Last night, as I was woken up by a drunk housemate coming back from her Christmas party in the wee small hours, I was struck by the oddity of the pre-Christmas indulgence culture.
There are two parts to this issue I found myself considering at 3am this morning. The first is our acceptance of excessive alcohol consumption: something that my colleagues in the West Kent Recovery Team explore. The second is the plausibility of one individual to make a difference to society without sacrificing their enjoyment of the season.
It’s tricky to know how to navigate the plethora of opportunities to do good effectively. So in an attempt to summarise my (somewhat sleep-deprived) thoughts, I’ve categorised opportunities into: Give generously; don’t change your lifestyle, change your supplier; and everything changes.
Having supported over a hundred new social enterprises through the RSA Catalyst programme, one common flaw in the plans of ventures I’ve observed is a lack of resources (or plan for getting them) to market their product or service in front of their whole target audience. This has got me thinking as to how we might be able to help overcome this.
My idea for how to do this draws on the way that RSA Animates have been viewed 50m times because they’ve been interesting enough for people to share them and the recent and the growing prevalence of online courses. And I think it would be possible to create a course by which we help people make and then give a platform to animations about ventures they are inspired by (and that align with our work).
To see if this was feasible I decided to try to make my own animate of an RSA Fellow’s venture I was passionate about, document how long it took me as well as what equipment and technical expertise was required. Below is the result. The point is not that this video is good enough, but hopefully it gives a sense of what can be achieved if I’d also been able to read the advice of the creator of RSAnimates and been connected to someone who could draw better than me and who might have far more creative ways of displaying the content, rather than my cheap imitation of the RSA Animate style.
With an ever-growing urban population, the gap between people’s day-to-day lives and our natural world is widening. We live in a society full of distractions, and nature is becoming further removed from many people’s frame of reference.
Fellow Florence Wilkinson is looking to overcome this gap through her new app Warblr, for which she has just launched a crowdfunding campaign on the RSA’s area on Kickstarter with support from RSA Catalyst.
“Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble”, writes Roger Tory Peterson. And I’m sad to say that right now, our British birds are in trouble. Just last week Government figures revealed that populations of farm birds, such as grey partridge, turtle dove and the starling, are down by more than 85% since the 1970s.
We are losing our biodiversity at a terrifying rate: between 1000 and 10,000 times the natural extinction rate, according to experts. Never has our flora and fauna been in greater need of protection.
In the light of such figures, any attempt to take positive action may seem like a drop in the ocean, but we hope that we can create a little ripple, which alongside many other organisations will help us make waves. Read more
In the most recent RSA Journal, I read with interest the piece on competition by Margaret Heffernan – particularly, the part that describes an experiment designed to engineer a ‘super flock’ of hens. To see whether increased competition would create higher levels of production, geneticist William Muir pulled the top egg-producing hens out of a regular flock and put them together. After just two generations of this new flock, the results were remarkable – six of the super hens had been pecked to death by the remaining three, whilst the original flock was performing better than ever.
This experiment suggests that if you only value the so-called ‘cream of the crop’ you are probably missing a trick or two. Societies need variety and balance in order to function healthily – you simply can’t have everybody doing the same thing, no matter how valuable it is deemed.
The article got me thinking about our education system and the levels of competition and selection. My own experience saw my peers divided into two camps at age 11: clever, and not so clever. Even for those who weren’t required to take the dreaded 11+, academic pressure remains a dominant feature of school life. Certainly, an element of competition can be motivating, but just as the ‘cream’ ought not to be scooped off the top and isolated at their own expense, nor should the rest feel their particular strengths have no value to society.
Many of the RSA Fellows I’ve met over the past year have been teachers, and all were unequivocally passionate about the difference a good education can have on the trajectory of a person’s life. Whatever the challenges in the classroom might be, Fellows have a wealth of ideas about where improvements can be made that will potentially transform the confidence of their students.
One such teacher is Jo Taylor FRSA, who, having participated in Teach First’s leadership programme, has gone on to co-found Wall Display – an education project which has recently applied for an RSA Catalyst grant.
“As a teacher I saw how much of a difference an engaged parent could make to their child’s aspirations. I also saw how hard it was for parents to be involved in their child’s education. I wanted to create a way for them to see the great things their children were doing.”
With children from disadvantaged schools, parental disengagement can be a big problem because if the parent had a bad experience at school themselves, they may be less inclined to encourage their children to participate. Many of these parents may have become disengaged because they did not perform well in exams, and with the continual emphasis on exams and grades, it’s increasingly important for teachers to find ways to celebrate the diversity of students’ skills and ensure they do not become disenchanted with learning altogether.
Wall Display has addressed this issue by creating an online platform for teachers to share their pupils’ work in such a way that it displays the creativity and individuality of the work whilst pushing it beyond the boundaries of the classroom.
“Students can get really demotivated producing amazing work which nobody ever sees, the idea is that Wall Display provides them with an audience for what they do in school.”
When teachers post work from students, members of the general public can give badges to work they like and other teachers can offer feedback.
I think this responsive aspect of the project is critical because if your teacher does not like your work, it might feel like theirs is the only opinion that counts. Wall Display’s strength is that it allows an array of opinions to reach the students – an experience which is far more representative of life after school.
Jo spoke about the progress of the project at a recent RSA Engage event, and asked other Fellows to get involved in the following ways:
- Do you know a teacher or school who might like to use Wall Display?
- Do you know anyone who works for Ofsted or an education body?
- Do you know any business leaders who are passionate about education?
The RSA has partnered with Teach First for seven years, and we are able to offer a reduced rate of Fellowship for all Teach First participants – contact Alex Barker for more information.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Education Matters, Fellowship
The Forest of Imagination took place in Bath this summer and attracted over 2,000 visitors. It was a 4 day contemporary arts, creativity and learning event organised and led by RSA Fellows and hosted by Bath Spa University. Over the past year I’ve blogged a number of times about the ArtSpace Bath and the Forest of Imagination (from now on Forest) project and I had been involved in many meetings, discussions and communications about it. That said, when the Forest launched I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I discovered was a creative world full of surprises and learning.
The journey to the site began in the centre of Bath with graffitied paths creating the start of the pilgrimage, when I got to the top of Sion Hill and turned the corner to see the amazing tiger gate I was already sold! Once in the site, I’ll admit it, I got a bit lost, but this was part of the Forest’s allure – discovering places for yourself and learning through uncovering different areas both visual and sensory. The Forest was made up of four action packed days of performances, workshops, installations and exhibitions. It managed to engage new and inter-generational audiences in the city whilst helping to pave the way for a permanent contemporary arts centre in Bath.
Last autumn the RSA launched new support to help RSA Fellows prepare and publicise crowdfunding campaigns – where people set a funding target and try to raise that money from lots of people. I recently gathered together a large group of people to feedback on our review of the first half a year of this support and see how it is relevant for different organisations.
This blog puts together the both the review in full and a quick snapshot.
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.
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
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
Enjoy this infographic about our crowdfunding support. Needless to say, I picked up the free infographics software infogr.am from, you guessed it, a crowdfunding campaign. Three other things to explore:
- find out more and apply for support for your venture. Our next deadline is this Sunday
- browse or add to this list of social innovations that have crowdfunded (the 17 RSA Fellows and another 40 inspiring projects)
- help with our evaluation of the programme by adding a comment below and I’ll send you a 15-page review we will be preparing in late-May.