Goodbye – it’s been real (or should that be virtual)?

Photo: cjsimmons

After eight wonderful years, iKnowHow is calling it a day, kicking off its trainers and walking off into the sunset (while owner Jemima Gibbons looks forward to no longer having to talk about herself as a separate entity ☺).

It’s been a fabulous time. Made more so by the amazing people who I’ve met along the way. Thanks to all the particularly brilliant friends and mentors who’ve helped me out: Andy Bell, Anthony Mangion, Barbara Benedek, Charles Baden-Fuller, Clive Holtham, David Sims, David Wilcox, Dotun Adebayo, Gemma Lines, Joanne Jacobs, John Prescott (not that one!), Joseph Lampel, Karen McCarthy, Kate Kinninmont, Matthew Fairtlough, Nick Watt, Nick Witte-Vermeulen, Paul Richards, Ricardo da Sousa, Stowe Boyd, Zoe Black and, especially, Noam Sohachevsky.

The world has changed a lot since March 2002, when I set up iKH with Alison Linskey to “provide consultancy and training in digital media to film and TV production companies”. When we started television was still very much at the centre of the media universe and the early years were shaped by work with Women in Film & TV, BT (in its efforts to become a broadcaster), Skillset and the UK Film Council.

But things were shaken up so much more than we anticipated. While the web has gone stratospheric and mobile is truly ubiquitous, interactive TV has diverted up its own strange back alley. Instead of television becoming “all media”, the web has become the most powerful medium we have. To the point where we no longer see the boundaries (between us and “it”).

More recently, I’ve been working with Triarchy Press, Cass Business School and the RSA, the first two organisations focused very much on the future of business, the other focused on the future of society as a whole. And all three looking deeply at the impact interactive, digital and social media are having on our lives.

My 2009 book, Monkeys with Typewriters, was a stab at understanding this brave new world we’re in. It feels like I was only scratching the surface. Now, I want to focus more on my writing, and more on social business design. It seems like the time is ripe for a re-brand – this will be my final blog post at iKH.

If you’ve supported iKH over the years, thank you so much. If this is the first you’ve ever heard of it, feel free to read back through the blog for a re-cap. ☺

For the next three months, I’ll be based in Jaffa (Tel Aviv), exploring Israel from the grassroots up. Beach, sunset, here I come. See you on the other side!

In the meantime, you can always:

Join my Jaffa adventures on Twitter
Muse social business with me on the Monkeys with Typewriters blog
Follow the re-brand at


Live blog RSA Fellowship Council

RSA Fellowship Council – live blog of fourth meeting

I’m at 8 John Adam Street, London, liveblogging from the fourth meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council. Please keep refreshing this page for updates.

13.08: Zena Martin and David Archer (Fellowship Council members and Trustees) are about to present their perspective on the Fellowship Council’s relationship with the RSA Board of Trustees.

13.10: RSA Trustee & Treasurer of the Board, Lord Best, gives short speech: I will give some background on what the board does. There’ll always be people who champion and cherish the organisation and people who champion but want to change things. It’s all about striking the balance between those two groups.

Issues include: lack of transparency about what the board does. We’ve now got Zena and David to transmit the sometimes dull aspects of board work back to you. I chair the audit and risk committee. (If you think the board minutes are dull, you should try those minutes!).

There is also a lack of clarity about your own role (as fellowship council). Some lack of clarity is good. Some tasks are set, eg: you’re going to look at the new charter and bring back new ideas to us. The review of the regions is also very important.

Thank you all very much for agreeing to take part.

1314: David: Zena and I now feel fully a part of the board and are grateful to them for welcoming us. As the fellowship council, we need to deliver on the fellowship charter, the regional development and projects work. If we can do that, we’ll gain even more trust and responsibility in future. It’s still early days.

Any questions?

Question from floor: What’s been the most interesting thing about joining the Board?

Zena: the board just has some amazing people on it; it’s great to get their perspective. The RSA has gone through lots of change in past few years and seems to have been flexible enough to, for the most part, embrace that change.

Question: in current economic climate, one issue is resourcing – how much has been set aside to fund the fellowship council?

Lord Best: Fortunately, The RSA is not in financial difficulty. But going forward we see our income from the house and restaurant to fall as people cut back. Fellows who are on pensions now, etc, might want to begin to put a line through something that costs £150 a year. But the money for the fellowship council is ring-fenced. Admittedly, RSA projects have taken a bit of a hit. Projects used to take the lions’ share of the money. I see ourselves as a centre that gets people talking, rather than having one or two big projects.

Question: when you’re talking about “regions”, what do you mean?

Lord Best: I think the global amount is going to be constant, but how we play that will be looked at.

Matthew Taylor [RSA CEO]: Over past three or four years, the House has maintained contribution to finances; is having another difficult year this year. Projects get some seed core funding but have had contribution cut. Nina has less staff here than she used to. Despite that, we’ve become a global brand. Fellowship has been going up, year on year on year. Fellowship management and Catalyst Fund have come in, so now much more money that comes from Fellowship has been reinvested back into Fellowship. Now we need to see key outputs: (1) numbers (2) fellowship activity in world. I need to see proof that our investment is getting results and then take that to the board.

Matthew: Most charitable organisations take money from their funders and use it to do charitable work. Our aim is to give that money back to our Fellowship so they can do the good work.

13.27: Tessy Britton (RSA Fellowship Council chair): the next hour will be the mini-review. Our strategy was very much an emergent model, to create working groups, to focus on specific activities. It’s been going on for seven months and we’d now like to review it. We’d like to create some concrete outcomes and get some new ideas, as well as appreciating what we’re doing right.

We’ve got six groups:

1. Fellowship Council remit: Andrew Chidgely and Alex Watson
2. Working Relationships: David Archer and Sarah Tucker
3. Roadshows: Andy Kirk, Helen Wostrop
4. Fellowship Engagement: Andy Gibson, Vivs Long-Ferguson
5. Encouraging Fellows’ projects: Rebecca Daddow and Graham Sprigg
6. 21st century enlightenment: Julian Thompson and Frances Gallagher

I’m going to try and liveblog a bit from each group.

13.37: Sitting in on Working Relationships with David Archer and Sarah Tucker:

Sarah Tucker: from RSA point of view, a big issue is knowing there is lots of talent on the Fellowship Council but trying to extract all that talent as effectively as possible; especially as the FC are all volunteers.

Comments: might be good to do a skills audit, a time audit and know people’s communication preferences.

Comment: We all need more online profiling.

Comment: perhaps a buddy system?

13.48: Roadshows: Andy Kirk, Helen Wostrop
Helen: So far we’ve three main issues/ objections: awareness, confusion (what are they?) and re-commitment.

Comment: don’t make this seem like a public relationship exercise. People need a place to congregate and deal with issues. You’ve got the RSA objectives but why do people want to come together. it should be about reciprocity and not about marketing.

Comment: don’t want them all to be the same – choose different venues, different formats, different timescales, eg: Pecha Kucha?

Comment: Open Space event in Manchester was very boring. Topic was: how fellowship should network.

Comment: need to be participatory.

14.00: Engagement: Vivs and Andy
Andy: let’s be positive to start, in what ways in the RSA engaging with its fellowship effectively?

Comment: love the events programme – great way to get to know other fellows and connect with those you already know who are also attending the event (via Twitter as well as drinks afterwards)

Comment: don’t live in London so difficult to attend events but Twitter and the Ning have been a useful way to connect.

Comment: maybe we need to have more focused FRSA engagment; the region I’m in, it’s just a few dreary meetings in a dreary local pub. Not very exciting.

14.14: 21st century enlightenment: Julian Thompson and Frances Gallagher
How does the RSA contribute to 21st century enlightenment?

Julian: how does the RSA actively contribute? What can the RSA do to actively contribute?

Comment: again, the talks programme is really crucial. It should be something like TED. At the same global level as TED; the same level of brand recognition. Debate; promoting debate is really important.

