At the RSA I have the opportunity to meet and work with a diverse and motivated group of Fellows. I’m always amazed how they manage to juggle the range of different ideas and enterprises that they are developing. With 27 000 Fellows there are so many stories it can sometimes feel like you can’t see the wood from the trees but today I’d like to tell you a story of Fellows getting together, discussing an opportunity and providing a solution that helped the environment but more importantly a young man called Sam.
Hill Holt Wood lies on the borders of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and is home to an award winning social enterprise. If you get the chance to visit please do, you’ll be welcomed with open arms and always offered a cup of tea. In just over ten years of operation, the enterprise has transformed the woodland from a failing, flooded rhododendron-smothered patch of trees into a thriving broadleaf wood.
The main stay of the enterprise has been as a supplier of alternative education. The woodland provides a developmental resource for excluded or marginalized young people to build skills, confidence and improved prospects. Benefits to the young people and to the woods feed back positively one on another. Kids need the woods to learn and in turn the woods are maintained by kids. So year on year a trickle of woodland converts graduate from Hill Holt Wood who are interested in sustaining woodland and so the story goes on…
The wood itself was privately owned but is now open to the public and community owned and the social enterprise operates from a stunning eco-build that incorporates an eco design team, meeting rooms, and a café.
Salvation Army enterprise manager Steve Coles was looking for a similarly sustainable project in which to invest a small fund of £10,000 donated as a bequest by the Booth family for the purpose of planting trees. Hill Holt Wood seemed ideal and proposed the money be used to support a young person through a horticultural apprenticeship AND plant trees. The long-term on-going gains are obvious.
Sam Welch was 15 years old when he first visited Hill Holt Wood. As part of his school curriculum he attended for a day a week on a junior rangers scheme. He developed an unexpected passion for woodland and went on to attend Riseholm College in Lincoln but when he graduated with Level 2 and 3 qualifications in arborioculture he could not find work in Gainsborough. At this point a Job Centre advisor suggested that he return to Hill Holt Wood as a volunteer on the flexible support fund. Sam proved to be a fantastic volunteer and an obvious candidate for the Salvation Army fund.
The award was given to Hill Holt Wood and they have funded Sam’s on-going apprenticeship in horticulture. He says he has two main goals in life “the biggest one is to get a full time job at Hill Holt Wood which I would love, or work somewhere doing the same sort of job…”
The Fellowship Team are always looking to hear about Fellow led projects. If you know of work that is going on that would benefit from Fellows support and advice please get in touch directly, shout about your work at rsafellowship.com and apply to RSA Catalyst. If that work is based in the East and West Midlands then I’m your first point of contact, email me at email@example.com or tweet me @pickfordrich I love hearing about new ideas especially when they are told over a hot cup of tea and some cake.
Last week I was delighted to be part of a panel discussing regeneration in Pillgwenlly, a community in Newport, South Wales. The invitation came from RSA Fellow Wiard Sterk, who has been working with the team leading a major regeneration project in Pill, and asked me along to share examples of some of the inspirational community projects that RSA Fellows are leading elsewhere.
My family have roots in south Wales, but I haven’t been there in a few years – so I was somewhat intimidated to find myself speaking alongside people who know the area inside out, including RSA Fellowship Councillor Kathy Seddon, who grew up in Pill. It turned out, though, that one of the most interesting things about the evening was how much of what was discussed was familiar from projects I’ve worked with elsewhere.
Of course, it’s risky (and usually wrong) to assume that what works in one place will automatically apply in another, but a project I spoke about that seemed to strike a chord was Changing Chelmsford, a community organisation set up by RSA Fellows (led by Malcolm Noble, now chair of the RSA’s East of England region) in 2010. They’d hoped to start a conversation about how Chelmsford could become a more successful place, hoping to disprove the false notion – familiar to many places – that “nothing happens in this town”.
They’ve done this with resounding success. Since a first summer of events in 2010 attracted 120 or so people, they’ve held a ‘festival of ideas’ every summer, and sparked numerous initiatives and projects across the town. This year, over 500 people came to events, and an estimated 1000+ visited a temporary community space set up in an empty unit in a shopping centre. And when in 2012 Chelmsford bid successfully for city status, Changing Chelmsford was cited in the application as a shining example of community engagement.
