It’s been a pretty exciting time to live in Scotland recently. The small matter of the referendum on independence and its implications have been debated to the smallest detail, but as a Scot living in Scotland the most exciting aspect for me was the vibrant discussion around politics, democracy, identity and representation which overtook the country. I remember standing in some very un-Scottish sunshine at the Kelpies sculpture outside Falkirk watching my children play in the park, and being astounded by the fact the at least 75% of the conversations around me revolved around debates on currency, the long term viability and capacity of north sea oil fields and the future development of Scotland as a democratic nation. Not topics you would normally expect to hear on a sunny summer’s day!
Filed under: Fellowship, Uncategorized
This is a guest blog from Liz Holme FRSA who, along with her team of literacy enthusiasts, is trying to reignite Britain’s love of reading.
According to the National Literacy Trust, a fifth of young people say that they rarely or never read outside class. There is overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship to people’s life chances. A person with poor literacy is more likely to live in a non-working household, live in overcrowded housing and is less likely to vote. Literacy skills and a love of reading can break this vicious cycle of deprivation and disadvantage.
The aim of our Fellow-led group is to increase reading for pleasure and literacy levels, amongst the young people of Banbury.
It should not be down only to teachers to achieve this. An enthusiasm for literature can be kindled not just by schools but with the help of whole communities that they serve.
“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” Nelson Mandela Read more
This is a guest blog from Jonathan Collie FRSA who recently set up Trading Times to remodel our opportunities for retirement in the 21st century. Find out about his latest project ‘The Age of the No Retirement’, which is looking for crowdfunding support to make it a reality.
Living longer presents opportunities for all of us - the young as well as the old – for employers, for designers, for innovators. I want to get rid of unhelpful stereotypes, change the language and replace the iconography that incorrectly portray a society that is living longer as one that is old. This issue affects us all. Everyone should be involved, from every sector of society, beyond the typical policy makers, academics and the age-sector organisations.
‘The Age of No Retirement?’ is Britain’s first ever national conference to debate & revalue our opportunities in retirement. Gathering experts, policy makers, key stakeholders and the public we will explore retirement and the opportunities we can provide in an ageing, technological and engaged society.
Our conference is supported by the Department for Work and Pensions, numerous ‘ageing-positive’ organisations and multinational corporations but needs the public’s support if we are to reach our final £35000 crowdfunding target and launch at the Oxo Tower in October.
Pandora’s Locker is a one-act youth opera that resets the original Greek myth of Pandora’s box in a contemporary high school. It will be performed by more than 15 exceptionally talented young people in their teens and twenties to – and for - their peers. But what’s a youth opera based on a Greek myth and encompassing everything from biomedics to gender going to do to address some of this? And how do I as a creative producer view this opportunity?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had a varied career as an independent arts producer: I’ve worked on everything from choreography projects in primary schools, to city-wide public science festivals. And this unique journey has given me insight into many of the challenges young people face today – about gender, identity, power, personhood, creative self-expression, and more. Through my experience working with young people, the idea for Pandora’s Locker emerged. Read more
In 1754, eleven inquisitive individuals went out on a limb and decided to lend their support to a then unknown organisation that wanted to change the world.
160 years later, on 24th June 1914, those who called themselves members of the RSA, became a Fellowship, in recognition of their shared commitment and personal contribution to the RSA’s vision.
Last week, 100 years to the day, we marked the beginning of RSA Fellowship by gathering 150 of our most engaged Fellows in the Great Room to create positive social impact in real time, and award one of our most successful Catalyst ventures the RSA Fellowship Centenary Venture Award.
Prior to the event, the Catalyst panel selected three projects that had previously won Catalyst grants and had since made significant progress using the funds and support provided by Fellows. Each of the three finalists then gave a persuasive four minute pitch to the audience who was asked to vote for the project they would most like to win the award.
Whilst the votes were being counted, Charles Leadbeater, a leading authority on innovation strategy, spoke about ‘creative communities with a cause’, triggering no end of conversation around the RSA’s new, emerging world view ‘The Power to Create.’
When the results came in we were delighted to award the Centenary prize to StudentFunder, a project lead by Juan Guerra FRSA, who won over the room with his cool and convincing solution to the lack of postgraduate funding opportunities in the UK.
At present, there are no student loans available for post-graduate study or further professional education, meaning that thousands of creative individuals are unable to realise their potential and thousands of UK companies are losing this untapped talent.
The prize will give StudentFunder the benefit of a further £3,000 which will enable it to tour the UK to start new collaborations, plus it will gain extra support from RSA staff to raise its profile.
Juan was presented with the award from RSA Chair Vikki Heywood and thanked the audience for their support.
