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
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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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The Big Idea: Is this the age of no retirement?

July 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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This is a guest blog from Jonathan Collie FRSA who recently set up Trading Times to remodel our opportunities for retirement in the 21st century. Find out about his latest project ‘The Age of the No Retirement’, which is looking for crowdfunding support to make it a reality.

Living longer presents opportunities for all of us - the young as well as the old – for employers, for designers, for innovators. I want to get rid of unhelpful stereotypes, change the language and replace the iconography that incorrectly portray a society that is living longer as one that is old. This issue affects us all. Everyone should be involved, from every sector of society, beyond the typical policy makers, academics and the age-sector organisations.

‘The Age of No Retirement?’ is Britain’s first ever national conference to debate & revalue our opportunities in retirement. Gathering experts, policy makers, key stakeholders and the public we will explore retirement and the opportunities we can provide in an ageing, technological and engaged society.

Our conference is supported by the Department for Work and Pensions, numerous ‘ageing-positive’ organisations and multinational corporations but needs the public’s support if we are to reach our final £35000 crowdfunding target and launch at the Oxo Tower in October.

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Global Fellowship in Action: the RSA in Brussels!

July 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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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.

Garage Culturel 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 ruche_alain@yahoo.fr. 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

 

Spaces & Engage : A new frontier

July 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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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.

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 networks@rsa.org.uk.

 

Vivs Long-Ferguson

Head of Regions

Viv.long-ferguson@rsa.org.uk

@vivslf

Social Enterprise: What’s love got to do with it?

July 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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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 mumfords quote croppedmeeting.  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.
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Celebrating 100 Years FRSA

June 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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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.

Juan Guerra FRSA wins the Centenary Project Award for Student Funder

Juan Guerra FRSA wins the Centenary Venture Award for StudentFunder

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.

Fellows were asked to write a message of support for their chosen project

Fellows were asked to write a message of support for their chosen project

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 – alexandra.barker@rsa.org.uk

 

Our response to climate change needs to bottom up, top-down, side to side, well regulated & collaborative

June 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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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.

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Higher Education meets the Social Economy

June 25, 2014 by · 4 Comments
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books and skyHow can higher education contribute to the development of the social economy and what can this sector offer to the agendas of universities?

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.

I recently  went to find out more about the role higher education institutions can play in the social economy at an event we held in partnership with the University of Manchester and UnLtd.

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:

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