What worked about the project? Here are a few rough thoughts I shared at the meeting:
- It worked across sectors. From the start, the project brought together volunteers, in the shape of RSA Fellows; officials from the borough and county councils; and professionals, particularly designers and artists. And, although it took a little longer, local businesses are now in on the act, providing support in kind for the annual festival.
- It focussed on real places. There are several fine buildings in Chelmsford that are currently not used to their full potential, most famously the former Marconi factory (often spoken of as the birthplace of radio). The group have increasingly focused their campaigning on these buildings, and have received some high profile media coverage for their efforts. More importantly, though, this has galvanised people around the project by giving them something solid to focus on.
- It supported practical projects. As well as campaigning, the group have worked to support individuals and groups in Chelmsford who had ideas for doing things differently. One example is Young Urban Explorers, a project led by a local architect Annabel Brown (and funded by RSA Catalyst) that challenged young people to seek out under-used spaces in the town, and then pitch their ideas for remodelling them to the council.
The project has been a huge success. However, as someone I spoke to last night commented, it’s frustrating when people talk about these kinds of initiatives in a way that makes them seem like plain sailing – which they rarely are. The group faced some big challenges:
- Volunteer fatigue. Anyone who’s been involved with community organisations knows that they often depend on ‘super-volunteers’: a small number of fantastically committed, dogged individuals who keep things ticking over. Changing Chelmsford was no different, and a constant concern in meetings I attended was to find ways of compensating people for whom the project rapidly became a full-time job.
- Reaching deprived and isolated communities. A persistent challenge for the project was reaching beyond the ‘usual suspects’ who engage in civic activity. The group made great efforts to reach out to all areas in the town, but in particular reaching the least well-off communities was a challenge. This did change, however, as the project grew in profile, and particularly through partnerships with organisations like the YMCA, who worked with Annabel on the Young Urban Explorers project.
These point to a few basic principles that seem to me to mark out many successful community projects: a combination of campaigning and practical action is often most successful; collaboration between different organisations gets things done quicker; and volunteer roles need to be rewarding and manageable if a project is going to last.
The RSA has worked, through research like our ChangeMakers project, to draw these kinds of conclusions about what works in social projects. In a few weeks, we’ll be sharing a handbook based on this work and the experiences of our Fellows and staff, that provides some basic guidance for people who want to improve their communities, and links to resources that can help them.
One thing that came up repeatedly in the discussion last night was the rarity with which good practice in community projects is actually shared between places and organisations. Some of these ideas might seem pretty basic, but I think working out what successful projects have in common – and spreading that knowledge as widely as possible – is time well spent.
Tog Studio host ‘live-build’ events. This means that people who are usually excluded from the construction process take an active role in building their own project. In doing so participants are empowered to learn practical skills and teamwork to deliver a valuable community asset.
This is made possible by the architects and engineers behind Tog Studio designing buildings which are consciously low-tech to build. This allows participants to be fully involved in the process after a brief introduction to a few key skills (such as measuring timber, sawing, clamping and screwing).
About the project
“(working on the Sitooterie) gives me a purpose to get up in the morning and gives me the self-satisfaction to do a decent days work and see what comes from your hard work”.
Tog Studio recently collaborated with the Salvation Army (TSA) to build a ‘sitooterie’ (Scots slang for an outdoor seating area) with the service users of a TSA LifeHouse in Edinburgh; a project which was funded by an RSA Catalyst Grant. Tog Studio hosted a number of design workshops with the participants to agree how the Sitooterie would be used, where it would be sited and what it would look like. The team then spent three days building the project in April 2013.
The innovative structure was partially prefabricated at MAKLab, an open-source digital fabrication facility. MAKLab, which is also part of the RSA Scotland network, makes access to tools and equipment available to anyone who wants to make things; from jewellers to electrical engineers and school children. MAKLab helped Tog Studio deliver the Sitooterie by pre-fabricating the ply-box portal frame structure. MAKLab, who are based in Glasgow but plan to roll out their service across the country, were invaluable supporters of the project and warmly welcomed the TSA service users to tour their facilities and watch the frames be cut on the high-tech CNC router.