Comment: if people are going to be unemployed and not having any self-worth – how can value be added outside of a job title? Social entrpreneurship?

Comment: The fellowship council itself, and the way the RSA is trying to become more networked, more open, more tranpsarent (live blogging!) is hopefully setting an example.

Comment: everyone on the council should be digitally engaged, they should be engaging with other fellows.

Comment: micro-contributions and co-learning should be encouraged; it’s not all about experts participating.

14.26: Fellowship Council remit: Andrew Chidgely and Alex Watson

Andrew Chidgely: so far, this seems to be first, relaying what the Fellowship wants to the Trustees and secondly, going out to the Fellowship and talking more about what’s going on within the RSA itself (ie: staff).

Alex Watson: digital engagement important.

Comment: I can’t find any way to act as the ears and eyes for my region because I don’t know how to connect with them. The ones I might want to connect with don’t go to the regional meetings and the ones that do, aren’t the sort of people I feel like connecting with.

Comment: The new Fellows’ directory should help with that. You can search for Fellows by region and interest. You can search within a specific radius (eg: five miles).

Comment: are the channels people can use to get in touch with each other, easy to identify and use? I’m sure each of us as fellows aren’t engaged on a regular basis with very many other fellows. Can you move people up the chain in terms of involvement? If 1.7 million people are watching an RSA lecture, then how can we use those people? Rather than having a surgery here and there that 5 people turn up to?

14.38: Encouraging new fellows: Rebecca Daddow and Graham Sprigg
Graham: feedback so far has shown that we need to have more project case studies: not only projects that have worked but projects that haven’t worked. We’ve had a lot about maximising RSA brand. Money’s a big issue – do RSA projects always need funding? Although simply having some funding can often be a motivation to help move a project forward.

Comment: how about an annual projects award ceremony?

Comment: the Ning (RSA Fellowship) and new Fellows Directory should be useful tools to motivating new fellows – if they sign up they’ll be able to see the conversations that are happening.

Comment: how about a mentoring/ buddy scheme for new fellows so they can have an experienced fellow to go to for more info, to answer questions etc.

[This last mini-review session was cut short because we’ve run out of time – lots to get through in the agenda today!]

14.43: Coffee break – facilitators and scribes get a chance to write up their notes.

14.57: Back from coffee. Tessy: We’re running 30 mins late but somehow we’ll make up time!

Improving relationships (David Archer): some people say, best relationships I’ve had anywhere I’m working as a volunteer with staff. Others say they find it a bit distant, bit controlling. Those that have been actively working on working groups seem to have had the best experience. Main issues/ goals

– transparency of roles, eg: all members of staff and regional committees having their profiles on the Fellows directory
– keeping momentum between meetings by using technology eg: existing social networks, Skype calls. Tech not very good at present.
– buddy scheme: for each FC member, could there be a member of staff who was able to help them with ways in/ contacts etc. Developing personal relationships with a presumption of positive intent.
– finding out where FC members expertise is best placed? Perhaps having that on new ellowship directory?
– we’ll know relationships are really good when deliverables from the council are all joint deliverables (council and staff)

15.03: RSA Roadshows (Helen Wostrop): the biggest issue of all is over what these roadshows are and what they are trying to achieve. The very name “roadshow” seems to polarise views – what does it mean? There’s a need for awareness – raising awareness about roadshows, what they are. A need to raise enthusiasm.
Charles: is it a recruitment objective, is it about engaging existing fellows, is it marketing etc? The broad message of the RSA should be there, as well as examples of RSA activity, but there should definitely be a local focus.
Helen: also, we don’t want it to look like the RSA coming in like a great big bus and stepping on the toes of local committee activity.

Comment: if we’re going to use roadshows to acquire new fellows, there has to be a percentage who’s not going to make it, then those people will be left disappointed. Surely it’s much better to use the facilities we’ve got to deal with new fellows.

Comment: roadshows per se are a very good idea. A good way to make the fellowship more diverse.

Comment: do you get fellows in their own region to decide what to do, or do you have a toolbox to help people?

Comment: people who do enquire locally about becoming a fellow should be pointed to a local fellow who can advise them what to do.

Comment: we need to run a few pilots.

Comment: we could set up a Fellowship Council working group to take this forward.

15.13: Fellowship Council relationships: (Alex and Andrew):
Alex: on one hand the FC were champions of what the RSA and Trustees are all about, on the other hand, they should relay what fellows want back to the “central” RSA [at John Adam Street]. Everyone accepted that nine years down the line the FC was still growing into its role. The worry is less on the council side but more on how difficult it is to access fellows and what they want – how difficult it is for them to get out there and champion the fellowship experience.

Andrew: concern that the pool of people in this room (approx 40) is not that diverse or that representative of the 28,000 Fellows out there. A big question over whether Ning is best way to connect fellows. If at one point 2.7million people are watching a lecture, how do we spin off from that? Another big question is, does the Fellowship really understand what the Fellowship council is? Could we do more work individually and collectively to let people know we’re here? Eg, more ways to let people come to us, eg: MP style surgeries?

Comment: what a terrible idea! Who said that?!

Andrew: I think the main message from this discussion is about scale: how do we scale up the communication we have?

Comment: This language of surgeries and representation is slightly wierd: I think we’re here to “lead” the Fellowship in service.

15.22: Encouraging Fellows’ projects: Rebecca Daddow and Graham Sprigg
Graham: it was unclear to several people what a project might consist of. Access? There was a polarised view on the application process to RSA Catalyst: from let’s scrap the whole idea to the best thing since sliced bread. Money was also an issue: is it always necessary? But at least it encourages people to apply for projects.

Secondly, the RSA brand. How does that interact? What does that mean to a project?

Thirdly, a buddying/ mentoring scheme to help new fellows get involved with projects.

Fourth, the idea of “non-projects” – good to see some projects that didn’t make the grade. Part of what we can do as the RSA machine is provide opportunities for the Fellows to talk to each other, eg: at a regional level. Idea generation doesn’t necessarily ahve to equal a project.

Fifth, output: case studies very useful here: database of best practice (and worst practice maybe?!). Another idea was the ideas annual – each year publish a yearbook showing all the ideas that had been through the system. And the possibility of an annual awards maybe?

Comment: this issue of brand is very important. The RSA brand needs to be much stronger locally.

15.29: 21st Century Englightenment (Julian and Eileen):
Julian: five points came out of our discussion:

1. There seems to be a really strong consensus about what this means, ie: realising human potential through the RSA. We looked at not just wealth creation but happiness and sustainability. That’s good. We’ve got a good base to work from.

2. Matthew’s speech: there’s a danger we look at this argument specifically from a western paradigm: the human as central, linear idea of progress etc.

3. How do we apply those principles of autonomy, humanism, universalism etc? RSA fellows should be the change they want to see in the world: ask difficult questions, lead by example, raise our own game. If we are to extend our capacity for empathy, we have to experience the “other” in a much more visceral way than we are already doing, eg: what it’s like to be homeless, be drug-addicted etc, rather than spend time with people who think like us, act like us. Be wary of being pious, too much paternalistic lecturing – we don’t want to wear this too heavily.

4. Underlying principles across all activity, eg: lectures: need to be more interactive; have a range of people from all walks and backgrounds; avoid groupthink.

5. Activity: raise importance of micro-acts: a tiny contribution, eg: a single tweet – to have a stake in what’s happening. Public engagement: fellows need to be more involved in their local community/ otherwise the RSA is elitist and divorced from reality.

1539: Fellowship engagement (Andy and Vivs):
Andy: staff collaboration: it’s easy for us as council members to get to know staff but harder for wider fellowship. Also, the directory came through as something that would be really important in helping fellows connect. From a digital engagement side, simplification and clearer signposting on website. On the plus side, lectures, 21st century enlightenment vision, the journal and RSA animate have been a great way to spread the word about what RSA is doing.

