Tag Archives: Matthew Taylor

RSA Fellowship Council Meeting 11 – follow the live blog here #RSAde

This is a live blog of the 11th meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council, starting at 1.30pm today. The meeting will be led by Bob Porrer (Chair) and Irene Campbell (Deputy Chair) – pictured. Keep refreshing the page for updates, and please use the hashtag #rsafc if you’d like to comment or ask questions via Twitter. 

If you’re a Fellow, please participate if you can – the more interactive and representative the Council is, the better for Fellows!  

The highlights from today’s agenda include:

  • Announcement from RSA Fellowship Council Chair Bob Porrer re resourcing for the regions and nations
  • Presentation from RSA Head of Technology, Clive Holdsworth, on the RSA’s Technology Strategy 2012-15
  • Review of how the Fellowship Council is working (or not!) led by Irene Campbell 

1330: Bob: Welcome everyone to the last meeting of the current Council. If you’re thinking of standing for election to the new Council, please ensure your nominations are in by midday on the 30 May [more information about upcoming RSA elections]. It’s been agreed with the trustee board that I will stand on with Irene as Chair and Deputy Chair for the first meeting of the new council in September.


As you know there was a working group established to look at resourcing across the RSA. It was agreed there should be some contigency allowed to make it possible to do things fairly quickly. I’ll discuss that in more detail later. The working group had very detailed discussions with all stakeholders. Conclusions? Inevitably we came up with a lot of operational issues, eg, understanding of developing support systems. The reoganisation of the Fellowship Dept is progressing well but lack of capacity is causing a slow service response in contenxt of growing activity in the FEllowship. We saw a need to support governance changes and formulation of the new regional/national teams.

We felt that if changes introduced this autumn were not resourced properly there was a big risk of failure. We suggested two additional programme/ regional managers (formerly known as network managers). We recommended £40K in 2012/14 budget for support against development, and to enhance Catalyst with an additional £15K for admin and to encourage match funding; also leadership training etc.

Our recomendations for future review include that the progress on above changes are reviewed and adjustments made (FC working group can monitor), also that we review the formula for direct funding of regional/national teams in March 2012, also more transparency in resourcing.

What I want to emphasize is that there will be improved resourcing for regional/national teams in teh coming year. So that’s a really positive outcome.

[Missed comments here because Posterous was playing up – running very slow]

Data protection

Bob: a new legal agreement has been approved. And regional/national chairs will now have access to email addresses in their area once they have signed the agreement.

Comment: consideration should be given to the fact that regional/national fellow databases should only be given to the incoming chairs: what is the point of giving them to outgoing chairs?

Bob: We’ll pass that comment on.

New working groups

Fellowship Council members are as follows:

Regional/ national teams: [sorry missed members will have to insert later]

Thematic networks: Wiard Stark, Ann Packard + Ruth Jindall

RSA Technology Strategy

1350: Clive Holdsworth: Hello I’m the RSA’s new head of technology. This presentation is the same as the one I gave to the trustee board. Reid Hofmann who set up LinkedIn and other venutres made a quote about “It’s not an IT strategy, it’s a technologys strategy”. We already have an intelligent organisation, it’s about making it work better in a more intelligent way. There are six key issues:

1. Most of RSA’s current technologies outdated. Lots of duplication of effort. Many need to be replaced or updated. But the strategy is about better business processes: how do we want to work both now and in the future, rather than let’s just get some cool technologies.

2. The technology strategy supports continuous improvement in how we work. So our intention is to avoid “big bang” approaches and instead work through better business processes. New CRM systems, social CRM systems as they’re called, are far more open and available to everyone. As a “do tank” the RSA doesn’t always have a very efficient way of organising things. We do some good stuff on the nings etc but whether it’s Catalyst project etc we need a better way of doing that.

3. The delivery of the new environment will be done progressively.

4. All of the benefits to fellows which were to be delivered by the former fellowship platform will be delivered by the new strategy, and more. The fellowship platform was built on getting information from our old CRM and that was always going to be a problem.

