plants seeds and sees what grows from them. I count myself one of the latter, I love planting seeds of thought and growing ideas.Banana

But gardens and plants for real… I’ll leave that to other folk. Too much like hard work. Or so I thought.

I have been blessed with many gifts but green-fingers are not one of them. Hence my dislike of all things horticultural.

So I am pleased to announce that I am the proud owner of one very healthy banana plant; from which I have now taken cuttings and have its off-springs developing nicely.

I never thought I would have so much joy at such a seemingly mundane thing to do as help and nurture a plant to grow and reproduce.

But let me take you back a couple of months. Read more

How networks help us create

August 14, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Arts and Society, Social Economy 

This is a guest blog by Channelling Talent co-author Siobhan McAndrew.

We generally think of creativity as being down to individual talent, hard work, or even fate. This fits well with an optimistic worldview. To argue that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ sounds resentful, a product of ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

However, network science using the tools of social network analysis (SNA) has generated rich evidence of how social networks enable, mediate, and generate talent and creativity. The University of Chicago network scientist Ronald Burt studied idea generation in a large technology company, finding that good ideas emerged from brokers bridging different networks, but spread most thoroughly within groups.

An important study by UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman with others, using the massive data contained within the Internet Movie Database, examined collaboration in movie-making. Being more connected in the industry is related to success at the Oscars when connections are to the prestigious rather than simply more numerous. In other words, selection into elite networks is critical for individual accomplishment.

Image Credit - US Army via Flickr

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The money to create

August 13, 2014 by · 7 Comments
Filed under: Social Economy 

We’ve talked a lot this year about the power to create. The RSA is focusing its efforts on unleashing the creative powers of all citizens to shape their own lives and society around them. One of the most obvious creative expressions is art. Artists at their best can show us something of who we are, honing our ability to make critical, aesthetic and moral judgements about the world around us. In our increasingly image-saturated information society these skills are invaluable. But what about the money to live on in order to create? Expressing your creativity is rarely a profitable career path.

The way we recognise and reward creative expression is explored in a new study Channelling Talent - with a report and short film, focusing on the music industry, released by the RSA this week. Below, we draw on a piece co-written with Tony Fisher and Joshua Edelman of the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, first published in Perspectives magazine.

Making art requires money for materials and labour, but the monetary terms that dominate debate about public funding and private compensation are not appropriate for understanding art’s value as a social good…

The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg, 1839. Via Wikicommons

The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg, 1839. Via Wikicommons

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The labeling of this “Brand” highlights one of the many hurdles of Recovery

August 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

The recent incendiary online spat between the American Fox News Anchor-man Sean Hannity and the British stand-up comedian Russell Brand has provided some moments of unprofessional journalist practices (Hannity) and some moments of quintessential Britishness (Brand).  This is not the forum to delve into the political motivations behind each of the protagonists, neither is it the place to offer support or disagreement to the argument, but the highly emotional subject of the (current) Israel-Palestine conflict debated between these two media faces seems to have exposed an all too familiar prejudice.Russell Brand

It started with Brand’s response to the initial report and interview slot from Hannity who had impressed his personal (pro-Israeli) opinion on a Muslim guest, without seemingly giving him the opportunity to respond.  Amongst his rebuke, Brand referred to Hannity as a ‘Ken doll’, the toy doll which was introduced in 1961(by Mattel) as a boyfriend to Barbie, whose appearance is that of a dimpled and fashionable all-American male.  Read more

NHS Foil for Heroin Users

August 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

The horrors of heroin addiction have been well-documented recently.

Despite its gradual decline amongst users, especially younger ones, who have swapped to novel psychoactive substances (commonly known as legal-highs), the UK still has a heroin problem and the dangers of overdose and needle-sharing still plague this population.

Heroin, like so many other illegal drugs, can never be taken safely BUT it can be made safer.

