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

October 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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In the most recent RSA Journal, I read with interest the piece on competition by Margaret Heffernan – particularly, the part that describes an experiment designed to engineer a ‘super flock’ of golden-egg180x180hens. To see whether increased competition would create higher levels of production, geneticist William Muir pulled the top egg-producing hens out of a regular flock and put them together. After just two generations of this new flock, the results were remarkable – six of the super hens had been pecked to death by the remaining three, whilst the original flock was performing better than ever.

This experiment suggests that if you only value the so-called ‘cream of the crop’ you are probably missing a trick or two. Societies need variety and balance in order to function healthily – you simply can’t have everybody doing the same thing, no matter how valuable it is deemed.

The article got me thinking about our education system and the levels of competition and selection. My own experience saw my peers divided into two camps at age 11: clever, and not so clever. Even for those who weren’t required to take the dreaded 11+, academic pressure remains a dominant feature of school life. Certainly, an element of competition can be motivating, but just as the ‘cream’ ought not to be scooped off the top and isolated at their own expense, nor should the rest feel their particular strengths have no value to society.

Many of the RSA Fellows I’ve met over the past year have been teachers, and all were unequivocally passionate about the difference a good education can have on the trajectory of a person’s life. Whatever the challenges in the classroom might be, Fellows have a wealth of ideas about where improvements can be made that will potentially transform the confidence of their students.

One such teacher is Jo Taylor FRSA, who, having participated in Teach First’s leadership programme, has gone on to co-found Wall Display – an education project which has recently applied for an RSA Catalyst grant.

“As a teacher I saw how much of a difference an engaged parent could make to their child’s aspirations. I also saw how hard it was for parents to be involved in their child’s education. I wanted to create a way for them to see the great things their children were doing.”

With children from disadvantaged schools, parental disengagement can be a big problem because if the parent had a bad experience at school themselves, they may be less inclined to encourage their children to participate. Many of these parents may have become disengaged because they did not perform well in exams, and with the continual emphasis on exams and grades, it’s increasingly important for teachers to find ways to celebrate the diversity of students’ skills and ensure they do not become disenchanted with learning altogether.

Wall Display has addressed this issue by creating an online platform for teachers to share their pupils’ work in such a way that it displays the creativity and individuality of the work whilst pushing it beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

“Students can get really demotivated producing amazing work which nobody ever sees, the idea is that Wall Display provides them with an audience for what they do in school.”

The public can award badges to work they like

The public can award badges to work they like

When teachers post work from students, members of the general public can give badges to work they like and other teachers can offer feedback.

I think this responsive aspect of the project is critical because if your teacher does not like your work, it might feel like theirs is the only opinion that counts. Wall Display’s strength is that it allows an array of opinions to reach the students – an experience which is far more representative of life after school.

Jo spoke about the progress of the project at a recent RSA Engage event, and asked other Fellows to get involved in the following ways:

- Do you know a teacher or school who might like to use Wall Display?
- Do you know anyone who works for Ofsted or an education body?
- Do you know any business leaders who are passionate about education?

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

The RSA has partnered with Teach First for seven years, and we are able to offer a reduced rate of Fellowship for all Teach First participants – contact Alex Barker for more information.

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

August 8, 2014 by · 5 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 – alexandra.barker@rsa.org.uk

 

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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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

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