This is the second in a series of blogs exploring the work of Fellows across the world and is a guest blog by Alain Ruche, RSA Connector for Belgium.
With the Fellowship present in nearly 100 countries, and new ideas regularly springing up, we are in exciting times for the international impact of the RSA. If you would like to find out more or have ideas of your own, please contact Laura Southerland of the International team who will be happy to assist you.
As the European capital and a vibrant city, Brussels has great potential for growing a dynamic RSA Fellowship network. Since I joined the Society three years ago and became the RSA Connector for Belgium, I have been gathering Fellows at the wonderful Garage Culturel which my wife Olga, now a Fellow as well, is running at our place. With Olaf, the latest newcomer to the group, we have been stubbornly meeting on the first Friday of every month between 18.00 and 20.30 for about 8 months now.
Growing a community of Fellows outside of the UK is not without its challenges – we recently opted for organising a social event mixing Fellows with non-Fellows whom we believe might be interested in joining, or share the same values and interests as Fellows of the RSA. Among the attendees, were several accomplished artists (dancers, actors and a pianist); representatives of international organisations (British Council, Club of Rome), diplomats, academics, NGO professionals, social activists and EU officials – in total, 35 people representing 15 nationalities from four continents. The evening was lively and entertaining as we were able to hire a jazz band comprised of a number of talented young musicians.
We are now thinking of testing another approach with our network in order to invite discussion around important social issues. A member of the group will introduce a topic and initiate a meaningful conversation, followed by socialising for those who would like to stay on. We will adopt the ‘etiquette’ of the world’s cafes: connect, listen carefully, ask focused questions, look for new insights, allow for disagreement but avoid pushing individual agendas. Such a meeting would end with a concrete action that all involved can endeavor to undertake in the short term. We will be starting this new format in September and as RSA Connector, I will be introducing the first topic – ‘the role of culture in international relations.’
Then in late September we will welcome Michael Bauwens FRSA at the Garage to lead a conversation on the emerging collaborative paradigm of which he is himself a world-known actor, as founder of the P2P Foundation.
We remain persistent in our mission to raise the profile of the RSA in Brussels. We believe that we can have fun and meaningful conversations. The Garage is a great place to meet people and connect. I happen also to be a Fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar and of the Club of Rome EU Chapter, and a global ambassador of Kosmos Journal, but every one of us has useful connections to bring to the table. Recent research shows that connections within local neighbourhoods provide a more powerful means of relating to the world than long distance contacts.
Let’s build on this social capital together and see what emerges from it!
If you are a Fellow based in Brussels and would like to join the emerging Brussels network then get in touch with Alain, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the next meeting at the Garage Culturel is detailed below:
When? Thursday 25 September 2014, 7-10pm
Where? www.garageculturel.com, 79 rue D’Albanie, B-1060
Who? Michael Bauwens FRSA
About? The emerging P2P paradigm
Ignore the Star Trek reference. Over the coming months the Regions team will be expanding the RSA Engage series. Following recent events in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Stoke we are now introducing two types of format on a regular basis; Engage our large scale networking event for clusters of around 100 and Connect, our smaller focused sessions on a specific themes for 25 people. Both formats share two key ingredients for Engage all activity; structured networking combined with clear routes to engagement to the RSA.
We will be planning a calendar of this activity through to the end of next year and looking for venues prepared to host an RSA Engage event. Essential to the format are spaces with good transport links, easy to find, accessible to all and with welcoming facilities. The space doesn’t have to be private but not too noisy. We particularly want to hear from venues that mirror RSA aims and objectives, and could help develop projects. We have limited budget available for catering and refreshments but looking for venue support on a pro-bono basis. RSA Engage events are organised by staff.
A lot of people don’t get it, but I design from the inside out so that the finished product looks inevitable somehow. I think it’s important to create spaces that people like to be in, that are humanistic.
Fellows are welcome to recommend venues that meet these basic criteria. In return we aim to feature each acknowledged RSA space in a variety of ways profiled on the RSA website and highlighted at the relevant Engage event. Long-term we are also keen to offer these spaces for other Fellow-led activity including governance meetings, project sessions and events such as live-streaming creating a resource of recognised RSA Spaces for hosting activity. If you would like to recommend a venue for RSA Spaces send details to the Regional team email@example.com.
Head of Regions
This is a guest blog from Steve Coles FRSA, social enterprise expert and Fellowship Councillor who recently led us on a journey of love at one of our regular Social Entrepreneurs Network breakfast meetings.
My name’s Steve and I love my wife, my sons, being a Fellow of the RSA, being outside, my work, my friends, Jaffa Cakes and those that turned up to the recent Social Entrepreneurs’ Network meeting. We’d gathered for the monthly meeting of the Network and the topic for discussion was the role of love in social enterprise. Love was in the air. In fact, lots of different kinds of love were in the air.