5. User-centred design (UCD/UX): this is a concept very close to my heart and is all about if you want something to be useful to users then you bring users in early on in the process. One thing we’ve done around that, because you can spend a lot of money on that, we’ve bought in external consultants as well as setting up a user-experience group. The work with Dachis Group is a three stage process. We started off with initial work internally with staff; we’ve just completed a series of behavoural interviews with fellows: how they want to work, why they want to be involved, we’ll publish that. And the final piece of work is looking at fellows collaboratively: we’re following one particular project in Kent. Again, it’s a continuous process.

6. Final point is setting some governance to this: we have a technology stragegy programme board – this acts as a way of scruitinising the project: we have to deliver a business case, show user evidence etc.

[Clive shows a complex, brightly coloured diagram of how he sees the technology strategy working, with around a dozen independent circles describing the current tech situation and a smaller number of inter-connected circles describing the future situation]

We have some quick wins that we’ve put in place to keep our energy and enthusiasm going.

[Clive shows an even more complex diagram]

All of the different services have to work for everyone. In the centre is our social business technology hub: what you can do is connect different parts of this technology together to deliver different services. These are all examples of the types of different service we do, eg: ‘core 1’ is managing our membership. The big piece of work is around workspaces: delivering projects and that s where we’ve got a couple of quick wins: we’ve been using Basecamp and have campfire in the middle (a collaborative chatter environment). We are trying it out: it’s rented software. One of our key strategic points is rent, before buy, before build. Then if it’s not what we want, we haven’t wasted 1000s of £ in investment. Basecamp is like that. The other pilot we’re running is Huddle. They’re a great UK company based on Silicon Roundabout. Michael wants to introduce Huddle for doing stuff around the Fellowship: offers more features than Basecamp and is very good on delivery.

A couple of other things around this is that these tools talk to each other. It’s a much richer source of data. Fellows can choose what information they want other fellows to see. You can take info from here and create a completely dynamic fellowship directory.

We had an endorsement from the trustee board and now we need to build a more detailed business case. Will present work around the first stage, the CRM, to the next programme board in June.

[Clive shows this most complex diagram yet: this one shows the complexity of social business technology board choices]

You can see how much choice we’ve got out there – it’s like Tesco’s!

Trustee comment: We did endorse this programme and one of the reasons we endorsed it was because Clive just kept on talking about connecting.

Comment: one of the things that’s frustrated me on this council has been the lack of facilities for us to network with each other. Could you tell me what’s happening on that?

Clive: I will certainly look into that.

Comment: If we’re looking at things like Catalyst bids, Huddle and Basecamp may be a bit of overkill.

Clive: We’re asking, what are the better ways of delivering projects? Are there any templates we can use? It’s all about ways of working, finding the best ways of working. Better reporting. We need to know which projects are successful. Huddle is good in that because everything can happen in a larger workspace.

Comment: Thank you it’s a real pleasure to hear a tech strategy that doesn’t want to re-work the internet. And can I have a copy of that last graphic?

Bob: You’ll all get a pdf.

Comment (cont): Is there a way of converting people who are members of the general public? Think about it in terms of converting people?

Clive: We can track behaviours and spot people who might be worth approaching.

Comment: I’d like something really simple. What if I’m a Yorkshire fellow and I want to see something happening in Yorkshire? What I find difficult about current situaiton is we haven’t got that.

Clive: Well, that’s something we hope to change with this strategy.

Bob: thank you very much Clive [applause]

Fellowship Council review

1420: Irene: I remember what was here before. We had an advisory council, that didn’t last long. What we have now is so much better.

Matthew Taylor: and much more influential…

Irene: yes. And through us the fellows’ voice can be heard. The trustees ask for things to be sent back to us. We started with a blank page. Now in quite a good place. A new council starts in September and I think it’s a good time for us to take stock. it would be good to pass something onto the new chair saying this is where we are, this is where we’ve come from. Could you have a think about what’s worked and what could be improved.