A new Government initiative that allows the NHS and other registered addiction treatment providers to be able to provide foil to addicts so that they smoke the drug, or to use the street slang ‘chase the dragon’, rather than inject it has been launched. Read more

How crowdfunding can help launch social ventures – what we’ve learned so far

August 8, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

Last autumn the RSA launched new support to help RSA Fellows prepare and publicise crowdfunding campaigns – where people set a funding target and try to raise that money from lots of people. I recently gathered together a large group of people to feedback on our review of the first half a year of this support and see how it is relevant for different organisations.

This blog puts together the both the review in full and a quick snapshot.

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Pioneering social innovation in Malaysia

Genovasi Malaysia logoThis blog was originally posted on the news page of the RSA Student Design Awards website on 4th August 2014.

I am pleased to announce that nine emerging Malaysian innovators have won in the inaugural RSA Genovasi Malaysia Awards, winning a range of prizes worth a total of RM260,000. In addition, the winners all receive admission into Genovasi’s Innovation Ambassador Development Programme, complementary RSA Fellowship for a year, providing the students with access to the RSA’s Catalyst Fund and Skills Bank to further develop their projects.

The RSA Student Design Awards team partnered with Genovasi, a transformative learning institution focused on cultivating innovation skills in young people to develop and deliver the RSA Genovasi Malaysia Awards, which launching in September 2013. Genovasi offers a human-centred learning experience to learn and use innovation for social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development for future transferable skills to face challenges in life. The RSA Genovasi Malaysia Awards focused on three project briefs for this pilot year: Active Citizens, Encouraging Social Entrepreneurship, and Citizenship and Communication in a Digital Age.

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Systemic leadership: it’s about noticing, navigating, understanding and caring for the fish-tank as well as the fish

‘What is the system doing to me, and what am I doing to the system?’ and ‘what are the social forces to which I am exposed at work that shape my leadership performance?’ were two of the many questions that Surrey Fellows were recently invited to explore, as part of a workshop run by Dr William Tate, Director of the Institute for Systemic Leadership.

Participants were invited to work on the systemic ideas in the context of their own organizations – challenging stuff, particularly when the implications are subject to deep reflection and challenge by supportive peers.

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New RSA and JRF project: Boosting the living standards of the self-employed

August 4, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Enterprise 

This week the RSA and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation launch a new project exploring the living standards of the self-employed. Over the course of the coming months our aim will be to pinpoint the particular economic and social challenges facing people who work for themselves, consolidate emerging thinking around how these might be addressed, and build up a network of support organisations willing to collaborate on the development of practical and policy interventions. The rationale for the project is unpacked below.

Self-employment in the UK is growing rapidly. Since the turn of the century there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of people working for themselves, which equates to an extra 1.4m workers. The result is that 1 in 7 of the workforce are now self-employed – one of the highest figures in living memory. Nor does this trend show any sign of coming to an end. Over the last 6 months alone an extra 300,000 more people have turned to self-employment. Should these rates continue, the RSA predicts that the number of people who work for themselves will soon be greater than the size of the public sector workforce.

The fact that this community is growing is seldom contested. Where there is disagreement, however, is in what lies behind the boom and whether the growth in self-employment is a ‘good thing’ for those involved, as well as for the nation as a whole. For some, the increase witnessed in recent years is a sign of a fragmented labour market and a deeper malaise in the wider economy. For others, the trend is indicative of a resurgent entrepreneurial spirit in the UK, and as such should be welcomed and actively supported.

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Can we save the world by taking the piss?

August 4, 2014 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Social Brain 

I apologise for the intemperate language of the title, and I had to check today wasn’t April 1st before posting, but I wanted to share an idea I came across today in The Economist which involves using our pee to create renewable energy. The article features a new insight on an old idea rather than something completely original, but the upshot is that taking the piss might help to save the world.

Look, we all do it, several times a day, so if it’s good for something other than moderately entertaining sound effects then let’s put it to the best possible use. Contrary to the occassional wacky health fad, it’s probably not very good for you to drink your main liquid waste product, but it turns out that when it comes to creating electricity, urine has a p-value that would be the envy of any good statistician.

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