The Christmas before last, I read a very important book called The Social Entrepreneur by Lord Andrew Mawson, charting his journey transforming a church in Bromley-by-Bow, East London into a centre delivering arts, healthcare and education services. The overriding lessons for me were a) the success of mobilising untapped creativity and cash in communities to tackle social problems and b) using church space outside of congregation time is as good a place as any to start. I was reminded of Andrew’s work by two Fellows’ ventures supported by Catalyst who have taken a similar approach.
The first venture is led by Francis Davis FRSA to use excess faith-run spaces to incubate start-up or growth businesses and social enterprises, initially across the Solent region but developed for replication by every faith-based centre. He was supported by Catalyst to find nine Fellows who stepped forward to be designated mentors for the businesses. Last week I went down to the Portsmouth Cathedral Innovation Centre and saw Francis launching community shares in the fund investing in the start-ups, with Baroness Berridge, Minister for Employment Mark Hoban and Dean of Portsmouth Cathedral David Brindley there to commit to be the fund’s first investors.
Creating wealth is a good thing, employing people is a good thing, and I think it’s really important that the cathedral gets involved so that the capitalists, the people who make the wealth of the future, do it in a way that’s more socially responsible than we’ve seen in the past – Baroness Berridge, backer of Cathedral Innovation Centre, speaking on Radio 4
The second is The Sunday Assembly who run big public meetings with the aim of helping people to “live better, help often, wonder more”. They get people together in churches and other available spaces to sing pop songs, meet their neighbours, hear how they can help out with local community projects and listen to inspiring speakers to teach them more about the world they live in. As co-founder and RSA Fellow Sanderson Jones put it: “Atheists make a mistake to look at church and throw it all out just because they don’t believe in God.” Mobilising other faith spaces will be crucial to the ability to scale the assemblies to other communities. An encouraging sign came when one Assembly in North London dovetailed with a church service, the Bishop was very encouraged by the Assembly: “in the process of time, with love people will come to know the God that we serve.”
Of course the guardian could not resist citing experts who say “I do think it’s going to appeal only to one particular section of the community… a middle-class cultural elite” and “atheist churches were formed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but petered out because people found other forms of social organisation that suited them better”. What Mawson said is relevant to these critiques: “start with people and action rather than research… avoid paralysis by analysis.” Sanderson is getting on with it and with the help of a Catalyst grant wants to provide clear instructions to help others launch Sunday Assemblies in communities across the world.
Atheists make a mistake to look at church and throw it all out just because they don’t believe in God – Sanderson Jones FRSA, co-founder of The Sunday Assembly
I wanted to end with what Lord Mawson had learned from building his Bromley-by-Bow centre, which I think sums up what Catalyst is about, supporting RSA Fellows to try out new ventures. He said that: “answers to macro-political questions must be sought in the micro-experience of local activity… rewarding those who bother to get off their backsides to work together on practical projects and discouraging those who want to take the lazy, pontificating, seminar-attending approach.”
Sunday’s episode of Channel 4’s Secret Millions series focused on a venture supported by RSA Catalyst. Led by Fellows, it aims to reduce reoffending by making offenders more employable: manufacturing and assembling quality furniture during the time that is often spent sitting in cells and being unemployed on release. The venture was selected by the RSA’s Social Entrepreneurs Network to be part of their Spotlight initiative and it also made perfect sense to me that this was the first Catalyst-funded idea to make it onto primetime television:
The size of the problem
Recent figures published by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) (1) underlines the positive impact that securing a job on release can have on reoffending rates – they are lowered by more than 50% if employment is found upon release among those serving short term (less than 12 month) prison sentences. A previous MOJ survey found that 68% of prisoners said having a job was the biggest factor in helping them to stop offending (2).
While some employers such as Virgin, M&S and Greggs have taken a lead in employing offenders, many employers remain nervous, often irrespective of the nature of their crime, their skills-set and real (rather than perceived) risks. This will at some point affect the almost 100,000 prisoners in the UK and the roughly 1.25m benefit claimants and 0.5m JSA recipients who have been cautioned or convicted (3). Their difficulty in finding a job will also increase as the labour market moves online (difficult to access in prisons).