15.43: Tessy: I think that was really worthwhile and I’m sure the facilitators will be able to write up some great reports for the next meeting.

15.45: Bob Porrer: update on review of the regions:
We’ll be starting our formal consultation soon (July). Aim will be to collect as much information as possible. We’re going to try to reach as many fellows as possible, including those who are less active. We need to challenge our preconceptions. Not sure if we’ll have complete report in time for AGM in October.

15.48: Jemima and Vivs to present on digital engagement: follow #rsade on Twitter for updates!

[Update: obviously I couldn’t live blog my own presentation, but the slides are here for anyone who’s interested]

16.03: Nominations Committee: feedback from Irene:
We’ve had four resignations. We’d like to re-fill those places. As it happens, the four people who’ve stood down are all trustee-elected. We will go ahead now and start the re-election process (trustee elections).

16.06: Fellowship Charter (2nd draft): update from Laura Billings:
We’ve had ten meetings with 150 fellows, we’ve sent emails; I’ve had 53 direct emails or phone calls. The biggest chunk of comments/ emails were supportive. The second biggest chunk was suggested changes. I got back to everyone individually. A small amount of suggestions were negative. The positive comments we got back were mostly about the consultative process. Suggestions for change were mainly that the version was still too long; that the language/tone was too arrogant, jargony and marketing-y. But in comparison with September, when we did the first draft, the majority of comments were around language being used, rather than content.

We did another sweep for plain English and ways to shorten, we’ve rejigged the introduction to clarify about shared ethos and aims, not altering founding principles. “Confidence in ability to effect change’ and ‘willing to lead by example’ seen as arrogant. ‘Harnesses the power of many minds’ seen as too marketing-speak. ‘Projects’ too limiting.

Many wanted to remove the process of ‘signing up’ individually – could be signed by tri-partate of the Executive, the trustees and the Fellowship Council. We can’t list all the things the RSA does in the charter, but we can reference them visually in the accompanying illustrations.

We are hoping to get an A4 printed version (which can go out in new fellows packages) and an RSA Animate video. The charter is part of a package: website navigation, welcome and orientation to new fellows etc.

The charter was designed to reaffirm common aims and values across fellowship and organisation, has it made a difference? Examples include the NCVO Future of membership project, regions working group mapping and social impact report.

Comment: I really recommend everyone looks on the website to see the changes that have been made, and how the whole consultation process has worked.

Comment: Just want to say that was a great presentation and thanks for all your work in the process of reviewing the charter!

Comment: unless anyone has lodged an overwhelming objection to any wording on the charter by the end of this week, I would propose through the chair that we endorse the charter and the work that’s been done to date.

Tessy [asks for show of hands].

The vast majority of hands are raised.

Tessy: great, motion passed!

16.25: Tessy: Let’s wait for full notes from discussion to come in before we agree goals. It was agreed that we should have a process for chair and deputy chair. We need to start that process in advance of October. Please think about standing for either of those roles and let me or Paul know. I get a lot of emails across a lot of working groups and I’m so impressed with the amount of dedication and the amount of work that’s been going on. If you feel you’ve been slightly on the edge of actitvities, please give me a call and let’s see how we can redress that. With regard to Catalyst Fund, I’ve been so impressed with way in which it’s been managed. It’s becoming a really open process. The amount of detail and care that’s been taken is incredible. I’d also like to thank RSA staff because there’s a real, genuine wish to co-design. Co-designing is new for all of us. The climate we’ve created through council has been really fertile ground for all of that.

Paul: I’d just like to thank Tessy for all her hard work. If it wasn’t for her, we’d probably still be wondering what to do at the next meeting.

[Everyone thanks Tessy]

16.32: Meeting closed – just two mins over :)

[Please do let me know if you’ve found this liveblog interesting and/or useful and of course, if you have any comments and/or questions – it’d be great to be able to pass any comments on to help with the RSA’s digital engagement process – many thanks]

Live blog News RSA Fellowship Council

RSA Fellowship Council: live blog of third meeting

1315: Here we are at the RSA again for another Council meeting. It’s been a slightly late start but we’re kicking off now. Please hit refresh on your browser for live blog updates.

Chair Tessy Britton is running through today’s agenda.

1317: Tessy Britton: a quick look at “accelerators”: these include a high level of support from John Adam Street, high levels of energy amd enthusiasm, the collaborative partnership we’ve established with JAS staff leading groups in conjunction with dedicated Fellowship Council members.

Tessy shows graph representing how working groups are developing: this is already online so I’ll find link and update later.

1320: What’s making stuff slower (“brakes”)? Geography – FC members are very spread out and Time – FC members very busy.

1323: Word of caution: we have to reasonable about what we can expect from other fellowship council members: two members are currently pregnant, for example. We can work flexibly if any lack of activity is temporary (eg: 2-3 months) and if the percentage of members unable to contribute doesn’t exceed a certain level. it is the responsibility of both the individual member and the FC to find a way of contributing.

1325: Comment: there’s always the point in the evolution of a team where we shift from everything being really exciting and new to maybe a little less engaging. It would be good if we could look at ways of to avoiding any inertia. For example, what advice is there for people who haven’t got started on their working groups yet?

Comment: it helps if there is more than one person driving a group forward.

Comment: what are the questions that each working group is trying to answer? Once I know the questions, I might be able to help.

Comment: all of this is pretty experimental at present. We’d like as many fellows and fellowship council to be involved in the work. We need to manage the dynamics, we can’t all be highly involved all of the time.

Tessy: 778 people on the Ning. Membership up 83% since 1st January. More people participating: adding blog posts, commenting, adding videos, events etc. It’s still emergent, unpredictable, fellow-led and complex.

1330: Tessy summary: there are signs of growing confidence in the possibility of seeing some progress, particularly on complex issues and that dialogue is proving to be helpful. Co-creating and mutuality are important: we’re not a rubber-stamping dept; we need to create a balanced picture: make space for everyone; ensure that fellows are at the heart of all conversations, make it relevant and practical; create new opportunities and pathways where possible – make it easy!

Comment: could you give examples of some of the more complex areas?

Tessy: for example, the project framework and the regional review.

1335: Bob thanks Tessy for all her hard work in getting things started. He’s about to give a “whistle-stop” tour of the FC Review of the “Regions”.

Firstly, makes it clear that this review only looks at UK regions.

Review is really about getting the most from the RSA fellowship across regions. Relationship between regions and RSA House has not always been easy. Aim of review was to assess the RSA’s current regional framework and exploring regional representation for the future.

1338: How do we ensure that the RSA derives max benefit from geographically based structures and support and from combining the energy and commitment of unpaid volunteer fellows in regions.

Primary focus points: transforming the fellowship, more equity (geographically), how should resources be administered? what’s the role of the FC? How do ensure democratic input from Fellows in regions and responsiveness to national/ regional/ local needs, need for flexibility and change, yet meet charity regulations.

1340: Outcomes of first meeting: confirmed aims and objectives; agreed timescales – final report to be transmitted to Trustee Board ahead of October 2010 AGM; underlying principles include involving all fellows, being bottom-up rather than top-down, it’s not something where a clique of the few are doing everything; collecting evidence: we want to know what all regional committees are about, eg: what are their objectives etc; some key words: permissive and flexible framework, light touch, one size does not fit all (use different modes of operation), bottom up not top down – how can democracy be made to work within the fellowship – in the right way, to actually deliver something?

1345: Any questions?

Comment: it seems right that strategy should vary from one region to another.

Comment: there’s some evidence that bottom-up doesn’t work, but that a “customer-centric” approach does.

Comment: with regards to Wales, we do need a structure that’s open, accountable and transparent. There’s sometimes idea that regions provide a sort of impenetrable layer. I hope work we’re doing with projects framework will help create more transparency.