Delivering the Sitooterie increased the confidence and motivation of those involved. Kev Kelly, a TSA service user who had been involved in the project since its inception, commented that “(working on the Sitooterie) gives me a purpose to get up in the morning and gives me the self-satisfaction to do a decent days work and see what comes from your hard work”. Micheal Holliday, FRSA and architect at Tog Studio, commented that ” delivering the Sitooterie was an emotional project. It’s been a really intense build and we’ve made new friends along the way. We’ve learnt from each other and worked as a team; which is incredible given the short amount of time we had together.”
Tog Studio also recently hosted their inaugural summer school on the Isle of Tiree, off the west coast of Scotland. This event was attended by architecture students from across the country who wanted a hands-on alternative to their classroom-based education. The team delivered a 5m-high temporary timber ‘lighthouse’. The project was a huge success, winning national architecture awards, was published internationally and featured at the New York Architecture Film Festival. A further summer school is planned for June 2013 where the team plan to build a permanent community-owned boathouse on Tiree with a boat-building local charity.
“delivering the Sitooterie was an emotional project. It’s been a really intense build and we’ve made new friends along the way. We’ve learnt from each other and worked as a team; which is incredible given the short amount of time we had together.”
How you can get involved
Tog Studio are looking to bring their expertise to a greater number of projects across the country. Fellows who are looking to deliver innovative buildings through an inclusive construction process should get in touch; the team have experience of working at a range of scales and on a variety of building types. Tog Studio are currently working on proposals for affordable, self-build accommodation and work-space would be interested to collaborate with like-minded organisations looking to commission such projects.
Fellows who work in the construction industry supply-chain and can donate time, materials or equipment in exchange for sponsorship of projects like the Sitooterie should also get in touch.
Tog Studio would like to thank the RSA Catalyst Grant for their funding towards the Sitooterie, without which the project wouldn’t have happened.
There is more information about Tog Studio, including a short film about the making of the Sitooterie, at www.togstudio.co.uk
Across the world Fellows are working together on innovative new approaches designed to have a positive impact on the communities they live and work in. One new idea which has recently been attracting a lot of interest is the RSA Reboot events which are designed to support Fellowship collaboration and networking. Intrigued I caught up with Roxanne Persaud (RP) @Commutiny, Fellowship Councillor for London, who developed the Reboot format, and Alex Dunedin (AD) @RaggedTalks, a Fellow from Scotland who has recently been working in London and attended the second London Reboot, to find out more.
Jamie Cooke (JC) – So what is Reboot?
RP – Reboot is a series of free, lively evenings where Fellows can meet each other as ‘professional friends’ to share their work and interests. Last year I worked with Jemima Gibbons (former Chair of the RSA Digital Engagement Group) and came up with the idea of ‘rebooting’ the local network. We know that face-to-face meetings are the foundation for building productive networks and that the online reports are very helpful for people who can’t make it to events – they can still get connected. So it’s important that we have a lively Web presence and we encourage Fellows to join in. The pilot event was very successful so I’m now putting one on every other month as part of the regional programme. You can see the summary of the first Reboot here and a great roundup of last one here– as an eclectic and energised room of social media savvy people, the tweets were flying thick and fast!.
AD – Very simply, the evening starts out with a light conversation and people pottering in; everyone tries to bring a nibble or a bottle of wine etc; then, over the night, three rounds of ‘micro-presentations’ go on where a clutch of fellows get to ‘sound bite’ what they are doing to everyone in the room and invite input. This is casual, and after each short session, there is speed networking swaps going on where we find out who is in the room and where their interests lay.
JC – Why is that attractive for Fellows?
AD – As a relatively new fellow, this was the tonic I needed to put a face on why I was a fellow. As we all know, the web-side of the RSA is being revamped and there are plenty of formal events which are staged but, for me, there was a great need to be able to connect with and meaningfully communicate with other people in the collective. It is implied in the word ‘fellowship’ and it was the community which attracted me to the RSA; we need to reach out across our silo walls.
RP – There are more than 8,000 Fellows in London with an inspiring diversity of projects we could be connecting to in order to make a difference in society, develop new ways of working, and more. But we’re mostly missing out, especially if you can’t get to the public lectures or easily participate in the online networks. The feedback we got showed that Fellows enjoyed the events enormously and described them as stimulating, interesting, inspiring, useful and fun.