The programme brushed over the difficulty of negotiating the bureaucracy of the prison service when helping prisoners to get employability skills through work in prisons:
- As Kate Welch (one of the two RSA Fellows who co-founded the venture in the programme, Reap & Sow) explained, owing to the responsibility that a Governor has over an individual prison, expanding a social enterprise would take considerable time persuading each Governor;
- There are also problems in that the longest a working day is allowed to be in many prisons is 5 hours long. Even those hours are restricted by staff shortages and emergencies/searches. This Howard League publication discusses some of the institutional barriers in more detail;
- Selecting the right people who have the skills for the job can take time. And getting the data on how they do upon release is also not easy – as a Fellow voiced at a recent Social Entrepreneurs Network event.
Some of these barriers are reducing as government sees it as more of a priority to “Make Prisons Work.”
(Presenter:) It’s a product with a conscience, do you think that’s a selling point?”
(Furniture retailer:) “To have a strong story behind a product is always very good”
(P:) “We were looking to sell it for about £1000…”
(FR:) “I think that’s feasible”
(P:) “How would you feel about having this in your shop. Is that something you would consider?”
Turning problems into opportunities
It was genuinely encouraging to see that some key elements of the social enterprise these Fellows wanted to test appeared to be viable. The furniture retailer interviewed signalled that the £1000 price-tag for the furniture was commercially-viable. The retailer also said that the social side of the enterprise – it was helping turn around the lives of the offenders – was a selling point. This echoed with what I heard from the CEO of Blue Sky Development. They have employed more than 500 ex-offenders since 2005 and 60% of the business is funded by delivering commercial work (4), in which he said firms are keen to take part.
Not only can the “turning-around-lives” line help sell products, but it also helps reduce some of the costs of producing them. Reap & Sow made use of the RSA Fellowship’s cultural partnership with Northumbria University to get students and designers in residence at arguably the top design school in the country to do the designs (helped along by our Catalyst grant award).
One interesting dimension comes in the form of studies that show ex-offenders display more entrepreneurial traits than average. It is this kind of evidence, when combined with problems set out above that has informed the RSA’s Transitions project, which is working with a prison in Yorkshire to test a new approach. It is aiming to provide prisoners and ex-offenders with resettlement services alongside opportunities for work and skills development both in custody employing ex-offenders on site and on release, with the assumption that some people will become ‘sole traders’ but will need support on developing their business, while others will go into employment but will sometimes need additional support. (Here’s a recent post from our Chief Exec on its importance and progress.)
There have already been smaller-scale successes by focusing on self-employment: Startup has supported 230 clients into self-employment and their clients have a re-offending rate of under 5% (5). Baillie Aaron FRSA set up Venturing Out which helping offenders plan micro-enterprises in prison. She now runs Spark Inside, who provide life coaching to young offenders before and after they leave prisons. Spark Inside believes that coaching can help ex-offenders break down long-term goals into small steps; for example how to use what might at first look like a dead-end low-paid job to build up the sufficient skills and capital needed to launch a business.
The RSA as a Catalyst
Many start-ups fail and we don’t expect every project that we support through Catalyst to become a gigantic social enterprise. Reap & Sow has been put on hold because of a breakdown in the working relationship of the two Fellows who co-founded it (which is why you never heard the words “Reap & Sow” and the programme is quite unclear where the idea came from, whether it was via Acumen Trust or Katie Piper herself). But given the success of the first batch of production both for the ex-offenders and the response from retailers the Fellows are looking to make tweaks to the model and set up new vehicles to take it forward.
As well as supporting the success of individual ventures, we hope that Catalyst-funded ventures offer lessons to others trying to tackle a similar social problem. Getting the venture’s concept out to a primetime audience of at least a million will inspire others to run something similar and increase the demand for products made by ex-offenders.
There are some fascinating stories in the programme, not least the attitudes of the presenter who was herself a victim of serious crime. You’ve got 26 days to watch it and if I haven’t persuaded you, I’ll let Dostoyevsky: “The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”
If you want to get in touch with Kate Welch, you can do so via firstname.lastname@example.org
RSA Transitions is doing a feasibility study to deliver a site next to HMP Everthorpe. If you are interested in finding out more see here or get in touch with Rachel O’Brien RachelO.email@example.com
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?