Bob: each regional group will have to have very clear objectives about why it’s there, and be complimentary to other RSA activity. It’s like a lot of concentric circles. We should be working with, not against each other.

Matthew: it’s inevitable that organisations should constantly be re-organising themselves; in trying to create a way of working that fits these criteria (flexibility, openness etc) – if we did this and we got it right, it would put us right at the heart of vanguard thinking. This is an institutional attempt to produce an organisational form that fits in the modern world.

Comment: lots of organisations get very hung up on who’s in which region. We don’t need to have this dialogue about what’s this region doing and what’s the centre doing, but more interchange between regions with each other.

Bob: we need to get the information out so people can cross the articifical boundaries that have been established.

Ann Packard: I’ve been charged with producing a questionnaire re regions – does anyone here have a question they would like to be included?

Bob: please email me if you have a question you’d like to be included: porrer [at] blueyonder [dotcodotuk].

UPDATE: PLEASE EMAIL ANN DIRECT: annpackard_pppt [at] onetel [dotcom] – be sure to use underscore not hyphen, suggested email subject field: “RSA: F/C regions questionnaire draft question”

1355: Jocelyn Cunningham: review of project framework.

David Dickinson: Factors to be considered: (1) differentiation – what is the nature of an RSA project (2) Adjudication – what are the criteria by which a request for RSA resources might be judged? (3) Equivalence – should the same criteria be used to evaluate ALL projects?

1358: Differentiation: what’s the USP? What makes an RSA project different from, for example, an Arts Council or ESF-funded project? We feel the clue is in the RSA name: “encouragement” – so we may finance projects that are already funded.

1400: David shows two slides representing spectrum of RSA projects, currently moving between those that are fully fellow-led and those that are fully staff-led (will try to get links).

Suggested criteria for fairly determining resource allocation: RSA alignment, quality assurance, unique contribution, managed risk (eg: impact on RSA brand), feasibility, replicability, scalability, dissemination, viability, time-bounded. We’ve seen examples of projects which weren’t replicable, weren’t scaleable – we have to ask how useful these really are.

Equivalence: we feel that right across the spectrum, all projects should be assessed using same criteria.

1406: Jocelyn: scoping the objectives. How can we make this as easy as possible? I’d like to pick up on the term “light touch” – we’d like to minimise bureaucracy while enabling as much as possible. Next steps? We’re looking for input on idea and tools so would anyone like to contribute?

Comment: Michael Devlin [missed this – will have to update]

Comment: sometimes projects don’t need money, they need other types of support – eg, validation. We can say these are things we think are good, for example. Can we embody values of RSA in ways we support projects – can we ask all projects to open source their learnings etc?

David: yes, we could say, we’re not directly supporting this project but it’s an interesting one run by one of our partners

Comment: we need to look at the consistency between a proposal and what the RSA stands for. The other thing was making sure the evaluation process adopts the most sopisticated evaluation technologies. For example, there is almost always a vast under-estimation of the timescale needed to make any kind of social change. Most of the long-term impact is on the lives of the people taking part in the project – even if a project is short-lived, the impact on the lives of people is not necessarily picked up. How you frame the evaluation is very important.

Comment: the RSA should have a default position of not funding any projects directly. We should seek external funding (?) We have an organisation whose projects are very suited to peer review. Peer review should happen before and during the time a project is commissioned. I’d like to hear a lot more about diferentiation: anything that isn’t replicable, highly original or likely to have a deep impact on making society a better place…let someone else do it.

Matthew: as they say, the future is out there but it’s not evenly distributed. If it’s not new, but it’s new to Bury St Edmunds, then we should probably do it. Whatever system we’ve got, ultimately it will work. People at all levels will have to be able to take risks. These systems only work if you keep proselytising.

1420: Successful social entrepeneurs never need to have their hand held. I don’t think things should be too easy. Fellows should strive because part of the journey is striving and part of the success is striving.

1423: Tessy thanks Jocelyn and David and adds: we need to make sure we don’t have very simple ideas being passed through a very simple system.

1424: Vivs Long-Ferguson: Seed fund update.

[a paper on the fund is circulated: this can be downloaded from ]

We’ve wanted to create a seed fund for fellows for quite a while. Some of the regions already have their own. We took this idea and wanted to develop a central one. We’re ready to soft launch in April with formal launch in June. We’ve got £60,000 allocated. This will be allocated (£500-£2,000) every month. There will be a bigger allocation (£5,000 quarterly) which will be announced in June. There will also be a skills bank – this will tap into fellows who don’t have a big idea but want to collaborate with other fellows. There’ll be a collaborative online space – we’re not quite sure how this will look as yet.

Comment: you said this is for Felllows who don’t have a big Matthew Taylor idea – but we’ve just been talking about a project assessment process that applies the same criteria to every project. If we’re going to have one process, I have to say I feel rather uncomfortable with the way this is being developed separately. These appear to me to be two parallel but inter-related tracks. Can someone reassure me this is not the case.

Belinda: I appreciate this feels disjointed but please believe me they are being developed in line with each other.

Comment: can we be sure that the same principle of innovation is applied to the seed fund project?

Belinda: Yes

Vivs: Rather than do one first, we decided to develop the seed fund at the same time as the project process.

Belinda: your project will go on the website and you’ll have to report on progress.

Comment: just want to come back to the value and criteria for this project/ seed fund. At the moment: positive social progress and aligned with the RSA values isn’t enough. Do you have any more on articulation of values etc? Im not clear. What’s the distinction of this fund as opposed to the many others out there? What’s there to say, don’t go to UnLtd (for example), go to the RSA? I just want more information so that we on the RSA Fellowship Council can act as ambassadors for this fund.

Comment: the key thing I’ve heard is that we’ve not got to put too many barriers in people’s way. Fellows always think they need money but we have the opportunity to maybe offer something else – legal or planning advice, for example.

Comment: is the fund available to fellows overseas?

Vivs: yes, it’s international.

1437: Tessy: thanks Vivs let’s take a break.


1450: Matthew Taylor: RSA update

I’m so impressed with the work you’ve all done so far. Now to update you on RSA, we’re in the middle of a soft rebranding process: you’ll have seen the tagline: 21st Century Enlightenment: I’m trying to write an extensive essay on what we mean by that. I’m going to do another post after this meeting. I’ve had some great comments so far. I’m trying to open source as much as possible.

We’ve got new flyers which will be on tables whenever anyone has an event, telling you about the RSA and what it does. We’ve got a new coffee stand (21st century coffee shop); we’d got a revamped journal. More and more people are watching our lectures online. We’re working on a real focus for our projects – eg, Prisons Project, our Peterborough Project launched two weeks ago. Last week the publication of the 20:20 public services commission report was announced here. We want to see what really works in terms of fellowship engagement: we had a conference where we told fellows how much we loved them, let a 1,000 flowers bloom – about 60 flowers bloomed and then fell over two months later. Now the challenge is to say, what really works? Let’s develop a toolkit, a set of insights. I want the RSA to become a radically different organisation from the other organisations I’ve come across. I hope you’ll see over the next few months a richer account from fellows of what really works for them. We wanted 2010 to be our greatest year. The steepest bit of the hill is next to come.

1458: Paul Buchanan opens floor for questions.

Comment: what exactly do you mean by ’21st century enlightenment’?

Matthew: I wrote a blog post last week and had around 40 really great comments. I don’t want to go back and reclaim the Enlightenment, or say that we need another four principles. I’m trying to use the Enlightenment as a kind of metaphor. What should we be against now? Firstly, I’m against blind progress – we need substantive progress rather than progress for progress’ sake [Matthew talks at length but you can read more about it on his blog].

Comment: I’m interested in how this council can go along with this debate but in a sort of parallel way? At a council level, is there an intellectual function for this council? There seems to be, because we are constantly talking about what are the values?