As a relatively new fellow, this was the tonic I needed to put a face on why I was a fellow
JC – What sort of topics were covered at the recent event?
RP – The programme represents the diversity of Fellowship and alternates between rapid presentations and facilitated speed networking sessions. The first one had the theme of ‘Positive Deviants: how left-field thinking solves problems’ and the featured projects included Jubiloo, Voice of Freedom, 3Space, Bloomsbury Babies, Street Doctors and Full Fact. The speakers were allowed to talk about any type of project or initiative they wanted – the only requirement was that they needed some kind of input – whether it be skills, support or funding – from other FRSA. In February we heard about Lightyear Foundation, Project Access, Metro, Costume Institute of the African Diaspora, 3-2-1 Ignition, #KnowYoureSkilled and Alex Dunedin’s Ragged Project.
AD – It was also a useful opportunity to engage with the work of the London Regional team. Roxanne took the chance to present on the Rolling Development Plan of the region. This allowed for a space for participants to give feedback and input to the Plan, surely a sensible way to ensure that it is relevant to Fellows across the region.
JC – So you’ve fired me up, and I want know more. How can I get involved? And could I run my own Reboot event in another part of the world?
RP – If you’re in London look out for announcements in the regional mailing, then sign up to attend or use the ‘contact the organiser’ button if you want to speak (like the RSA public events team we use Eventbrite as it’s free and easy to use). If you can get to London events easily, ask your regional team to put you on the mailing list. We don’t tend to set up the programme far in advance so there’s always the chance to speak. We even manage to slot in an open mike session for Fellows who get fired up during the event and want to present to the whole crowd. Reboot is ‘open source’ so we encourage everyone to adopt the format. A great place to start is Jemima’s blog about the pilot event which includes a lot of practical tips. Reboot has also been shared as ‘best practice’ at Fellowship Council so your elected representatives should know a bit about it. We’re always looking to improve so use a very light touch yet very important evaluation process – if you Reboot your local network it would be brilliant to compare notes.
JC – Any last thoughts you would like readers to take away about Reboot?
This is precisely what being a FRSA is about for me…It stimulated, it expanded, it amplified – I want more!
RP – In London the events are always well supported by Fellows who generously provide meeting places, who bring food and drink to share and who come with the objective of making the most of the network. The next step is to run events in partnership with the Fellowship thematic networks (Arts, Social Entrepreneurs, Catalyst Winners…). I’d like Fellows to make Reboot their own and move on to finding new ways to link up and support activity in the region. We have almost a third of the Fellowship – the possibilities are endless!
AD – This is precisely what being a FRSA is about for me. Come along to the next one for a successful, accessible, fun, interesting and constructive evening – I recommend it. It was a chance to clarify how many people share common goals and meet together in Fellowship. It stimulated, it expanded, it amplified – I want more!
Today I had the pleasure and the privilege of being a judge at this year’s RSA Student Design Awards (SDA). The competition issues briefs to young designers to demonstrate how the insights and processes of design can solve 21st century problems. The brief I was on the jury for, created in partnership with Yorkshire Water, was to design innovative solutions to help individuals and communities value water more. There were quite a few amazing entries, which made the shortlisting process challenging, but in the end we arrived at a very strong list (congratulations to my colleague Sevra Davis who heads the SDA programme, and to Robin Levien RDI who did a great job in facilitating the discussion).
The main themes of the entries were metering, and how to make better use of rainwater or grey water. Apart from some genuine insights I gained from going through the folders (how much water goes to waste only to heat up the shower!), I was delighted to also see entries from Hong Kong, the Czech Republic and Cyprus. In fact, SDA is becoming more international every year. Last year, with Eva Besenreuther for the first time one of the winners came from abroad.
As I am writing this post, the first ever RSA-US Student Design Awards are about to stage their annual lecture in New York at the Cooper Union this Friday (congratulations to David Turner FRSA and the whole team on this terrific Fellow-led initiative). The keynote will be delivered by Kevin Owens, Design Principal of the highly successful London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. On Saturday then, the big day, there will be a whole host of high-calibre speakers at the RSA-US SDA event itself, which will be followed by a reception. If you’re quick, perhaps you can book a spare seat.