The seed-bed for ideas: a selection of lectures, events and networks leading to new connections and collaborations
The following are just a few of the events coming up in the next couple of weeks – to see the full list check out the Google Calendar on the where you are pages on our website (where you can also find more details + add the events to your own calendar). You can also stay tuned via @RSAevents for the lectures at John Adam Street and #FRSA for events in the field.
- Re-Imagining Work: Shifts in the digital revolution
- The Self Illusion: The brain’s greatest con trick?
- Redesigning the Future
- Developing the Raspberry Pi Project – RSA Derby
…and here are a couple of recent worthwhile blog posts you may have missed:
- An interview with Rosemary Squire FRSA: Britain’s16th most powerful woman - by Alice Dyke
- Whitley Arts – Creating a platform for budding creatives - by Richard Pickford
Fellows in action
RSA Catalyst keeps going from strength to strength – and I thought I’d just briefly update on a couple of Fellow-led ventures that seem to be doing exceedingly well:
The National Funding Scheme – aka – #don8to, launched with an incredible buzz at the South Bank Centre and you can find a few pictures from it on the RSA Flickr group (and add your own if you were there). Then there was of course also this tweet which undoubtedly helped the news reach far and wide:
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) March 27, 2013
When GoodPeople launched just over a month ago they set themselves a target of 500 opportunities posted by the end of April. Right now, they are closing in on 300 opportunities – so there’s not far to go. The team out of Wales Cymru is running an pilot to see how this tool might be used by RSA Regions & Nations to accelerate skills sharing – meanwhile, why not dip in and try yourself:
- You can share an idea
- You can promote your startup and then mention the type of talent / volunteers / partners you want to attract
- You can ask to connect with an expert
- You can post an internship opportunity (Not sure how to structure it? Be inspired here: thersa.org/about-us/internships)
…and you can of course also help by simply spreading the word.
William Makower FRSA has set up the National Funding Scheme which was supported with two grants totalling £7,000 from RSA Catalyst. Our grants helped William develop graphics and a demo for launch events. In this guest blog William sets out the thinking behind the idea and how Fellows can get involved:
There are 5 spaces left for tickets to the press event on Wednesday 27 March (8.30am -10am) at the Southbank Centre, London and 15 tickets for the evening reception (6-8pm). If you would like to attend either please email John Foster-Hill. These will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
DONATE, from the National Funding Scheme (a registered charity) is designed to make it easy to give to cultural causes that inspire and move us when at a gallery, museum, heritage site, by using a mobile phone.
As Sir Paul Ruddock, supporter of The National Funding Scheme and Chairman of the Trustees of the Victoria & Albert Museum, said:
”The UK has some of the strongest and most diverse cultural organisations in the world but we need to ensure that we make it easy for visitors to give and show their appreciation. The National Funding Scheme, something I am hugely supportive of, enables us all to easily make a donation to specific causes by using our phones at those moments when we want to give. It has the potential to not only bring in incremental money, but also to do so from the younger generation.”
We need to ensure that we make it easy for visitors to give and show their appreciation… The National Funding Scheme enables us all to easily make a donation, whilst identifying specific causes, by using our phones at those moments when we want to give.
The National Funding Scheme has come to life after research showed that to encourage people to give to cultural causes two things need to happen:
a) the ‘ask’ needs to be made at the point of emotional impact (at the gallery, on the national trail etc.)
b) giving must be friction free, enabled by easy and straightforward ways of giving.
This is delivered through two elements of DONATE. First, the templated signs that provide both an explanation why the venue/cause is in need of support as well as an individual code that identifies donations as being for that specific cause. Second, a full range of payment options (including text, credit/debit cards and PayPal) which can be initiated by a user using QR codes, contactless technology or directly entering the web address.
The National Funding Scheme delivers two other crucial benefits. Incredibly powerful data sets will allow venues to understand the type of people that are giving to them, their giving patterns and how they might encourage additional support. To this end, we are also creating Culture Juice (part of the National Funding Scheme), to provide our partners with expert resource and knowledge in the fields of online giving, digital communication, fundraising, cultural insight etc. so that they can best use this newly available data.
The National Funding Scheme is therefore much more than a means to donate. It has been designed to democratise giving, provide data behaviour insights to the sector and support the sector in growing individual philanthropy.
