The Big Idea: The times they are a changing

November 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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It’s been a pretty exciting time to live in Scotland recently. The small matter of the referendum on independence and its implicThe Kelpiesations 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!

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100 x 107 = A formula for the future of Fellowship?

October 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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How do you celebrate 100 years of Fellowship? How about finding 100 younger people to join the RSA as Fellows?

IMG_7801On 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.

 

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RSA Academies students set to take over the RSA

October 21, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

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

Leeds Empties: RSA Catalyst-supported project

leeds empties logoLeeds-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.
leeds empties
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

Using insights from neuroscience in education: using the body to improve thinking skills

October 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

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.

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From Eggs to Education: why diversity allows the flock to flourish

October 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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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 golden-egg180x180hens. 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.”

The public can award badges to work they like

The public can award badges to work they like

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?

If you’d like to know more about Wall Display, help Jo or get involved then you can contact him at contact@walldisplay.org, or find out more on their website: http://walldisplay.org

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.

The role of men in supporting women into leadership

October 2, 2014 by · 2 Comments
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This blog was originally posted on the College of Arts & Humanities, University of Brighton, blog. Read the original post. This comes in advance of next week’s event run by RSA Brighton and Hove. Find out more or and book your place at the event.

What role should men play in supporting more women into leadership?

Following on from the success of RSA Brighton and Hove’s recent How Women Lead event, this follow-up talk is chaired by CEO of Brighton & Hove City Council Penny Thompson CBE. A deliberately-chosen all-male panel will contribute their views and take audience questions in this lively debate.

Contributing their views and taking audience questions in this lively debate are:

  • Simon Fanshawe OBE, writer and broadcaster
  • Michael Edwards, CEO, Albion in the Community
  • Giles York, Chief Constable, Sussex Police
  • Richard Upton, CEO, Cathedral Group
  • James Rowlands, Brighton & Hove Violence against Women Commissioner.

This event is open to both Fellows and non-Fellows and the bar is open from 6.30pm to 9.30pm – book your place now. You can follow the event on Twitter using the hashtag #howwomenlead. This event is organised by Brighton and Hove RSA in partnership with the University of Brighton College of Arts and Humanities.

What role should men play in supporting more women into leadership? Pre-event Q&A

“Structures are in place to enable women to succeed, however, we sometimes struggle to hold the managers to account to ensure they abide by the structures with creating a flexible working place that accommodates different needs at different times.”

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How to Get People Voting Again

September 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Voter turnout declined steadily for decades until 1997 when it nose-dived, only to turn upwards again in the last two elections.  While a number of factors influence how people vote, such as the perceived closeness of the result, the general trend is downwards and the heady days where over 80% of the electorate voted seems unimaginable now.

Falling voter turnout at General Elections

Falling voter turnout at General Elections

The irony is that the greater the number of people who think there’s no point in voting, the more wrong they become. Read more

Creativity in public services

August 18, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

This is a guest blog from London-based RSA Fellow Steven Trevillion. Steve is interested in connecting with like-minded Fellows with a view to establishing a framework for small, experimental social and community projects that could feed into the national debate about ‘welfare reform’. He is an Emeritus Professor of Social Work at the University of East London and a visual artist.

We are constantly told that public services are in a state of crisis. The NHS, social work, Children’s Services, Adult Social Care, housing and even education are deemed by most observers to be in a state of more or less permanent crisis.

The search is on not just for ways of improving existing services but for ways of transforming them. George Osborne, Eric Pickles and a number of other government ministers have made it clear that nothing less than “transformation” is their goal. And this is not just the usual stuff about partnerships and collaboration. The big idea is that public services will become innovation hotspots. And a commitment to innovation means a commitment to creativity. Our own RSA has been at the forefront in recognising this as witnessed by the title of this year’s talk by Matthew Taylor: ‘The Power to Create’. This all sounds great. Who could possibly object to creativity as the way forward for public services? Unfortunately, the evidence suggests quite a lot of people. 

Who could possibly object to creativity as the way forward for public services?

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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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