Which brings me to another first for the RSA: Starting this autumn, in collaboration with Genovasi Malaysia we will run the first ever RSA Genovasi Malaysia awards as part of the SDA programme. As part of a consortium including Pearson, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, the HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam and Singularity University, we will partner to reward craft, ingenuity, insight, communication and social benefit of the designs of a new generation of Malaysian students.
And we are currently exploring further countries to add to our list together with the RSA Fellowship. Next year the SDA programme, which started in 1924 and is the oldest design competition of its kind in the world, will be going strong for 90 years – what a better way to celebrate than for RSA Student Design Awards to go global.
Here is an interesting Guardian piece on a transnational YouGov-Cambridge study. The research compared attitudes towards responsibilities of the state versus those of individuals in the UK, US, France and Germany.
To summarise, when it comes to the role of the state on issues like ‘a decent minimum income for all’ or ‘helping poor children get ahead’, British views are significantly more continental than atlantic. With the exception of company pay – on inequity of salaries, Britons are more liberal than Germans and French, if not as liberal as Americans – the results put the US on the individualist side, and UK, Germany and France broadly on the statist side; which highlights once again that the conversation on public services in the US is a very different one to this side of the pond.
What is just as interesting as the results, however, is the way the study is structured. It takes a classic two-dimensional approach: state versus individuals.
What about views on the responsibility of, and for, communities?
They are a pillar of social power just as much as the other two dimensions. And given fiscal pressures on both sides of the Atlantic, an increasing amount of challenges will need to be dealt with via this ‘third dimension’ (e.g., as my colleague Matthew Parsfield pointed out recently, in Mental Health, or as our CEO Matthew Taylor has argued, in Care).
But as so often, communities get left out of the equation – what statisticians would call an omitted variable. Arguably, without taking this third dimension into account, there is a lack of depth in the insights generated.
My hunch is that we would see a picture emerge that is more complex and informative than the binary US/Europe divide. But perhaps there is already some comparative data out there, maybe even longitudinal – might a reader point me in the right direction?
The RSA is well positioned to work across all three dimensions internationally, as we have strong Fellowships in all four countries (altogether we have Fellowships in 101 countries, the US being the largest one with almost 800 Fellows), as well as Fellow- and staff-led projects in the US and Germany. I will elaborate on these in my next blog posts.
Also, I am looking forward to the upcoming RSA Lecture with Tim Smit, CEO and Founder of the Eden Project, who asks the very question: ‘Where does responsibility for community lie’?
Andrew Hadley and his team has set up 2020 Education with support from two RSA Catalyst grants to recognise the powerful work of young people to make a difference in their future. In this guest blog Andrew sets out the thinking behind the idea and calls on Fellows to get involved:
2020 Education is a movement in the making. In a nutshell it is about showcasing what schools and community groups can do to prepare young people for the challenges facing them – and the world – in the decades ahead.
This initiative has been started by a group of Fellows and others. An RSA Catalyst grant has helped us get the programme off the ground, and we’re now starting to roll it out more widely across the UK and internationally. We hope Fellows will be instrumental in making this happen so we’re calling for the support of everyone who shares our belief that education needs to be more than simply classroom learning and exams.
- Could a school run its own fair trade coffee business?
- Could it propagate rare orchids and sell them on the commercial market?
- Could you link up students from a deprived rural area with the astronauts on the international space station?
- Could you excite young people about engineering by getting them to build and race electric cars?
We’ve already found examples of exactly these things, and more.
We’re not creating a prescriptive model and asking schools to adopt this (and we’re well aware of the pressure that teachers are under). We’re not setting fixed criteria of what a “2020 Education” project looks like. Quite the opposite: if we want to inspire more people to start something, the best thing we can do is to show them the variety of outstanding examples of innovation already happening in schools and communities, and then let them replicate these ideas or come up with their own. At the same time we will create opportunities for peer-to-peer education among young people , via social media and face to face. And we will show the teachers involved that their projects are not isolated examples but a powerful model of what education can be in the 21s Century.
Projects can be based around all sorts of themes, such as social enterprise; science, technology and engineering; environmental protection or ecology; humanitarian and social issues; intercultural understanding; and more. Broadly speaking, they:
- are school or community based
- raise awareness of global issues
- make an impact locally
- empower young people through active participation, and so develop employability skills
- are innovative and newsworthy
So how can you get involved?