DONATE goes live on 28th March with our launch partners and goes national at the end of this year.
As an RSA Fellow you can help in a number of ways:
- Attend the launch event (see top of this blog)
- Provide us with your feedback
- Encourage your local arts / heritage / cultural charity to sign up. There is no joining or annual fee to be part of DONATE
- Offer your help to Culture Juice by getting in touch
- DONATE at a participating organization
- Join our Twitter feed (@NFSUK) or participate on our Facebook page
Learn more at www.nationalfundingscheme.org (new site from 27 March).
Rob Greenland is one of our Fellows in the Yorkshire area working with his local community. He is one of the successful applicants to RSA Catalyst, the RSA’s seed fund for Fellows’ early stage ideas seeking to find solutions to today’s challenges. He is running Leeds Empties, a project which Rob has blogged about here:
The Big idea: Leeds Empties aims to bring people together to develop a range of enterprising approaches to bringing hundreds more of Leeds’ 5000 long-term empty homes back into use.
About the project
We launched Leeds Empties in 2012 with a ‘Call To Action’ – and more than 100 people joined us for the day to explore enterprising ways to bring more empties back into use.
The Call To Action also featured a “Pledge-A-Thon” – hosted by TV architect and empty homes campaigner George Clarke – with more than 20 local business pledging thousands of pounds worth of support to bring back into use an empty home recently purchased by a local social enterprise. The Call To Action also attracted lots of media coverage – we were lead story on local BBC news all day.
Since then we’ve developed the ideas that were explored at the Call To Action, and with support from Leeds City Council, an RSA Catalyst Award and Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy Fund we’re now ready to fully launch during Leeds Empties Week later this month (18th and 22nd March.)
The aim of the Week is to engage a wide range of people in bringing empty homes back into use – and we’re keen to involve RSA Fellows, particularly around the following themes:
- Attracting investment – eg through community share issues
- Green homes – ensuring empty homes are renovated to high environmental standards
- Jobs, training and apprenticeships – in particular for young people
- Support for social ventures – supporting existing social enterprises and encouraging new self-help schemes
The Catalyst grant is helping us to engage more local Fellows, primarily by supporting our Leeds Empties Week launch event. This is vital as the success of the Leeds Empties approach depends on us making the most of the wide range of skills that local people can bring to help us to tackle this complex social issue. Our role is to encourage people to get involved – and then to help them to work out how best to use their expertise to contribute towards tackling the empty homes problem. The grant is also contributing towards a Leeds Empties website which will help us involve more people in turning empty properties into decent family homes.
The success of the Leeds Empties approach depends on us making the most of the wide range of skills that local people can bring to help us to tackle this complex social issue.
How you can get involved
Fellows can find out more by coming to our Leeds Empties Week launch on Monday 18th March – which is supported by the RSA, where Chair of the RSA’s Yorkshire Region Pam Warhurst will talk about Leeds Empties in the context of the RSA’s aspirations for Yorkshire as an Incredible Region, investing in enterprise and self-belief.
Finally you can contact me, Rob Greenland FRSA by email or by calling 07905 800 710.
This is a great project taking place in Leeds and hope you’ll be able to make it. If you are a Fellow based in Yorkshire and the North East, and have an idea you would like to connect with other Fellows about or which you think might be eligible for Catalyst funding, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional Programme Manager, North East & Yorkshire
The Big Idea: giving young people in Suffolk their say about education in the county
At the moment, educational attainment in Suffolk is well below the national average, and the local authority is determined to do something about it. Since last year, the RSA has been working with Suffolk County Council on Raising the Bar, an ambitious inquiry that aims to understand what needs to change – and then put that knowledge into practice.
Trying to balance careful research and practical experimentation is a common theme of the RSA’s work. Often these aims make strange bedfellows, partly because the skills and attitudes you need to understand a problem aren’t necessarily the same as those that help solve it. The RSA has one huge advantage over other organisations trying to achieve this blend, though, and that’s our Fellowship: 27,000 skilled, practically-minded people who want to support our charitable mission.