[10 mins discussion]

1440: Irene: OK, so let’s feed back: what have we done well, what have we acheived in the last 3 years?

Comment: I’ve been involved for 18 months. When I started, the FC was seen as a talking shop, and since I’ve been involved the FC is now seen as affecting the future direction of the whole organisation. It seems to me.

Irene: so, do we feel we’re representative of the fellows?

Comment: No! As the years have rolled by, we’ve had less space to initiate our own agendas and have been more and more responding to presentations set on powerpoints. We don’t have a real opportunity to set our own agenda.

Irene: There’s two things here, first for the future, we could have more interaction together. For the last few years we’ve done an awful lot of process, but that was important because we’ve influenced the future governance here.

Matthew: I think it’s really really important, there was a report produced that came to various conclusions: memberships down, not sure what role was, governance a nightmare. Many orgs have stopped operating because of those goverance issues. Fellowship council is growing in its influence; one of the battles we have on the trustee board is that we shoudl look into this or that, but we can say don’t worry, the fellowship council is looking into this. The fellowship council needs to be in charge of fellowship matters but not always second guess the trustee board. Doesn’t want to emulate the trustee board. Wants to focus on matters relevant to fellowship.

Comment: activity has shifted to various working groups and thats a very positive shift. The more active council is outside of these meetings the better.

Irene: there’s something here about we dshiudl be more acitve outside of these meetings that I’d like to pick up.

Comment: one of developmetns is when there’s a sub-committee set up, the question is always, who’s the fellowship councillor on this group. Taht;s a good thing.

Comment: I’d disagree with not being able to set agenda. I always assumed that if I talked to Bob and Irene about what I’d like on the agenda, I could.

Comment: that’s not the point I was making.

Irene: Can we stay with this a bit longer?

Comment: If you look at the working groups on this agenda, they’re always at the tail end. Many of us don’t even know who’s on the working group. We should have been passed the technology strategy paper beforehand.

Comment: In terms of future there is scope for newsletters and journal etc is to make a bit more of the fellowship council.

Irene: yes I hope that will happen.

Comment: we started off today by looking at the improved deal in the regions and that wouldn’t have come about if the FC didn’t exist. That has come about because of this forum. Not just a talking shop.

Comment: we should congratulate ourselves on gettigng through the quagmire of governance

Comment: we feel at our table that Catalyst has just gone unbelievably well. And there has been more regional representation and inclusion.

Comment: I’ve been able to go back to my region and say, you’re not alone! And I’ve met some great people through the council.

Comment: The digital engagement working group has worked really closely with staff like Michael and Matthew Mezey and I think made some real changes. The new head of IT and the current technology strategy wouldn’t be happening now the way they are if it wasnt for fellow involvement (through RSAde) in the early stages. We’ve also now got a network of regional digital champions.

Comment: [sorry I missed this].

Matthew: future nominees to the trustee board should be engaging more with the other trustees.

Comment: Is there a chart that shows which regions have been visited by which trustee in the last 12 months?

Matthew: I could show you a list of Dutch mountains…no that’s not not true, Don Pinchbeck has been very good.

Comment: we need now to move forward on sharing best practice and focusing on projects.

Irene: we’ve discussed before acting as conduits for projects.

Comment: we actually don’t talk about what’s happening in the regions. You pick up information over coffee or lunch but that’s it.

Irene: maybe a written report from each region/nation?

Comment: I’m a bit worried about the amount of work we expect from people. Being chair is a lot to ask of people: both Tessy and Bob have put in a tremedous amount of work. Otherwise we’ll see people backing away from RSA saying they dont’ want it to take over their life.

Comment: is there any reason why fellowship councillors can’t see all 14 newsletters?

Comment: with Huddle etc all this can be possible.

Comment: how about a paper from Michael saying these are the highlights from the regions.