Comment: What you have to be careful about, is the idea of a 21st century enlightenment. You don’t want to do what John Doer (?) did. You don’t want to give an American 20th Century view of the enlightenment (which you’re in danger of doing). You have a fantastic body of expertise in the fellowship – how do you make the most of that?

Matthew: You can see all these potential streams where our energy and thoughts might flow but there hasn’t been a lot of water falling into them for a long time. You have to combine ideas resources, commitments and values. I really feel that’s beginning to happen.

Comment: maybe we should have a working group on how we take 21st century enlightenment, the new RSA brand forward?

Matthew: Nina and I need to come back to a future FC meeting and talk about the whole re-branding process. There’ll be all sorts of different perspectives to try and bring these ideas in line.

Comment: A lot of us struggle to understand identity: what exactly the RSA is and what is it trying to do. But I like the fact that there isn’t too much definition. I don’t think there’s necessarily always benefit in being too definitive and too prescriptive.

Comment: with the use of web 2.0 you find you quite often put your values out there, people will start taking them apart again quite quickly. We need to think about how we introduce these new ideas.

Comment: why can’t we just use the original Fellowship Charter?

Belinda/ Laura Billings: because the language is too archaic.

Matthew: first 100 years dominated by prizes, second 100 dominated by learned lecgures, last 50 years have been more uncertain. So the RSA has always reinvented itself.

Michael Devlin: I see we want to raise the level of debate, raise involvement. I think the easiest way is to join this particular debate (what do we mean by 21st Century Enlightenment?) on Matthew’s blog.

Paul Buchanan: Thank you Matthew, now for report back on gender group.

1515: Laura: women currently make up 22% of fellows – although proportion of women joining has really increased in recent years. We’ve got a series of events. The launch event will be here next Tuesday 30 March: over 150 women are coming, including around 75 non-fellows. Katie Moore especially has been building links with women’s networks. We’ve been building up an archive exhibition – which will also be viewable online. We’ve had posters printed out which will be at events. There will be two further events in Bristol (led by Katie) and Milton Keynes (Olivia). We’re also actively promoting Ada Lovelace Day (24 March) by encouraging people to blog about female RSA fellows who are/ were outstanding in science and technology.

[NB: If you’d like to blog about a woman in science and technology for Ada Lovelace Day tomorrow, you might like to take a moment to sign the pledge]

1520: Zena Martin: update on Terms of Reference. Feedback from last RSA Trustee meeting where two fellows, Zena and David have now being co-opted.

[Paper is handed out with revised version of draft terms of reference for the Fellowship Council – this paper will be available online when official minutes are published – I’ll update here as soon as I have url].

Comment: Some of the wording here is rather outdated, for example: “becomes incapable by reason of mental disorder” talks about a mental illness and therefore could be seen as discrimination.

Comment: I would feel a difficulty personally and professionally signing up to some terms of reference which included discrimination against people like this. Is this clause really needed?

Comment: Have only two council members been co-opted to Trustee Board – when will third member be co-opted?

Zena: There are three places but we are waiting to appoint a third when the required skillset becomes clear.

1535: David: The fellowship council is an important new bit of government and one of the important bits is how the FC ties in with existing governance. Zena and I attended our first meeting the other week and I’m delighted to say we were really welcomed in. Before each trustee meeting Zena and I will meet with FC chair and deputy chair to agree which points the FC would like to raise at the next Trustee meeting, so if you have anything you’d like raised, either approach the chair/ deputy chair or talk to Zena and I at any time. [David runs through key points covered in Trustee meeting: including RSA re-branding, review of budget – it’s healthy, apparently – and that membership fee will remain unchanged next year].

Zena: just to add that the Trustees are really supportive of Fellowship Council and really interested in what we’re doing.

Comment: would it be possible to see the agendas for Trustee meetings?

Belinda: agendas are confidential but we can certainly make you aware of any items that are directly relevant to the FC.

Comment: I can understand that papers or content might be confidential, but the notion of an agenda being confidential seems a bit strange. Secondly, I guess it takes time to align these things, but we need to know exactly what decisions are being made and when, eg, in relation to the seed fund.

David: yes, we need to decide the sequence of things.

Comment: I would really appreciate it if confidentiality of the agenda was raised as a key issue.

Belinda: we know there’s a communications gap and we’re looking at ways of taking this forward.

Comment: in the old days there used to be something that came out of the Chairman’s office highlighting key content from the Trustees meetings, and this information would then be disseminated through the regional network.

Comment: there’s a feeling that the FC has been mildly disempowered by the Trustees – for example, deciding the budget for the seed fund.

David: I absolutely hear that in terms of budget timescale, that was the meeting at which budgets needed to be approved.

Zena: my feeling is that we (the FC) are more advisory than governance.

Comment: I would like to feed back to the trustees that there is a really powerful role that the FC can play if we are involved more fully in decision-making.

Paul Buchanan: Both sides are making noises about working cooperatively. I’m sure as feedback is circulated and the year progresses, this will work even better.

1546: Tessy: thanks David and Zena.

1547: Tessy & John: Fellows Education Network: update

Tessy: we had a meeting/ discussion and highlighted four key areas. (1) supporting RSA initiatives, (2) sign-posting to Fellow educational events, (3) designing new conversation-based events (4) high level educational forum to informal policy.

Tessy: 20% of fellowship are working in education to we should find ways of helping these fellows work together, finding connections. The discussion we had was around (1) taking education out of the policy world and involving parents and children and (2) looking at a trans-educative forum which would impact on policy in some way. For me the most exciting thing was this idea that the fellowship can be a way of distributing ideas. We don’t always have to be coming out with new ideas. There might be fellows who want to get involved in a very lightweight way, for example hosting an event or debate at their school – we might have 100 debates around the country on 5 or 6 subjects (maybe 21st century enlightenment could be one?). One thing that’s struck me today, we’ve deconstructed a lot of things and actually we need to start drawing in some ideas.

John: One of the key things we need to do is decide on a formal agenda which we can then put out to the wider fellowship, get the feedback in. Discussions don’t have to be on a regional basis, they can be international. We’ve got an education charter which I presume is non-political with a big ‘p’ and we have a fellowship charter, so why can we not have a policy forum, a standing forum, using the educational charter and the fellowship charter as a background?

Tessy: I’m keen that we stay focused on taking action. The gender group is a great example of that. The scope of education is enormous but I think we need to focus on a few ideas and just get cracking. Another great idea is the social innovation network which is nothing to do with council, it was launched by a fellow last week.

Paul: okay let’s stick to time!

Michael: I would advise against launching another newsletter. We already have a newsletter.

John: okay.

Michael: finding issues that excite people at a local level is key to action.

Paul: also the central dichotomy of getting caught in our own navels with the intellectual pursuit of something, we need to also translate it into action.

John: I’ve been promoting the idea of a cross-party forum; it’s been promoted today by Tim Brickhouse in the Education Guardian. The RSA is in the ideal position to define a prototype of that.

1600: Paul: thanks John & Tessy and introduces the “Road Show”: presentation and idea generation.

1602: Michael: presents new idea of RSA roadshows. Idea behind roadshows is to go out to the regions and showcase new opportunities and new messages, to encourage involvement and an attempt to show that the RSA is not London-centric. RSA wants to reach out to fellows who aren’t necessarily engaging online.

Content for the roadshow includes enabling fellows to register for new Fellows directory which is being launched; to help people sign up to Ning online networking; to raise RSA profile and recruit, to run informal events in the style of the New Fellows Evenings which take place in London, to run charter development workshops, to meet fellowship council members and local FRSA leaders, to run project workshops or ideas surgeries and to promote the seed fund. Should events be big or small? Any questions?

Comment: what’s time scale, how many have been decided?

Michael: A budget has been ringfenced. We still need to decide exact format and schedule. I’d like to kick off roadshows as soon as possible, and involve fellows as much as possible.

Comment: are you envisaging that events could be tagged onto existing events?