From the beginning, Fellows in Suffolk have been enthusiastic supporters of our work on Raising the Bar. They even went as far as organising a working dinner last November to help source ideas for how to start improving education on the ground. But one of the best things about RSA Fellows is that they don’t just help: they also challenge. And although they welcomed the Inquiry, local Fellows – led by Dr Emma Bond, a lecturer in childhood and youth studies at University Campus Suffolk, and Fellowship Councillor Suzanna Pickering – felt that it had not done enough to consider young people’s views about their education.
About the project
In response, they created Shout Out Suffolk: a project that asks young people under twenty for their views on learning, and what would make it better. They applied successfully for RSA Catalyst funding to help finance the project, and are working closely with the RSA education team and Suffolk County Council to make sure their work is fully integrated with the Inquiry.
“If we are really going to grasp why Suffolk is failing to meet the educational needs of young people,” Emma says, “we need to understand what their educational experiences are like and we need to listen to their views, as they are the very people who are going to be affected.”
Emma and her team are encouraging young people to answer three simple questions: what learning is like in Suffolk; what young people hope for in their lives; and what will make those things happen. If you look at the submissions so far on Pinterest (all edited to ensure confidentiality), you’ll see the creativity and effort they’ve already brought to bear on the project, from short essays to drawings and paintings.
“If we are really going to grasp why Suffolk is failing to meet the educational needs of young people, we need to understand what their educational experiences are like and we need to listen to their views as they are the very people who are going to be affected.”
Dr Emma Bond
As it happens, I grew up near the Suffolk coast. I was a pretty keen learner, but I also remember feeling frustrated by how small the world seemed from tiny schools in an isolated, culturally homogenous place. It’s fascinating to see the breadth of aspirations young people there have today – from designing computer games to becoming a mangaka (a manga artist) – but through our work I’ve also heard how poverty and lack of opportunity are holding many back.
There’s value in simply asking young people about their hopes and experiences, and the thing I find most encouraging about the project the life it will have beyond the Raising the Bar Inquiry. The Fellows involved want their efforts to spark further work to engage young people in shaping their education, and the next phase of the project, Make It Loud, hopes to work with similar initiatives across the country.
How you can get involved
If you’re based in Suffolk, you can help spread the word: there’s lots of information on the website, including an engagement pack for schools and organisations who work with young people. For more information on the project, follow @shoutoutsuffolk in Twitter for updates, or email email@example.com to contact the project leaders.
If you live elsewhere and are interested in this approach, you might also like to explore to the RSA’s wider activity in educational policy and practice, of which our work in Suffolk is just one part. And if you’re an RSA Fellow and have an idea of your own you’d like to develop, Catalyst is there to support you – whether that’s through funding or support from others.
Shout Out Suffolk is a great example of how the RSA’s influence and the expertise of our Fellows can combine to tackle a big, difficult challenge. And that it’s happening on my home turf? Well, all the better.
Sam Thomas is the RSA’s project engagement manager. Follow @iamsamthomas on Twitter
The Big Idea: to develop creative free spaces for young people to be inspired and educated by science, technology, engineering and maths.
3-2-1-Ignition* is a new type of shop. Not one where you go to buy things from but one that you go to acquire knowledge, inspiration and enjoyment. Led by Rick Hall FRSA and Ignite! a science pop up shop was created to enhance curiosity amongst the people of Nottingham. Although Nottingham has been designated a ‘Science City’, research showed Rick that young people and their parents did not see science, technology, engineering and maths as careers paths for the future. (STEM for short; just like the RSA it’s a bit of a mouthful).
I first met Rick Hall briefly at the East Midlands Annual Conference before I was an RSA staff member, talk about keen! We did not meet again until I popped into the shop prior to its grand opening. Rick was conducting an evaluation with the design and build volunteers. He was full of energy and enthusiasm and could not wait to open the shop. It wasn’t long before I was helping try to solve the mystery of the multiple light switches. Rick is a writer and consultant in the arts, education, creativity and youth sectors. He has a passion for developing partnerships that promote creativity and learning for young people. Through Rick’s hard work at Ignite! 25 organisations gave their support to 3-2-1-Ignition* Rick also persuaded a panel of Fellows that 3-2-1-Ignition* was also worth support from the Catalyst scheme which helped to make the project a reality. Critical to its success was the work of a wide range of volunteers. Students from Nottingham Trent University helped design and curate the shop in just 8 days turning it from an empty shell into a wonderful den of curiosity. You can watch the transformation of the shop via a selection of videos by Hasmita Chavada. Volunteers also spent time on the streets of Nottingham doing stints of science busking where they played drying racks and made marmite turn white! Young people who run Lab_13’s in their schools also came to use the space and inspire others. By partnering with Nottingham Hackspace the shop attracted 250 young people who soldered, drilled, made and even got to play Pong powered by a bicycle. There were also opportunities to connect to the British Geological Survey and the Royal Society of Chemistry – the list goes on.
