At the RSA, we always set out to engage, connect and inspire Fellows across the UK and now we will be using a new event format to boost this. Our RSA Engage series has been turbo charged for 2015- moving from its trial phase in 2014 to become a cornerstone of our activity.
The Engage series is a national programme of events aimed at showcasing RSA activity and providing space for our Fellows to meet, share their ideas and offer support to Fellow-led projects in a simple and structured way. To give you a flavour of what we have in store, here are some of my favourite stories from 2014.
Okay, so this isn’t a story, rather a call out for you to create the story. 2014 Engage pilots saw a raft of great people and ideas brought together. 2015 is going to be bigger and better through our Engage and Connect events will have created space for 184 project pitches and 44 Connect discussion slot. That’s 228 potential new ideas to be discussed and shared. These events are free and open to all, so do invite friends and colleagues that are keen to find out more about the RSA.
Imagine a world where we don’t throw anything away. Everything is reused, composted or recycled and people living on the same street work together and share resources.
Katy Anderson FRSA from social enterprise Cwm Harry is working towards this vision of a zero waste world through The Rubbish Diet, the UK’s slimming club for bins. She would like to invite Fellows across the UK to join the thousands of people who are helping bringing zero waste closer by committing to a completely new kind of New Year’s Diet.
Across the UK, huge amounts of valuable recyclable materials are being lost to landfill and incineration. In West London, where the Rubbish Diet is working in six boroughs, 67% of the waste sent to landfill could have been recycled.
It goes to landfill by train, the waste train is one-third of a mile long, taking 1,000 tonnes of “rubbish”, six days a week. 1,000,000 recyclable bottles a week go to landfill every week on the train, when they could have been made into new bottles and been back on the supermarket shelves in just 3 weeks.
How does it work?
Anyone can join The Rubbish Diet by taking an easy online challenge to slim their bins. The Diet will motivate you to set a goal and measure your progress by tackling two simple steps over just a few weeks.
You’ll receive emails with great tips on how to recycle to the max, make the most of your food and avoid waste altogether. Dieters experience very quickly the positive difference their actions make to their waste and they are encouraged to share their ideas and questions, creating a whole new conversation about waste reduction and the positive impact it has on our lives.
Dieters then spread the word amongst their friends and family, and so the Diet grows…
Crucially, The Rubbish Diet tackles the issues that make it hard to avoid waste – this quarter we’re focusing on packaging, culminating with a workshop at the Resource Event on Thursday 5 March 2015.
On average people slim their bins by 40% on the Diet, and the change is permanent. Slimming your bin will save you money as you’ll reduce food waste and start reusing more, and it has obvious benefits for the environment – food waste alone in the UK is the equivalent of one in four cars on our roads in terms of carbon emissions.
Thousands of people have already taken the Rubbish Diet across UK, taking it online, in collaboration with their whole street or in a group. Jackie and Howard from Shrewsbury took the Diet with their street, meeting to talk rubbish with their neighbours over tea and cake. They now have slim bins, run clothes swaps and share trips to the recycling centre, and have gotten to know their neighbours! Since they started two years ago, they’ve saved 6 tonnes from landfill.
Simon who shrank his overflowing wheelie bin by two thirds said:
“I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved – you could heat the house on my smugness. The whole family is loving our weekly trip to the market where we can buy food with less packaging, and save money too”.
Taking a close look at what we throw away has a real impact on our lifestyles. As Dieter Sarah from Harrow explains.
“I thought I was good at recycling, but The Rubbish Diet Challenge has really made a big impact on how I view, well, everything in fact. It’s really changed my life. It made me think about the make do and mend culture that everyone had back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. I am much more careful about what I buy, and I reuse and mend much more than I used to. ”
The Rubbish Diet solution finally provides a structured, yet fun, community based way to recycle. Sign-up and let Katy know how you think it could be shared in your area.