First, sign up to the 2020 Education site where you will find more information, including films of individual projects. Then put us in touch with any school, youth group or other organisation you know of which is running an amazing project, or where there are inspiring adults and motivated children who would like to do so. Finally, tell us if you would like to become a mentor to a project (giving as much or as little time as you are able) – or any other way you feel able to contribute.
As Sir Ken Robinson says, don’t expect the revolution to begin from above. With your support, 2020 Education will harness the energy of the people who are already making it happen on the ground.
Andrew Hadley and his team want to hear from you, please send him an email if you can’t find what you’re looking for on the website and remember if you want to get your idea off the ground you can contact me via email or twitter @pickfordrich. I’m currently working with Fellows in Derby to develop a project that will supply Raspberry Pi’s to schools across the area. What are you doing?
We love a celebratory list in the UK. From the Sunday Times Rich List and the Courvoisier 500 to Nesta’s New Radicals, every year brings a new hierarchy of brilliant, bright or affluent people for us to admire, envy or challenge.
However this year one list has certainly got everyone talking more than most. In February Radio 4 Woman’s Hour compiled their inaugural power list – a list of the 100 most powerful women operating in the UK today. It has not been uncontroversial. Eyebrows have raised at a number of issues – is the queen really the most powerful woman in Britain? Is the version of power depicted too traditional and narrow? Does this list show us how far women have come in equality? Or does it show us how little progress has been made?
The stats about women’s representation, everywhere from the boards of FTSE 100 companies (17.3%, and going down) to the democratic system (men outnumber women 4-1 in the UK Parliament) make for grim reading. The RSA Fellowship itself is more than two thirds male, so we’ve got a way to go to reach equality, something we’re working on. (One fact we are proud of however is that women have been Fellows since we were founded in 1754 – not true of most membership organisations.)
As often is the case with these lists we were happy to recognise several faces as RSA Fellows – one of whom was Rosemary Squire OBE. Rosemary is the founder, co-owner and joint chief executive of Ambassador Theatre group, the UK’s largest theatre owner/operator with 39 venues UK-wide, a major international producer, and a leader in theatre ticketing services through ATG tickets.
In the spirit of sharing the experiences of RSA Fellows, and (in the month of International Women’s Day) the experiences of strong women, I went to ask Rosemary about the career and life of Britain’s 16th most powerful woman.
You’ve been named as the 16th most powerful woman in the Women’s Hour top 100 in the UK. How do you feel?
Great! I’m particularly excited that theatre, the industry I’ve worked all my life in, is up there with all these “proper” businesses. Theatre is a real business in this country and it is important it is recognised. I’m also pleased for all the people who have supported me to get here.
What did you think of the list, and how important are lists like this?
I think it makes you think about what is influential. It is an interesting list. Many of the other women are in industries, like politics, where they’re still massively under represented.
I know quite a lot of the women on there, and I thought there were a couple of things I saw we all had in common:
The first, boring as it may seem, is education, education, education. All those years of training and university and post graduates – at the time you might think well why am I doing this? But actually it provides all kind of skills that everybody uses, whatever they do. Education gives you the skills to be able to use the opportunities when they come up in life.
The second is role models. There is nothing more powerful that someone you respect and can identify with to be able to say “you know what, you can really do it. I’ve done it, if I can do it you can do it.” I’ve had that in my life and it is really important.
Who were your role models?
My Mother and my Aunt – they were unusual in their generation. All my family were grammar school kids, my Mum and Dad both went on to university in the war, and my mum was somebody who had studied, come up the hard way with really tough challenges at the end of the war. They were desperate to get teachers out in classrooms so she went out to teach, aged twenty, sixty kids in the class. Those skills have stayed with her for life, she’s always been prepared to turn her hand to anything, and that was a great role model for me and my sister.
They were the first generation to go to university. For my sister and I it was an assumption – yes of course we would.
There are 30-40 million visits to the theatre each year in the UK. And we sell 10 million tickets. So that is powerful.
You run ATG with your husband and you have three children. How do you manage the work/life balance?
I don’t think I get it right all the time. Although I think my kids are great, so in that regard I may have done a bit of it right!
I’ve been very lucky to have my mother down the road; she has been a huge help to me. All of my kids have great relationships with her. It has been a great safety net – a lot of people don’t have that.