Over 3300 people visited the 3-2-1-Ignition* and didn’t pay a penny to do so. 100% of young people surveyed asked for the shop to remain open longer. Not willing to disappoint the public they listened to their audience and stayed open for a further 2 weeks meaning the shop was open for 27 days. Its aim was to inspire, teach and entertain people from all walks of life about STEM and to show young people that you can go into STEM careers and be creative.
Following from 3-2-1-Ignition* in the Broadmarsh shopping centre in Nottingham the team had to decide what to do next. They have produced an evaluation of the project that will tell you all about the activities, projects and partners but more importantly they are moving ahead spurred on by comments from participants who said ‘It’s the funnest place on earth’ ‘I was enthused and enthralled to see how much my grandchildren, boys aged 8 + 11, responded to interactive displays, They loved it all.’ They will be taking the concept south of the Watford Gap to the Barbican’s Festival of Neurosciences Weekender and the Wonders Street Fair on the 2 – 3 March & 7 – 9 April. Go take a look and ‘tempt your curiosity and your mind to do some making. There’ll be jars to peer at and sniff, thoughts to create and space to ask the brain-related questions you’ve always wanted to know’. It’s all about doing, touching and getting involved.
How Can You Help?
Rick and Ignite! have also been busy exploring how Ignite! can develop the 3-2-1-Ignition* model further. As Rick says they have a ‘proof of concept for programmes like Lab_13 and the 3-2-1-Ignition* pop up shop, but lack the resources and know how to convert these successes to wider adoption.’ Is this something you can help with? The one-off travelling sparks of 3-2-1-Ignition* will be tested at the Barbican events but they won’t be able to attract such an audience and will not reach as wide a demographic as they did in the Broadmarsh. They are considering setting up a 3-2-1-Ignition* Hub in Nottingham and could use similar models used by Pirate Supply Store of 826 Valencia a US creative writing project and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies that supports the Ministry of Stories. One of Rick’s grand plans is to support Leeds to be free of NEET (Not in education, employment or training) young people by 2020, an idea that can only be done in collaboration.
One thing is for sure Rick will be busy making plans and talking to people so if you are interested in this agenda and think you could help please be in touch. You can contact Rick at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter where he is @Rick_Hall
Here in the Fellowship department we are very keen to forge partnerships with organisations that share similar values to our own, the overall idea being that through mutual collaboration we can make a much bigger impact. Recently, our thinking has turned to how we can open up the expertise within our network of Fellows to a younger audience.
Since the summer we have been working with an organisation called Student Hubs to develop a partnership which will bring together the collective expertise, enthusiasm and ideas of RSA Fellows and Student Hubs participants. Working across the UK, Student Hubs seeks to transform student involvement in social action. They act as a catalyst, empowering students to become active members of their community by promoting social action, social entrepreneurship and citizenship.
As with all of our Fellowship partnerships, by collaborating with like-minded organisations we hope to reach out to new audiences – making a bigger impact and helping our partners to do the same. With the support of Social Enterprise Berkshire’s Tony Davis FRSA, we held our our first joint event in Oxford two weeks ago, where students from the Oxford Hub met with RSA Fellows for an evening workshop to brainstorm ways to use Oxford’s empty shops to address a social need.
Be it youth unemployment, sustainable food production or community isolation, people came armed with ideas and possible solutions…
Set in the amazing Turl Street Kitchen (Oxford Hub and Student Hubs HQ), the event had a dual purpose: to introduce social enterprise by thinking about how we could use empty spaces for social good, and to encourage a mix of ideas and collaboration between different generations.