Over the last few months, Intentionality CIC, (the social enterprise and well-being consultancy that I founded four years ago), has been conducting some research into the role of love in social enterprise as a motivator, shaper of organisational culture and business model, and the means and method by which personal and social change for the better comes about. David Floyd, a researcher, writer, blogger and FRSA, conducted 11 interviews with social entrepreneurs, commentators and supporters of social enterprise, and wrote up his findings for our ‘think piece’: Social Enterprise – What’s love got to do with it? It was this research that provided the theme of the June breakfast meeting.
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
Our response to climate change needs to bottom up, top-down, side to side, well regulated & collaborative
In yesterday’s Guardian article Lord Chris Smith, Outgoing Environment Agency Chair, said reduced funds and rising risks were an “inconvenient truth” and that failing to improve flood protection in the face of more frequent and extreme events presents a false economy. Last night he was at the RSA to announce his simple 12 point plan to combat climate change. You can see the full twelve points here but each of these can fit into just three categories; accepting climate change as an issue of global importance; strong leadership; collaborative working.
With over 2.5 million people either studying or working within our Higher Education system in the UK, there is a heightened need for social responsibiity to be imbedded in the core of our Universities if we are to move towards a more social economy.
The role of institutions such as Universities in creating stronger and more resilient citizens and communities is hugely important. Ben Lucas, Director of the 2020 Public Services Trust at the RSA, opened the event highlighting the importance of institutions and individuals working together within communities to develop social productivity approaches to public services. Ben introduced the social economy; what drives it; and the challenges facing it:
Exactly 100 years ago today the RSA voted to move from having members to having Fellows. On the surface this might seem like a simple name change, but it symbolized something deeper – that the RSA is a like-minded group of people, a Fellowship, committed to long lasting social change.
At the heart of much of the RSA’s contemporary mission is the question of how more of ‘us’ – the public – can get effectively engaged in solving some of the shared challenges we face. In some ways this has always been implicit in the RSA’s development, but there have been times on this journey when this question has become more explicit. Now is such a time as we face the decline of mass participation in some collective institutions – such as unions, the church and political parties – and new forms of engagement and communication.
One hundred years ago, political participation was the route through which a person could change the world and being a member of a political party was a statement about how you wanted society to be. The RSA did not have a political ideology (though individual Fellows might), but it Read more
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
I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up to attend the RSA’s Innovating for Culture and Communities event: “How do we innovate for purpose on the south coast?” Only recently have I become a Fellow of the RSA, and having spent the past 20+ years working in private sector innovation, non-profit innovation was new to me.
To set the scene, we were approximately 25 people gathered to hear 5 speakers talk about their projects, why they got involved, and how they’re creatively addressing challenges. Projects included ‘hiSbe’ the new socially conscious supermarket in Brighton, the Brighton Science Festival, Hastings Pier, the Beacon Hub Project, and the Saltdean Lido project. No PowerPoint slides – this was an open and honest conversation, fuelled by each speaker’s passion for their projects.
Time passes quickly. Too Quickly.
I am always reminded of this when election period returns for another year. During 2014 we have major Fellowship elections taking place both for Fellowship Council and the Trustee Board all part of the RSA governance structure.
Fellowship Council is an advisory forum made up of 40 Fellows from different regions and sectors. Council works to support, promote and broaden awareness of the RSA. There are three opportunities for Fellows to consider standing for:
- Regional Chairs lead the activities in a Region/Nation and develop a two-year rolling development plan amongst other duties.
- Regional Fellowship Councillors leads on activity to bring Fellows together. They are part of a core team that leads each area, acting as a deputy to the Chair.
- Councillor-at-large roles contribute to the RSA’s mission through a particular specialism and expertise, joining up activity across the Fellowship.
If you are interested in standing for Council nominations open on the 24 June. From this date information packs outlining the process, clarifying roles and responsibilities as well as the forms necessary to complete will all be available. Nomination papers for both Council and Trustee positions will need to be submitted by the 16 July and these roles are open to all Fellows.
The Trustee Board is the governing body of the charity and oversees all its activities. The Trustees have ultimate responsibility for organisational strategy, resourcing, risk management and the supervision of all the RSA’s business affairs.
Each of the 14 RSA Regions & Nations elects a Fellowship councillor and a Regional Chair who lead activity and who also sit on the Fellowship Council. In addition the whole Fellowship votes for seven ‘At Large’ Fellowship Councillors and Trustee Board candidates. Voting will take place during September closing just before the RSA AGM.
If you are interested in standing for any of the roles outlined above and supporting the work of the RSA please do get in touch, I am happy to respond to any initial queries and all staff are happy to talk through the opportunities and responsibilities involved.
Head of Regions