Michael: yes

Comment: from the EasternRegion point of view, there’s a very elaborate programme of events that this could be tagged onto. What is the consultation process going on with chairs of the regional committees?

Michael: you (the Fellowship council) are the first step!

Comment: we don’t want to demonstrate and unconscious incompetence.

Comment: I’m more optimistic about this. I like the idea of people coming from the RSA to the regions. I live in Yorkshire and I like the idea of the RSA running ‘intellectual rock concerts’!! There’s a real hunger for this in the regions. I think the RSA could draw on its network of big names who reallly have something to say. Around that you can have the stalls. The last thing we want to do is attract people who like joining committees. Do one in Leeds, I would support it!

Comment: why don’t you run them along the 21st century enlightenment theme?

Paul: let’s take a vote on the format:

Big: 8 votes
Small: 1 vote
Both: everyone else!

Paul: thanks Michael and I think it would be good if everyone commits to helping out with roadshow events in their region.

Jemima: just to say that we’ve convened a group on digital engagement. Vivs is the RSA staff representative. We don’t want the group to be all social media luvvies so if you’re a bit of a cynic about all this stuff we’d love to have your voice. Please have a think and contact me afterwards if you’re interested.

1625: Finally does anyone have any feedback on the meeting today?

Comment: I think we’d like to have some time to reflect on that and get back to you.

1630: Tessy: We’re doing great work and thank you all for your active involvement today.

Live blog News

RSA Fellowship Council: live blog

13:09 Live blogging was the first item on the agenda today and I’m starting a few minutes late because of that. But I’m thrilled to say that the Council has voted by a large majority to allow live blogging to go ahead, as long as general comments are under the Chatham House rule (ie: not attributed) and people give permission to be named/ quoted. This seems fair because (as one Fellow pointed out), people may feel inhibited from saying what they really think if they know they will be referenced.

The meeting has kicked off with a summary of responses to the feedback questionnaire which was circulated by temporary chairs Bob Porrer and Tessy Britton a few weeks ago.

13:29 A discussion about the key activities of the Council led by Tessy Britton: we’re in a development phase as a new council. We don’t know what the plan will be. Maybe we can review what’s working best in six months time. Which model should we adopt, centralised or distributed? The overall emergent strategy was along the lines of leadership being “distributed and co-ordinated, promoting high levels of activity and developing a flexible structure to support this activity.

Comment: we don’t want to set up a whole raft of things and have most of them burn out quickly.

Tessy: maybe we should make a decision about a broad way forward and discuss the detail later.

General opinion in the room is that the emergent strategy outlined above seems reasonable.

13.38: Point 2 on agenda: what should be the difference between elected and appointed Councillors?

Matthew Taylor: It’s right that elected and appointed reps should have exactly the same status. Ultimately, ideally, everyone will be elected. We are at a transitory stage where the RSA is trying to respond to the complaint from Fellows that they are not listened to.

13:45: Summary from Bob: all elected/ appointed reps from each region/ nation should co-ordinate response/ feedback to that region between themselves.

Item 3: Do we need a chair and deputy chair?

Overall vote: yes.

Discussion about how long these roles should last. Generally agreed that a year seems right in principle with Deputy chair automatically becoming chair after one year. Thereafter elections would only be held for deputy chair. Discussion about whether chair and deputy chair should automatically become trustees (there are two vacancies on the Trustee Board). General consensus is that they should be separate/ “uncoupled”).

13:51: Comment: I’m a bit worried about complete lack of reference to regional chairs. Will regional chairs be feeling a bit marginalised?

Bob: The exact nature of the regional network is being reviewed at present and we would hope regional chairs are actively involved in that.

Comment: do we vote for Council chair/ deputy chair by show of hands or secret ballot? What if incumbent isn’t working out?

What should the election process be? Proposal is that FC members should self-nominate. Today we hope to have the chair and deputy chair elected, and the two nominations to Trustee board decided. Michael explains the election process (which will be proportional representation rather than first past the post).

14:00: Three minutes per descision.

Co-ordination and advance preparation for meetings? Yes; papers to be circulated 2 weeks in advance.

Transparency: unconfirmed minutes will be made available on RSA website to all Fellows within ten working days of meeting. Minutes to be confirmed formally at the next FC meeting.

Live blogging: already addressed at start of meeting.

Comment: Issue between live blogging and confidentiality still not resolved.

Should future meetings of the FC be observed? Suggested that current situation of live blogging with non-attributed comments and people flagging up confidential items beforehand, plus minutes available on website, is a good middle-ground; agreed that we could try live streaming if there is genuine demand.

Tessy: if young people want to come and observe meetings at later date, that should be an option at chair’s discretion.

Comment: we don’t want to be in danger of taking ourselves too seriously!

Bob: to conclude, live blogging and open minutes are acceptable for now as we are in development stage, but this could change at later date.

Comment/question: is there information that the trustees have that the council should also have access to?

Discussion: Trustees have a governance role but Fellowship Council is different.

14:12: Communications between members of fellowship council: proposal that we have a regular email newsletter: all agreed.

Problem of people hitting ‘reply all’ button in communications: Andy Gibson pointed out that Google groups or Yahoo groups where people can manage their own settings might be a better way of communicating.

14:17: Frequency of meetings: agreed that three meetings in 2010 would be better than two. Possibly March, June and October (as opposed to April and October)?

Fellowship Council meeting attendees (from RSA) will include CEO, Director of Fellowship, Head of Fellowship networks, COO, Director of external affairs and Director of projects/ research.

Fellowship council operations – contents of slide tbc.

14:35: Break

14:45: Nominations for Chair and deputy chair.

Tessy Britton nominated for Chair – uncontested.

Tessy Britton elected.

3 candidates put themselves forward for Deputy Chair (everyone wants to work with Tessy).

5 candidates have been nominated for 2 positions as RSA Trustees (1 withdraws due to clash of interests – sorry, not sure what, I think they’re also standing as deputy chair maybe?)

14:50: 4 candidates for Board of Trustee nominations give reasons as to why they should be elected; elections held for Board of Trustee nominations.

14:57: 3 candidates for Deputy Chair give reasons as to why they should be elected; elections held for deputy chair.

15:00: Networks, groups & projects
How to use issues, interest forums/ groups and projects to engage and communicate with Fellows, knit the network and activate fresh activity. Julian Thompson, new director of projects, will give some ideas to open/ stimulate discussion.

Julian: RSA projects aim to achieve and realise human potential. Broadly, current projects focus on:

1. Learning and education
2. Enterprise
3. The arts and design as creative tools that help us reconceptualise the world and act in the world
4. Ideas around communities and citizenship: how to live as social beings

There’s an exquisite tension between keeping projects on right track and being creative.

Transformation of fellowship and transformation of projects are implicitly linked.

Examples of some recent RSA projects:

1. Redesigning support services for people with long-term drug problems.
2. Network maps: mapping bonds between people in a community: showing people where their local connections are; proving to them that there is a network (despite the fact that sometimes people feel alienated/isolated within a community) and showing that there are opportunities/ ways to get things done.

RSA projects going through stage of consolidation and transition both at same time. Reaching conclusions on several big, important projects, but also trying to engage more with Fellowship.

Ideally Julian prefers hub and spoke model: hubs of activity around the country; becoming more self-sustaining, and developing spikes of activity around each one.

15:21: comment: a seamlessness in projects sounds heartening but I don’t hear much about the regions. It seems there is a separation between regional committee projects and there are central John Adam Street projects. I’m in the London region and there’s a slightly semi-detached feeling for the regions. It’s not so much about establishing the hubs as about making sure the connections are there.

15:23: Bob: Yes there has been a disconnect, I agree. But communication is key in changing that.

Julian: I’d like an online space where we could connect better with fellows.

Vote for open forum rather than group discussion (as a time-saver).