And this is what happened (click to enlarge)…
Great conversations made for some great ideas! But where can we go from here? Well, Student Hubs offers access to a range of funding bodies to support new ideas, and of course RSA Fellowship provides access to small grants through the Catalyst fund and the expertise of Fellows through the SkillsBank. The RSA South Central region is also launching a pop-up shop advice line for Fellows and RSA friends who want to know how to go about taking their ideas forward – get in touch with Alice Dyke, Regional Programme Manager at the RSA, for more information.
We’re hoping to run similar events and initiatives with Student Hubs in 2013 – so watch this space! Student Hubs are based in universities across England such as Southampton, Bristol and Cambridge – if you live in one of these areas and want to get involved get in touch with Amy Anderson, Oxford Hub Manager.
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We’re always happy to hear about potential opportunities for collaboration and partnership at the RSA – if you’d like to find out more, please contact our Partnership Development Co-ordinator, Jo Painter.
For more pictures from this and other RSA events, join the RSA Flickr group.
I saw two main strands to the RSA’s recent Generation Enterprise report written by Adam Lent, our Director of Programme. One charts the increase in entrepreneurialism among today’s generation of young people and analyses its causes and effects. This was explored both by the headlines that the report received in CityAM, Evening Standard and in the RSA Event with Madsen Pirie and Martha Lane Fox. I want to explore the other, Adam’s identification and analysis of the social effects of what he calls ‘self-generated value’. ‘What’s that?’ you might ask:
“in a growing number of areas, the consumer no longer has to rely on the insight of the entrepreneur to obtain value. Instead, the consumer can generate that value for him or herself. Think, for example, how the most potent source of detailed factual knowledge across the world is now an online encyclopaedia written by its readers.” (See my colleague’s blog for some well-known examples of where SGV has been applied in practice).
As Adam, says, the phenomenon has been identified before, and called pro-sumption (the merging of the production and consumption). But he goes on to say:
“What is truly revolutionary about the new worm-hole [caused by the creation of the internet] is not the collapse of the distinction between production and consumption per se but the new capacity of individuals to start generating value for themselves in ways which continue the capitalist trend towards the creation of ever greater value for millions of consumers.”
Though I will be reading Tapscott and Williams’ Macrowikinomics and Doc Searls’ The Intention Economy to find out more, I wanted to illustrate my initial understanding of this through some of the RSA Fellows’ ventures supported by RSA Catalyst in a few different areas of value-creation. In one sense, these examples don’t really do justice to what Adam is focusing on. His focus is on quite conventional products and services purchased in the private sphere (music and t-shirts) rather than any kind of service in the social sphere (personal education, food waste and care). Indeed, half the point was to show the value to society of improvements in private consumption. But I think hope these examples demonstrate the trends Adam identifies in the private sector to an audience from the public and third sectors, drawing on manufacturing and commercial expertise to deliver more effective undertakings explicitly for the public good.
Production of knowledge-based goods. Services like facebook and twitter offer blank slates upon which users inscribe their own value and meaning, together creating huge value for its participants.
- Omnifolio is building a service for users to track their traits, work experience, formal and, crucially, informal educational (such as books read, lectures attended). They hope resulting profiles will help people find, train for and better communicate one’s suitability to potential employers.
Pricing and distribution. Adam gives some examples of sites dedicated to getting consumers to club together to negotiate on price over a product the ‘crowd’ desires and how consumers now exert greater control over when their purchases are delivered.
- Plan Zheroes; rather than businesses throwing away and paying councils (sometimes by the tonne) to take good food to waste, this map makes it simple to find a charity nearby and organize to drop off surplus food to a local soup-kitchen, community group or food redistribution programme. Over 300 businesses have signed up so far. By giving the market small amounts of information about waste, participants are helping others provide a service that takes away the guilt of throwing away edible food at the end of the day.
Marketing. It may seem strange to see marketing as an integral part of creating value. But it is indeed since advertising can make low-value product look or feel valuable and that consumers are swamped with a huge variety of products and services, the difference between which is increasingly meaningless.
- Rate My Care; an online platform for rating social care providers, providing a resource for people unsure where they should residential to an elderly loved-one. As well as opening up marketing of particular services, these ventures also emphasise the need for consumers of services to give input into the re-design and improvement of the services.
The Generation Enterprise publication is a good read and the lecture a good listen. I hope it sparks ideas for a new solution for people to generate value for themselves. If it does this, feel free to throw your idea into the Catalyst programme.