The support from the RSA fellows at the Centenary Award Ceremony is something I will never forget. I have kept the cards with their votes. And there was even more good news this week. In February, I met a 19 year old who was unemployed. He had been offered a place on a three month course after which he would be earning good money as a web developer but he couldn’t pay for the course in the first place. StudentFunder helped him pay for his course in February. Yesterday we went for breakfast and he showed me his office. He is very happy in his new job as a web developer. That’s the kind of thing that really gets me up in the morning.
StudentFunder has helped 18 people so far, but they are aiming for 100 in the next year.
The runners up for the award were Incredible Edible lead by Pam Warhurst FRSA – an idea that has grown into a nationwide movement for growing local food; and 3,2,1 Ignition* the world’s first science pop up shop that uses abandoned retail units to run workshops and change the public’s perception of science.
Although the room was filled with some truly inspirational people who have worked with and contributed to the RSA in so many different ways, the Catalyst projects stole the show.
As Oli Reichardt, Director of Fellowship asked in his recent blog, what will the next 100 years hold for the Fellowship? The answer may lie with Fellows out there on the ground, creating real world change, unafraid of the obstacles and clear in their vision. They are the future of the Fellowship and we will continue to support them in every way possible. What an exciting prospect.
Alex Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordinator at the RSA. If you would like to know more about any of the projects mentioned above, or about joining the Fellowship then get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Big Idea: this is a guest blog from RSA Catalyst award winner Ross Kemp FRSA who has created a powered quick launch, first response water craft to help lifeguards reach people quicker during beach rescue.
Speed in water rescue is everything. After just 90 seconds of inhaling water brain damage can begin to set in. After studying product design at Loughborough University and training with the lifesaving club there, I started looking into rescue equipment.
I found jet skis and small boats are great once in the water, but slow to launch. So I set about designing a quick launch powered rescue craft, which one lifeguard can pick up and throw in the water, and would provide propulsion to push through the surf and reach people in trouble quicker. Read more
This is a guest blog from Anne-Marie Imafidon. Anne-Marie is a Fellow who works in technology at an investment bank and has spent the past 15 months running a social enterprise alongside her main job. She was the UK IT Young Professional of the Year in 2013 and recently won the UnLtd Innovation Award for work on the ‘Stemettes’ which encourages young women to get involved with STEM. She received RSA Catalyst funding in April.
We’re facing a skills shortage across the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries and have what seems like a shrinking minority of females in what is an important industry for our economy. [WISE 2013]
We’ve helped girls meet a diverse set of women working across a diversity of roles in STEM and in doing so have helped break stereotypes
Many have documented the problems across STEM at all levels and made their recommendations for what should be done (see the Through Both Eyes report). Since its launch in February 2013, the Stemettes project has given positive STEM experiences featuring STEM females ‘Big Stemettes’ to over 1100 girls across the UK with our unique brand of passionate, fun & creative panel events, hackathons, workshops and one exhibition.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Design and Society, Education Matters, Enterprise, Innovation, Uncategorized
Today is a big day.
Nine months ago on September 1st 2013, we launched our eight RSA Student Design Award briefs for the year and thousands of students across the UK, Europe and Asia began applying their design skills to a range of social, economic and environmental issues such as improving hygiene in low-income areas, managing water in urban areas, addressing changing work patterns, and many more. Over 600 students sent their work into the RSA and our judges began the arduous task of reviewing and scrutinising the work, looking for key insights and clever design thinking. Those 600+ entries became a short-list of around 80 and today, after interviews with all short-listed entrants, I am pleased to present the 18 winning projects and the designers behind them.
Today’s impressive list of emerging designers and innovators – some working in collaborative teams and some working individually – represent the best of what happens when good ideas meet good design (and good briefs too, I think!).
This year’s winners include proposals for new packaging made from beeswax, an alarm clock app to improve well-being amongst 18-25 year olds, an affordable sanitary towel for schoolgirls in low-income areas, and a frugally-designed hygiene pack for use in refugee camps. Read more
This is a guest blog from Carrie Supple FRSA who leads Journey to Justice, a Catalyst-supported project encouraging participation in social justice campaigning:
‘We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’ (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963)
The Big Idea
The aim of Journey to Justice is to inspire people, by learning about past and present movements for human rights, to believe they have an important role to play in creating a more just world for all. Through education and the arts we will encourage people to participate and show solidarity with social justice causes. The project came out of a visit I made to civil rights centres in the USA and a lifelong fascination with that history and with people who stand up and speak out and have made a difference for good.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Education Matters, Fellowship
The Big Idea: In July this year Forest of Imagination (FoI) will host a four-day cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary contemporary arts pop-up event in Bath, as a proof of concept for a more permanent arts space in the city.
Forest of Imagination grew from conversations between various RSA Fellows and creative partners about the need for a permanent contemporary arts space in Bath and it was the first project on the RSA crowdfunding area to reach its funding target. The background to the project and its early stages can be found on a previous RSA blog which shows the progress of the initiative with community engagement. Read more