15:28: election results: Paul Buchanan voted Deputy Chair

Nominations for trustee board: Zena Martin and David Archer

15:30: Discussion around achieving the aims outlined by Julian. How do we create very local interdisciplinary forums?

Comment: yes, you need an “aims” framework, but that should come out of interaction with the fellowship.

Julian: we’re doing a formal evaluation of the Open Minds project but in terms of learning from past projects, I don’t know how easy that is to do. How much cultural memory of projects is there among fellowship, for example, and how do we capture it?

Comment: in terms of knowledge management, managing knowledge is incredibly different, but people need sense of who’s the right person to ask. (Back to ongoing issue of the fellowship database and how great it would be to have one…Belinda promises this will happen at some point).

Comment: We need more benchmarking, especially now that we’re seeing a blurring of boundaries between public, private and third sectors.

Julian: all our projects are online; you can dip in and see exactly what we’re working on at the moment.

Comment: we need to find was of being more motivating; encouraging fellows out there to get involved in the JAS projects; and vice versa; there needs to be some other way than going into all the regional Nings. Is there a forward plan of project priority areas? The fellows and regions need to have some influence…we need more democracy and citizenship and joined up-ness, and some serious mapping of who the Fellowship is (in Wales we have very incomplete and outofdate information).

Comment (Stephen Coleman): great mistake is to separate communication from the project itself. The way you make things work is to have a communicative infrastructure. You need to have evaluation built in from the beginning. Topics don’t need to be *either* regionally-based or topic-based – can be both. How should we approach this? (1) describe problems in a way that neither the media or existing government would describe them (2) decide how to generate/ facilitate discussion effectively between 27,000 fellows of RSA – in a way that nobody else is capable of discussing this (3) inclusion: how do we include people affected by projects in a way that respects them and listens to them? If the RSA can work out ways of doing that, that would be incredible. These are three principles of an approach to projects that I would like to see.

Comment: a lot of lessons came out of RSA Networks project. What are the terms of engagement on RSA projects? These still aren’t clear. If I have a project I want to take to the RSA, how do I do that? Where is the transparency around RSA research?

15:50: Can’t we use the RSA lectures/ talks in a more dynamic way?

Belinda: in the new year, as well as fellows database, we are looking at doing a much more comprehensive mapping of the fellowship database. Next year we will have a seed fund to give money to fellows’ projects, which will be a great way of testing a lot of these issues.

Julian: important that everyone should note that the RSA no longer funds projects. All projects now are externally-funded – central government, private sector partners etc.

Comment: fellows want to meet local fellows – that’s the biggest thing that came out of a recent south-west regional meeting. Many fellows see the regional committees as blockers rather than enablers.

Belinda: fellows are starting up their own networks all over the world: we’ve had a group start up in Singapore, for example.

15:59 Discussion around views on new fellowship charter.

Laura Billings: the biggest thing about feedback has been the lack of feedback, the lack of engagement; there’s been confusion around the purpose of the charter; on the plus side, we’ve been consistently told by fellows that they want a charter; my main reason for bringing it back to Council is that the charter is really important in embedding the current cultural shifts within the RSA. We need to take it forward to present to the AGM in 2010; it needs to be redrafted. It does need to be a spur to action; we need to find out what works for fellows; is there anyone who wants to form a smaller working group?

Comment: there really is too much confusion about what this fellowship charter is. We’ve got a royal charter. What’s this one for? I personally dont see why we need a second charter, we have a charter, and we are quite adrift from that charter already. The project we should be doing as a council is the RSA – what is the RSA? This should be our first project. And from that project, other projects should emerge.

Matthew: we have a Royal Charter that was written 255 years ago. We have tested our current work against that charter and it is broadly in agreement. The Fellowship charter is a way to be clear about what fellowship means and the expectations that fellows have of each other. The Royal charter is one that is difficult to change; the Fellowship charter is expected to be a living document.

Comment: is it a cultural document, intended to inspire, or is it an operational document, that will be used, for example, to exclude fellows, to tell them why they’re not being funded etc?

Comment: I think people think, well, this all sounds very well, but what does it mean in operational terms.

Matthew: We’ve been engaged in this process for some time; many years ago fellows said that they felt they weren’t being asked to do enough; there was a feeling that fellowship should be a richer, thicker, more content-full thing; the idea of a charter emerged organically from that; fellowship is a donation, not a fee.

Comment: can we call it something other than a ‘charter’?

16:13: Working groups: everyone is asked to (preferably) volunteer for at least one of the following:

1. Regions
2. Charter
3. Project framework
4. Fellowship (supporting/ connecting/ mapping/ specialist networks)
5. Developing partnerships
6. What is the RSA?

+some further issues eg: gender balance, digital inclusion which are to be discussed.

16:25: Meeting is about to wind up and as Bob very firm about 16:30 finish, I’m about to log off! Just wanted to say that this seems to have been a really productive, action-filled meeting and Bob and Tessy have done fab work in setting a great agenda and driving decisions forward. In fact, it’s all rounding off with a big applause for Bob and Tessy’s excellent facilitation!

Live blog News

Live blog: RSA Fellows’ Council meets

RSA HQ, John Adam Street

Originally uploaded by Grievous Angel

Last July the RSA held elections for a brand new Fellowship Council – the work of this council should mark a change in the RSA’s history. The RSA has around 27,000 Fellows worldwide and a central aim of the council is to form a conduit of communication between the Fellowship and the people who actually run the RSA on a day to day basis (ie the board of trustees, CEO Matthew Taylor and all the full-time staff).

It’s a grey Wednesday afternoon in October and the inaugural meeting of the new council has just begun. Most people have got the train or flown in from various parts of the UK this morning. We’ve been fed a nice lunch of beef bourguignon and butternut squash pasta, and had a bit of a chat, and everyone (I spoke to at least) seems very up for this idea and keen to get going.

14:30 Nearly all the newly-elected council members are here (around 35 people or so), plus key members of RSA staff, plus of course, Matthew Taylor, who is speaking at the moment. Taylor is talking about the ways in which the RSA has been trying to open up the organisation: projects like OpenRSA, RSANetworks etc (I’ll put in links to these later).
14:47 Debate about the nature of civic activism. Taylor gives example of “Opening Minds” – an initiative of the RSA now being taught in schools, but says it’s a shame that few RSA fellows are aware of this (especially if it’s their local school). RSA wants to give people support individually for the stuff they want to do in the community.
14:50 Stephen Coleman (Yorkshire) We tell everybody come and join get involved and then we bore them to death as soon as they walk in the door…we need to address this repeated failure to engage people.
Unknown (Scottish lady): We have to remember it’s a global network we’re dealing with (The RSA)
Dave Clarke: Online tools are a great way to engage fellows. It’s important to keep looking at the forest and not the trees
Taylor: The RSA is fundamentally about enhancing human capability: more engaged, more self-reliant and more altruistic – that’s fundamentally what we’re about
Ken: Matthew, you’ve said various things and honestly, you can’t deliver them – I think you’re raising expectations that the house can give help – it can’t! You’ve said there’s £100,000 venture capital available. It’s not venture capital. It’s seed capital. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver. You should be telling Fellows to set up their own activities, to do it themselves. We set up something called Shoot the banker – but no bankers turned up.
Taylor: I think it’s a false dichotomy. If people turn up here with good ideas we’d like to support them. Can we do an article in the journal? Can we film that event? Can we add a bit of money? Are there other fellows who are expert in this area that can help? Belinda can go through the list of fellows and find ones who can help you.
John Bale: reputational risk is a problem. We were right to sponsor one academy rather than many. It’s best to have one or two exemplar type projects in many diffierent categories.
Gerard: I don’t think failure is always a bad thing. We need bold endeavour.
Outgoing chair: The place is littered with RSA projects which didn’t succeed.
Matthew: The first three attempts to organise a Great Exhibition foundered. The fourth succeeded. You learn from your mistakes.