Comment: I’d like to defend Don Pinchbeck. He’s been splendid in Yorkshire and is a model that other trustees could do well do follow.

Bob: It’s been a hell of a lot of work for me as chair because of governance stuff. I hope not so much for the next chair. We’ve been successful and we get an awful lot coming to us and that clogs up the agenda. The new council needs to have more discursive stuff and also be careful that we don’t get nittygritty practical stuff coming up from the regions. I think we have achieved a great deal. A little bit to my surprise. WE’ve had a hell of a lot of change in a couple of years.

Irene: We get 3 hours here – would you make it into a day?

[Resounding yes]


1520: CEO’s Report

Matthew Taylor: 5 or 6 years ago the organisation was very well managed very sound but not achieving as much impact as we wanted. We now have lots of numbers but I think the real place for us to improve in the next two years is an emphasis on quality. One of our big challenges together is working with the fellows – make sure the support we give is around those projects which have a game changing capacity. It’s really great when we see Catalyst projects getting third party funding. Three years ago it was kind of anything to get noticed. Now our uber criteria is to pass a technology strategy which can be used by Yorkshiremen.


We need to try to spot the links between debates. There’s been a lively arguement on LInkedin about whether we should do more in manufactures and commerce. Thats a valid argument. We do have a lot more business speakers. But maybe not enough. These are genuine issues. We dont’ have much of a legacy in manufacturing. Five years ago the projects were funded by trustees and the fellowship team was five people. Adam Lent has to raise money for projects. it woudl be great if you could sometimes go into debates and make those connections. The more fellowship councillors could join those debates and make themselves available, would be great.

Any questions?


Report back from Trustees

David Archer (Trustee board Fellowship Council rep): most of the things we discussed have already been covered. Trustees very keen that if there’s more funding, we should get more fellowship councillors involved in the Catalyst working group. Also, the rennovation of the House is continuing apace – both Andy Gibson and myself ahve been in there with our hard hats – all Fellowship Councillors will be invited to grand re-opening. Finally, Luke Johnson’s time as chair of the RSA comes to an end at the time of the AGM this year. We’ve appointed some headhunters (Veritas) to both sift applicaitons from fellows and look for potential outsiders. Don Pinchbeck is chairing the committee that runs the process. If you want to see the ad straight away, I believe it’s on the Vertitas website now.

Comment: Will the Great Room still be available for Fellows’ use once a month?

David: yes, it’s hoped so. A regular timeslot every month, eg: first Tuesday. There should be time allocated for fellowship use and its up to the FC to work out how that’s managed.

Matthew: we’ll charge thousands of pounds for the Great Room and need to make sure that fellows’ priviledge isnt’ abused. For each event, there will have to be really clear positive outcomes for the RSA rather than just a jolly.

Comment: you said something in the paper about increasing the number of Catalyst bids? I don’t think it’s a quality issue I think it’s a quantity issue.

David: Fellowship councillors should help on both counts but especially helping with the quality of bids before they get to the submission stage.

Bob: thank you and now over to Adam.


1535: Adam Lent, Director of Programme: there’s a lot going on but if I don’t mention it, doesn’t mean we’re not doing it. I’ll very quickly look through the three main areas of work:

Firstly, enterprise: we’re trying to get a major project off the ground around innovation in employability  – noone at the moment is looking at that range of innovation and how to learn from it. We’re looking at schemes going on around the country to see what we can learn. We’re looking at RSA Premiums (prizes for innovation) with Google.

Michael Ambjorn: that last one actually came out of the RSAde group attending a hackathon so another example of how the FC has influence.

Adam: We’re looking at manufacturing and technology. As a design led project, we’re looking at closed loop (no waste) manufacturing – potentially turning the UK into a centre for no-waste manufacturing. We’ve also got relatively smallscale projects around useful investment. Finally, probably at the earliest stage of investment, is doing a lot more work alongside young entrepreneurs. This is about mobilising the RSA’s assets and networks to support a whole range of young entrepreneurs (under 29) – giving those people access to a whole range of wise older heads.