I recently travelled up to Alloa in Clackmannanshire to support a Fellow-led project named Resonate. Now, Clackmannanshire (and particularly Alloa) is not an area that receives much attention in Scotland, let alone further afield – until relatively recently my knowledge of it had consisted of the football team, personal attendance at the beer festival and their world leading work in phonics – so it great to see such an inspiring project thriving in that area, making a tangible difference to the people in their community. Although it ostensibly started off as a community arts project, Resonate acts as so much more now – it is a vibrant, inclusive heart of its community, passionately supported by service users, creative, activists and other brilliant people. I was in Alloa, on this occasion, to provide for support for Resonate as they have been put forward for a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and Johnny Stewart, the Lord Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, was visiting the project to assess its suitability. So a group of us gathered with mugs of coffee and pastries in hand, ready to meet with the Lord Lieutenant and answer his questions about Resonate.
Help kickstart increased access to arts and gender equality in the UK theatre – All female Richard III production aims to change the conversation
Filed under: Arts and Society, Fellowship
Fellow Yvonne Murphy guest blogs about her all female production of Richard III. Read about her plans and find out how you can help make it happen.
I am a new RSA & Clore Fellow and I run Omidaze Productions. I am staging an all-female production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff in February 2015 and I need your support. I have launched an RSA Kickstarter campaign because we literally cannot afford to pay everyone we want to be involved and make it happen as planned unless we reach our target and I need your support.
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!
How do you celebrate 100 years of Fellowship? How about finding 100 younger people to join the RSA as Fellows?
On 24 September the RSA’s new Centenary Young Fellowship scheme was launched to celebrate the centenary year of Fellowship. 100 budding young changemakers joined the Fellowship to support the RSA’s ethos of ‘Enriching society through ideas and action’. To help turn ideas into action we often need a great deal of support, so we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who contributed to this scheme. Our new Centenary Young Fellows (CYFs) are spread across the country with a range of skills and experiences and I have no doubt we will be seeing the emergence of numerous exciting projects from them CYFs over the coming years. Read about some of this cohorts’ current work and offer your support on our website.
One month from today, and for the first time, the RSA will be participating in the Children’s Commissioner’s nationwide Takeover Day. 60 students from our five Family of Academies, all based in the West Midlands, will be descending on the RSA to partake in a packed programme of activities and get stuck into some real decision-making. The aim of Takeover Day is to provide children and young people with experience of the world of work, while also giving them the opportunity to have a voice in the various organisations taking part – RSA Academies are very excited to be able to facilitate the active involvement of our academy students with the RSA in this way. Read more
Filed under: Fellowship, Recovery, Social Economy
Leeds-based fellow Rob Greenland updates us on the progress of Leeds Empties, which the RSA recently supported with a £5,000 Catalyst grant.
You probably have an idea as to what an empty home looks like. Boarded-up, semi-derelict, with an overgrown front garden. And it’ll probably not be the only empty home on the street.
The reality, at least in Leeds, is very different. Perhaps 10% of our 5000 long-term empty homes look like this. The rest are empty – but in appearance are no different to any other house on the street.
That’s not to say they’re not a problem. They’ll be costing the owners money – and, whilst there’s a chronic housing shortage, it’s a wasted resource.
More often than not the owner would like to bring their home back into use, but they don’t know where to start. That’s where our Empty Homes Doctor service comes in. Read more
This guest blog is from Dr Elizabeth McClelland, who became a Fellow in January 2014. Elizabeth has been working with RSA Education on plans to expand her programme Move4Words to many more schools in England. You can contact her at www.move4words.org.uk where you also find out more about the research evidence.
