How crowdfunding can help launch social ventures – what we’ve learned so far

August 8, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

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.

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

July 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Fellowship 

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 –


Higher Education meets the Social Economy

June 25, 2014 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

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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Visionary citizens around the world unite

June 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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We’re always on the lookout for great organisations that share the RSA’s vision and have networks of people with the potential to become exceptional RSA Fellows. Recently one of our Fellows, Eidi Cruz-Valdivieso, approached us to find out if we’d be interested in partnering with the organisation she’s involved in called ‘Gifted Citizen’.

Each year the Gifted Citizen Prize is given to the best social entrepreneurship project that has the ability to benefit 10

Ciudad de las Ideas in Mexico.

Ciudad de las Ideas in Mexico.

million people over the next six years. This international prize honors the passions of those that seek to develop real solutions to humanity’s most pressing issues. The winning project receives the sum of $100,000 USD to finance its continuation. The prize is presented during the Ciudad de Las Ideas Festival 2014 (City of ideas)  – a Festival of brilliant minds and celebration of human creativity and curiosity, which takes place each year in Puebla, Mexico.  With the participation of over sixty speakers, scientists, humanists and opinion leaders, the event is the biggest convention of bright minds in Latin America.

As you might expect Eidi is very well connected and so she has chosen to become the RSA Connector for Mexico to help us to grow the network in this part of the world. RSA Connectors are a growing network of Fellows worldwide who help local Fellows to organise events and collaborate on projects.

Eidi has worked for many years amongst some of the poorest communities in Mexico, mainly in the areas of community involvement, co-creativity, mentorship and communications. She says

“my passion is for social transformation, art and creativity to find a common platform, which can encourage others to create new possibilities, expressed in tangible actions. Currently I’m leading a programme that promotes creativity and innovation by incentivizing some of the best social entrepreneurs around the world. I’m also building a platform that allows these social entrepreneurs to meet and find synergies which together can have even greater social impact.”

The deadline for the Gifted Citizen prize is the 7th July – apply here and help spread the word amongst those committed to social change.

Interested in finding out more about becoming an RSA Connector for your country? Contact Laura Southerland who will talk you through what’s involved.

Does your organisation want to partner with the RSA and help us grow our network of like-minded people? If so contact Alexandra Barker to discuss further.

Will investment bankers save the world?

May 13, 2014 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Enterprise, Social Economy 

Last night I had dinner with some enlightened bankers. They were once of the traditional city elite – all confidence and billion dollar portfolios – until personal epiphanies (somewhere between the financial crisis and now) led them to turn their talents towards investing for social good.   Armed with the self-belief that is hard wired into the investment banker’s DNA – and the explicit goal of becoming the leading asset management company in the UK social investment market – they launched Social and Sustainable Capital, a bold new social investment fund, and set off in search of the pool of talent that could save the world.

Talent is everywhere. The problem is one of scale

Their stated mission is, “to invest in sustainable and scalable solutions to UK social issues to help dismantle poverty and increase social mobility and social fairness.” Indeed, talent-spotting has not been a problem. They have found no end of enterprising, ingenious third sector organisations doing important work for social good. In their search for investees, they have uncovered a surfeit of talent in organisations hungry to take on more of the important work presented by the social challenges we face.  These organisations include those tackling the gaps in social care for the elderly as our population ages, for instance, or those who are inventing new models for rehabilitation, working directly with offenders to reduce crime. The enterprising nature of the third sector has been refreshing to my new friends, but it quickly transpired that talent is not their primary problem. Talent is everywhere. The problem is one of scale.

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Could public procurement reduce excessive pay?

April 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Enterprise, Social Economy 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation today published a useful report on tackling poverty through public procurement. The ideas, building on the methodology created back in 2002 for including social and community benefits in public procurement. are practical and sensible. With public procurement as a percentage of GDP barely declining at all during or since the recession, the impact of taking up these recommendations could be significant. Public procurement has already been affected in London and elsewhere by the Living Wage campaign.   Building commitments to local training and employment into contracts and enabling smaller tender ‘lots’ to give smaller local enterprises a chance of successful bidding could create maximum value for the taxpayer by reducing welfare dependency and keeping the financial fruits of procurement within communities. Read more

Developing through social enterprise

This is a guest blog by Kate Swade of Shared Assets, reflecting on the Developing Socially Productive Places conference at the RSA, 2nd April 2014.