15:00 Man from Scotland: We need to look at communications and share best practice.
Lopa Patel: I’ve never spent an afternoon just talking about social change with like-minded individuals. But social change has to come from ground up and we need to make sure that we are representative.
15:05 We are becoming more representative: younger, more women. it is slowly happening.
Long-haired man: Where should the RSA be in five years time? We’d like to be able to say there’s an engaged fellowship and a real potential to exercise social change. This council could be an absolutely pivotal point in the history of the RSA. The council is here to build bridges – if we build bridges, the resources will be there for the things we want to do.
Anne: We need to find out what else is going on that can tie into the fellowship council.
Matthew: we’re carrying out various bits of research that will be fed back to you. At the moment it feels like it’s only meetings but that’s because we didn’t want to overwhelm you. We found groups of fellows who were acting together had hidden because they didn’t want the regional committees to close them down!
Rosie Ferguson: it seems to me that we need to be really clear about what’s on offer. All the talk is about groups of fellows coming together but how about fellows inspiring non-fellows? if so, that needs to be made more explicit. Don’t spend too much money in mapping and organising social change. Put resources into doing and enabling rather than organising.
15:10 Matthew: The govt had a ‘new deal for new communities’ programme but activism from community actually went down in the areas where this programme was implemented – so yes, I agree. All our fellows, because they’re fellows, are doing things, they’re already connected to the world. We’re not here for people to take their pet idea and push it through. It has to be a collaborative progress. This council is going to be an intellectually demanding process.
15:15 break for tea

15:35 back from tea break
Belinda Lester: talks about the Exhibition: a graphic illustration of the RSA’s draft Fellowship Charter. It looks very beautiful and detailed but I haven’t had the chance to have a look at it yet. One of the jobs of our council is to finalise this charter (from what I understand it’s so far all been put together by fellows). Three main elements: to inspire, to support and to enable. The exhibition itself will change over time, but the three main elements will remain the same.
Long-haired man: you need to look at the text in context of the international fellowship.
Bob (Scotland): I look at documents like this and I say ‘so what’? We need to think of ways of strengthening it. How do we make this ‘real’?
Andy Gibson: I think two of the areas of work could be almagamated – they’re the same thing. Also, what’s the difference between ‘support’ and ‘enable’? I think just ‘inspire’ and ‘enable’ is really strong.
Laura: Enable was meant to be a practical toolkit
Andy: Maybe connect a better word
15:45 Kevin: How come the fellowship charter is already in draft form? This is the first I’ve heard of it! A lot of fellows haven’t been involved. Why was there no letter? We’re going to do a new charter etc. How does this charter fit in with the RSA’s Royal Charter?
Man in pink shirt and stripey tie: Isn’t empower a better word than enable? Building social capital needs to be represented. It’s very London centric.
John Bale: people are from very broad range of backgrounds but have a common commitment to these three goals. We must be careful not to raise expectations.
Andrew: I like it. I like the three words. I think very often you have an over strong message. I think this sets expectations perfectly.
Frances: I like the fact its not a set text page, there is creativity, there’s movement…but I think it’s a shame there’s not the global dimension there. Congratulations for doing something different.
Zena: I think the exhibition is beautiful. But there is a perception of the loftiness of the RSA – but no reflection of the society that we are trying to change. It’s very much about ‘us’.
Lopa: There’s a few things missing for me. The word ‘action’ for example. It would be good to see a timeline. We’ve got the street view and above, but what about the basement view? Children down coalmines, people working in their garages, basements etc?
Gerry: we don’t want to create a whole load of structures, bureaucracy as I said earlier.
Belinda: I want to spend a good 20 mins in our groups chatting about what’s possible. What is it that we can unlock? What are the practical actions we can take? How can we help fellows talk to each other? How can we evolve the fellows charter?
Matthew: this is an enormous organisational change for us.
1600: group discussion

16:30 Feedback: Big themes of group discussions included: how to get grassroots projects off the ground in local communities, how to identify great projects, how to simply structure and application processes (RSA has pot of money it distributes every year – a chunk of this is traditionally allocated to regional committees but this is now being questioned as it’s not always clear where money goes) and how to deal with obstructive fellows (eg a member of regional committee who refuses to work with a project that hasn’t come through his/her committee), also communication between fellows is key and one point (made by Andy Gibson) that we should have some kind of ‘parish newsletter’ for Fellows Council so we all connect better between meetings. Rosie Ferguson points out that RSA seems quite elitist and on the illustration of the RSA fellowship charter there is no ‘door in’ to the organisation.

16:45 Belinda and Matthew say thanks. Now we get a 15 min break before AGM starts at 5pm.

Nice ideas to come out of discussion include ‘bring a friend’ events where fellows always try to introduce a potential fellow to the RSA when they come to events


The man MPs love to hate

I was hoping to record some Audioboos last night at the RSA London Fellows’ monthly gathering, but typically arrived late and managed to miss much of the action.

It wasn’t a bad turnout – around 30 fellows, potential fellows and some I guess just there for the free drinks. There were a good few animated discussions taking place, and lots of uber-networking – not surprising when you’ve got nine candidates for the new RSA Fellowship Council trying to politely convince people to vote for them.

There was one key disruptor present who (no doubt to the great relief of the RSA powers-that-be), won’t be standing for election – Henry Gewanter, the man now famous for breaking the MPs’ expenses story.

Just to give you a flavour of the conversation (and in case you haven’t seen it already), social reporter David Wilcox has done a great interview with Henry. Click on the embedded video above to see it.

Henry L.Gewanter – what a name! What a guy! It goes without saying that his career in (ahem) corporate communications is over, but with those Newman-esque eyes and rotweiller character, surely a role as media luvvie beckons?


RSA Fellowship Council – I’m standing!

Big thanks to David Wilcox and Tessy Britton – they’ve been brilliant!

Their enthusiasm sparked me to get involved with the RSA Networks project towards the end of last year.

One idea to come out of the project has been the setting up of a new RSA Fellowship Council. This council will ensure that Fellows are better represented at all levels throughout the organisation, foster collaboration, and propose and develop new initiatives.

A few weeks ago, I decided to stand for election to the new Council. My expertise is in running projects that use new technologies to promote enterprise, diversity and collaboration so I’m hoping to bring an informed view of the tools and methods the RSA could adopt, especially in social media.

As founder of my own consultancy (iKnowHow), I’d aim in particular to represent – and engage with – all the other Fellows out there who are freelancers and small business owners.

Since setting up iKnowHow, I’ve worked with clients like BT, Pact, RDF Media and Skillset so I’ve become familiar with the issues of managing change in large organisations.

Like any institution, The RSA isn’t without its problems, but its heart is in the right place – and the Fellows are downright lovely!

The RSA has the potential to be a really fantastic, fully-networked organisation – I really hope to get the chance to help make this happen.

RSA Fellows have a proud history of volunteering their skills; for me, voluntary work has always been in and around the creative business community.

In 2003, in partnership with Cass Business School, I co-founded the ongoing creative business network, Cass Creatives – one of the first events networks to ban PowerPoint from panel discussions and focus instead on robust debate and the exchange of ideas between disciplines (helped along by a few free drinks).

In 2004 I was invited to be a founding member of The Hospital – London’s club for creative entrepreneurs.

That same year, I became an elected director of Women in Film & Television (until 2006) and was chosen to travel to New Zealand as part of a UK government delegation representing all visual media.

Work-wise, as well as project management, I teach leadership and creative entrepreneurship at Masters level, most recently at Kings College London and Cass Business School.

In 2008 I won a UK Film Council/ Skillset award for setting up and running a mentoring programme for Women in Film & Television.

My book about the impact of social media on management will be published by Triarchy Press this Autumn.

If you’re an RSA Fellow, please think about casting your vote for me, and please add a vote for Tessy, who’s also standing.

In the meantime, I’d better get back to that redraft…