I was a research scientist in a former life – Royal Society Research fellow for 10 years at Department of Earth Sciences, Oxford University, then University Lecturer and Director of the Palaeomagnetism research laboratory at Oxford between 1997 and 2003. In 1998, I suddenly became very ill with an unknown virus which temporarily robbed me of the ability to speak coherently, to understand speech or written language or to control my muscles properly. All my facilties came back over the following couple of months, except my ability to read fluently. I could read single words, but couldn’t make sense of a paragraph. I was still lecturing at Oxford, I could do my numerical research, gave talks at conferences and even touch-typed a couple of papers (although was unable to proof-read them). It was incredibly frustrating. Eventually, I found a private physio who used a physical activity programme to help children with dyslexia, and she showed me that I’d lost the ability to control my eye movements, and had lost some cross-body muscular control. She showed me some simple physical and visual exercises, which I practised several times a day, and, remarkably, my reading started to improve after a couple of weeks, and within 2 months it was back to my original rapid reading. It was so dramatic, I vowed to find out more and to do what I could to help others in the same way.
In the most recent RSA Journal, I read with interest the piece on competition by Margaret Heffernan – particularly, the part that describes an experiment designed to engineer a ‘super flock’ of hens. To see whether increased competition would create higher levels of production, geneticist William Muir pulled the top egg-producing hens out of a regular flock and put them together. After just two generations of this new flock, the results were remarkable – six of the super hens had been pecked to death by the remaining three, whilst the original flock was performing better than ever.
This experiment suggests that if you only value the so-called ‘cream of the crop’ you are probably missing a trick or two. Societies need variety and balance in order to function healthily – you simply can’t have everybody doing the same thing, no matter how valuable it is deemed.
The article got me thinking about our education system and the levels of competition and selection. My own experience saw my peers divided into two camps at age 11: clever, and not so clever. Even for those who weren’t required to take the dreaded 11+, academic pressure remains a dominant feature of school life. Certainly, an element of competition can be motivating, but just as the ‘cream’ ought not to be scooped off the top and isolated at their own expense, nor should the rest feel their particular strengths have no value to society.
Many of the RSA Fellows I’ve met over the past year have been teachers, and all were unequivocally passionate about the difference a good education can have on the trajectory of a person’s life. Whatever the challenges in the classroom might be, Fellows have a wealth of ideas about where improvements can be made that will potentially transform the confidence of their students.
One such teacher is Jo Taylor FRSA, who, having participated in Teach First’s leadership programme, has gone on to co-found Wall Display – an education project which has recently applied for an RSA Catalyst grant.
“As a teacher I saw how much of a difference an engaged parent could make to their child’s aspirations. I also saw how hard it was for parents to be involved in their child’s education. I wanted to create a way for them to see the great things their children were doing.”
With children from disadvantaged schools, parental disengagement can be a big problem because if the parent had a bad experience at school themselves, they may be less inclined to encourage their children to participate. Many of these parents may have become disengaged because they did not perform well in exams, and with the continual emphasis on exams and grades, it’s increasingly important for teachers to find ways to celebrate the diversity of students’ skills and ensure they do not become disenchanted with learning altogether.
Wall Display has addressed this issue by creating an online platform for teachers to share their pupils’ work in such a way that it displays the creativity and individuality of the work whilst pushing it beyond the boundaries of the classroom.
“Students can get really demotivated producing amazing work which nobody ever sees, the idea is that Wall Display provides them with an audience for what they do in school.”
When teachers post work from students, members of the general public can give badges to work they like and other teachers can offer feedback.
I think this responsive aspect of the project is critical because if your teacher does not like your work, it might feel like theirs is the only opinion that counts. Wall Display’s strength is that it allows an array of opinions to reach the students – an experience which is far more representative of life after school.
Jo spoke about the progress of the project at a recent RSA Engage event, and asked other Fellows to get involved in the following ways:
- Do you know a teacher or school who might like to use Wall Display?
- Do you know anyone who works for Ofsted or an education body?
- Do you know any business leaders who are passionate about education?
The RSA has partnered with Teach First for seven years, and we are able to offer a reduced rate of Fellowship for all Teach First participants – contact Alex Barker for more information.