I’ve had other support, including great nannies. I’ve always tried to be fair about looking after people, the support staff who help you. People undervalue how important it is to look after them – pay them properly, treat them with respect as you would any other employee, and don’t take them for granted. It’s about building that safe and secure network of people around you. My nanny has worked for me for 12 years.
The thing I think I’ve had to sacrifice is friendships, and a social life. Particularly in the last three-four years we’ve been so busy, since we acquired our biggest competitor in the UK, I just don’t have time. It narrows down to what you can do, you have to distil and prioritise, and the family and kids are my priority. It does all come at a price.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Definitely. I remember the days of women’s groups and selling Spare Rib at university. Literally reading The Female Eunuch on the beach aged sixteen and thinking my god this has completely changed how I see the world. Things haven’t changed. Don’t lets kid ourselves that the glass ceiling isn’t there, it is.
You know, having a child is like having a love affair, you fall in love with that child, and that love stays with you forever. I have my children in my head at any one time, somehow they’re just there.
How did you deal with it?
I think you have to have confidence in yourself. And you need a role model. I’ve known Christina Smith since the early 80s and she was brilliant, I remember her distinctly saying “well if I can buy buildings and do property deals, so can you – it’s easy.” She gave me that positive confidence to realise things aren’t as complicated as they appear to be.
There’s an awful lot of mythology about lots of things. Being able to ask questions about something you don’t understand and not feeling an idiot, that’s something I’ve gained with more experience. I now know its not stupid to ask. Anything can be explained.
Is there anything in your life that has nearly blown you off course?
I think things would have been different for me if I hadn’t had Jenny (Rosemary’s first child Jenny has Down’s Syndrome).
I was in my 20s, and you do think you’ve got a charmed life. I got a first at university, I went off and did postgraduate scholarship, I got a nice job and a nice boyfriend and then we’re getting married and it’s all lovely. You assume, you take for granted, that your child is going to be healthy.
In a way it threw me back more into work, because I found it difficult at home. It wasn’t this experience I imagined. She used to wake up 8 and 10 times a night until she was 13, it was a nightmare in lots of ways.
So that could have easily thrown me off course. It made me ill in lots of ways, I had physical symptoms to deal with too. But then I had another child pretty quickly and I’ve been lucky enough to have another child in my 40s. It’s been fine long term. And in a way having a child with special needs does give you a perspective as well. A lot of the issues that are key are crucial for Jenny like money, housing, how to occupy yourself. It is very grounding.
You know, having a child is like having a love affair, you fall in love with that child, and that love stays with you forever. I have my children in my head at any one time, somehow they’re just there. I’m sure your mother does too. I’m sure I’m in my mother’s head.
It’s nice to be able to show others our work, especially my grand parents who live far away. Laura Warick-Student
As part of my role within the RSA I am lucky to be able to constantly see the creativity of students of our Family of Academies. On a recent visit to Arrow Vale and Ipsley I saw some highly original and thought provoking pieces; this is of course true across many of the nation’s schools, youth centres and community spaces. At Whitley Academy the same is true. They are especially passionate about student artwork and creative thinking.
Staff, students and parents are really proud of the original and inspiring student work. It is great to share! Lorraine Allen-Principal
Milliner to the stars, Stephen Jones, visited the school for a day in early November of 2011 to advise pupils doing A-level Art and BTEC Art on how to design a hat. They handed in their finished designs as course work to count towards their final marks. Mr Jones designs hats for celebrities as diverse as Marilyn Manson and Beyoncé Knowles at his studio in London’s Convent Garden.
The Principal Lorraine Allen has been considering her students exceptional artwork and felt that students work should not be kept behind Whitley Academies four walls. She has been working with staff to create a belief that students should be working to “be the best they can be”. From then on it became a case of how student art work was shown to a wider audience and not when. The school worked in partnership with students and agreed that Whitley Arts would be developed as an online portal to promote and inspire current and budding artists from Whitley Academy. There are separate pages to promote work created by students in Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 along with an e-commerce page which allows anybody to purchase works of art that students have created in a range of different medium from postcards to A2 canvas prints.