It is when the different worlds involved in developing place and community meet that really interesting conversations begin to happen. The “Developing Socially Productive Places” conference last week was a brilliant opportunity to bring different sectors together – developers, local authority officers, urban designers and social entrepreneurs. As one of the speakers said, we should all be talking to each other more: there should be more pub conversations about place and the built environment! Read more

The Big Idea… More than just coffee!

March 24, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Fellowship 

mark ashmoreHello! I’m Mark Ashmore FRSA and I founded Future Artists where we work under the motto “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”. I wanted to introduce you to a project that RSA Catalyst is helping me to crowdfund which I think totally epitomises this phrase, so hang on to your hats while I take you on a journey to a wet and windy city in the North West of England…

What if a coffee shop was able to generate £100,000 a year in grants that will enable a community to grow – enabling exploration of the arts and sciences, benefiting health and well being, and being a space to meet, share and create…? That’s our dream, and with your help, we can make this a reality…

Most high streets are full of identikit shops, repeated formula, and the same repeated sequel. When the Manchester rain beats down on its work force and the icy chills of the northern wind blows in, the high street offers little escape. For some, Starbucks and Costa Coffee’s bohemian commercialism is as offensive as the Manchester wet season itself!

The Home of Honest Coffeehonest coffee

Future Artists presents to you the ‘Home of Honest Coffee’, a brand new concept that we’re hoping to bring to the Manchester high street this summer. Introducing a coffee shop that’s designed to truly serve the community, not just with delicious fair trade coffee and locally produced snacks and treats, but also with opportunities for business start-ups and encouragement for network growth. Would you like a brownie with your cappuccino? Or maybe a sandwich? How about a business grant? The Home of Honest Coffee will run as a co-operative charity with profits being donated to schemes set up in the city, giving local creative and educational groups and start-up businesses the chance to thrive and develop in an otherwise unaccommodating economy.

We are fortunate in Manchester to be sharing our city with many forward-thinking ethical companies who are creative in their ways of giving something back to the community. All too often, however, these alternative venues and businesses are shoved to the quirky backstreets, overshadowed by the tax-avoiding giants. Why should the high street be dominated by corporations who care far more about their own profits than the wellbeing of the communities they inhabit?

The power is in every one of us, as we stroll down the high street, to choose where we spend our hard-earned money.

Leading up to this project, we have researched our market by hosting a variety of pop-up events in the centre of Manchester. These have included a street art exhibition, and an honesty café in which customers were trusted to sort their own payment and change. Following the success of these, our ambitions have raised and we now intend to take on the city high streets with something a little more permanent. We want to really make an impact by delivering a high street coffee shop that has community support and local improvement at the forefront of its mission. In order to achieve this, however, we first need a little bit of help and support ourselves.

The Home of Honest Coffee Crowdfunding campaignHow you can get involved

We are hoping to raise capital through Kickstarter and have so far been delighted with the amazing positive responses we’ve been receiving from the general public. Please find our campaign on the RSA crowdfunding area and see how you can get involved.

If you like our idea and would like to see it succeed, help us spread the word! Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or just talk about us with your friends or family over the dinner table. Our mission is to prove that we can choose what kind of world we live in; the power is in every one of us as we stroll down the high street choosing where to spend our hard earned money.

In addition, to help with our expansion we’re looking to significantly increase the building and catering expertise we have as part of the project team, so if you can share even just a few hours, please do get in touch on the ‘Contact me’ button on our crowdfunding campaign (click on the image to the left).

Join us for an honest cuppa and vote with your brew!

Mark Ashmore FRSA
Visit our crowdfunding campaign on the RSA crowdfunding area

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible” – Frank Zappa

To get help from RSA Catalyst for your social venture visit our webpage

Read the RSA’s 2020 Retail report Shopping for Shared Value which argues that building a future retail model which coordinates corporate operations to maximise local social and economic impact will become a key competitive advantage in a decade in which traditional physical stores are set to experience transition and disruption 

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