Whitley Arts will underpin learning and interest in the Creative Arts at Whitley Academy by using student artwork as a focal point, and by encouraging a culture of innovation, inspiration, and personal development. The RSA/RBS report Disrupt Inc. highlights the need to allow young entrepreneurs to develop in their own way. Hopefully Whitley Arts will help open students eyes to the possibility of creating work that is admired and coveted by the public in the future. Through negotiations with artists and the Academy it was agreed that artists would receive 25% of the sale price of each piece sold with the remainder used to support the arts, the students, and their learning at Whitley Academy. Please visit the site to see some of the creative work developed by students.
I am sure our students are as proud as I am, especially as it is now no longer just our community who gets to see our students talent, but also an international audience. Miss Riach-Creative Arts Teacher
The RSA’s Family of Academies are continually looking at ways to improve student learning and enhance their experiences. If you have any ways of supporting the Academies in the arts or any other field then please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter where I’m @pickfordrich
Next month on the 18th of April we will be hosting our second Fellowship Roadshow. RSA Academy in Tipton will be opening its doors to Fellows who feel they can support the work of staff and students. Please contact me for more details.
As Matthew Taylor noted in an earlier blog post “it is often said that the Fellowship has the potential to be the RSA’s greatest and most distinctive asset”. Two key questions for staff in the Fellowship department are:
1) How can we support Fellows and provide them with new opportunities to help further the RSA’s charitable objectives?
2) How can we recruit new Fellows who have the potential to help us deliver the RSA’s mission?
A large number of Fellows are willing to donate their time and expertise to help others with projects that aim to have a positive social impact, and many organisations that share similar goals to the RSA would welcome the opportunity to access this expertise. By partnering with these organisations the RSA can:
- Provide new engagement opportunities for Fellows
- Help further the charitable objectives of our partner organisations and so in turn further the charitable objectives of the RSA
- Raise our profile within new communities of individuals committed to positive social change, and recruit new Fellows from amongst these leaders and thinkers
- Contribute to the growing sense that the RSA Fellowship is made up of people with the inclination and the tools to intervene when solutions are needed.
Given the increasing value of partnerships I thought it would be useful to outline the RSA approach to collaborative working.
Selecting the right partner
Selecting the right partner is important and before moving forwards both organisations need to give some thought to the following questions:
- Can we create something we wouldn’t be able to create on our own?
- What do we want to gain from the partnership and how realistic is it that we will achieve our aim?
Honesty is the key to success. In most cases, it is useful to have a broad conversation at the initial exploratory meeting which covers what both organisations would like to achieve in an ideal world, and then work back from this to reach more realistic objectives.
Honesty is the key to success.
Getting it right at the beginning
Once both organisations have identified some potential areas for collaborative working, a number of steps should be taken before moving forwards. They are:
- Establish clarity of purpose – ensuring both organisations are clear on what the common purpose is as well as the shared objectives. It is easy to put in place very broad over-arching objectives; however these should be teased apart to be short, simple and specific.
- Establish roles and responsibilities – complex partnerships with different strands of work often have several people involved and so clarity of individual roles and responsibilities is important.
- Operational plan – put in place a plan which outlines what will be happening when, and who is responsible.
- Measures of success – ensuring that there is some system for measuring success against each objective.
- Review – agree an initial date to review the partnership to discuss progress against each objective.
- Memorandum of understanding – before commencing with the partnership a document outlining all of the above should be agreed – note this does not necessarily have to be a formal contract. This document is essential to ensuring the on-going success of the partnership and should form the basis of future review meetings.
Give and take
Partnerships tend to fall along a spectrum with more transactional partnerships at one end contrasting with much closer working relationships at the other. Partnerships are not static, and so there needs to be some flexibility regarding governance and processes. As a general rule, the more transactional the relationship the more you need strong governance (e.g. a contract for a reciprocal advertising arrangement across several forms of media), whereas more collaborative partnerships need to have greater flexibility built into the governance and processes.
Partnering with the RSA
If you would like to discuss partnering with the RSA please do get in touch.
For more guidance about partnerships and collaborative working, please do take a look at “Collaborative Leadership: How To Succeed in An Interconnected World” by David Archer FRSA and Alex Cameron. This publication is available from the RSA Library.
Adam Timmins is Deputy Head of Fellowship Partnerships at the RSA, you can contact him on email@example.com or @Im_AdamT. For more images please visit http://www.flickr.com/groups/rsa/