Re education, we now have three members in our family of schools (academies). We don’t want to grow too quickly. Probalby the best thing to come out of our family is that one of the outstanding schools is now helping another school which is struggling slightly. There is a new blog for Opening Minds.

Comment: Wales is very interested in using the Opening Minds curriculum.

Adam: Thanks that’s great. The Academies Commission is going to report by November – we want to report as quickly as possible – it will be looking at how the rapid expansion of academies across the UK can be managed. Finally in July we’ll be publishing a report on the so-called Middle Tier – with a lot of schools becoming autonomous (academies), there’s a big debate in govenment about how this shoudl be managed.

Community and public services: West Kent recovery capital. We’re looking at how you drive up public sector productivity at a time of austerity. We think you need to be much more strategic and thoughtful about how you apply cuts. Citizen Power Peterborough will be ending in July – the final report from that will be published in September. We want to develop an RSA understanding of what citizen engagement means. We’re also looking at how social networks can drive local enterprise (Networks and local enterprise).

Projects relaunch: interim paper has been approved by the board. We need to come up with a new name. Hoping to get a group of marketing and branding experts together to help me. Launch event in September.

Fellowship involvement: We;re develping a clear strategy and process about how to get fellows more involved in projects. A key factor is that project staff work incredibly hard to run the project, raise money etc, and need to communicate with fellows in that context. We’ve created a new post for someone in the networks team to implement this strategy. I’m convinced doing that properly is a full-time job. We’ve appointed Sam Thomas to that role.

Profile and influence: our work on education is clearly leading the way. Our report on police got lots of media coverage and broadcast. Shows we can do a lot with something small but well-timed and focused. It’s good: our early stage projects are getting a lot of interest from government and the media.

Comment: many thanks I thought that was very valuable. A lot of educational activity in the RSA seems to be focused on influencing policy. You’ve got to involve civil society more generally in the educational discourse and not simply respond to the policy-makers’ agenda.

Bob: And that’s another reason why we need to take these projects out to the regions.

Fellowship survey report

1600: Josef Lentsch: as you know 22% of fellowship responded to this year’s survey. The RSA is in a fairly good position – our members are relatively loyal, but things can and should be improved. This includes things like the Skillsbank and Fellowship directory. We need to look at how we can further tailor fellowship journeys according to your motivations. Some fellows want to engage. Some simply want to support. We need to look at ways of making the website more informative, for example. The regional data is quite sensible.

Comment: when’s this going to be made public?

Michael: we are holding the newsletter for this so very shortly. But the regional data will not be published – it will be given to the regional teams.

Meeting of Regional/National chairs

Keith: We had a very good turnout. As Irene says, Alan Bossley from the West said it wasn’t going to be a sit around and chat so they did this good way of working and we all had a really good time: what’s the role of the regional chair, how should we be etc. We had quite a wide-ranging discussion. We were all in danger of having a good time and agreeing with each other. Which is not like the RSA at all. There was a great feeling of unanimity that we were all moving forward together after a time of great wrangling. Sharing experiences in public was a very worthwhile experience.

Comment: It was a very safe place.

Irene: Is it possible that we could circulate the paper? (on the outcome of what the chairs feel they can contribute in their role in the new governance structure in the regions).

Comment: can I just ask who’s thinking of standing again?

[Around half the room – 20 people put their hands up]

Comment: thanks to Jemima for all her hard work in chairing the Digital Engagement working group.

<< blush >>

Michael: The international working group has set up a group of connectors to help fellows connect to each other in regions outside the UK. You can see who the connectors are here.

[Big thanks to Matthew Mezey for getting the connectors’ page up and running and also for the list of Fellowship resources ]

Comment: I’d like to thank Bob and Irene for all their hard work in chairing and co-chairing the council.

[resounding applause]

Bob: thank you. I think we have moved on quite significantly and I’m very pleased. I’d like to also thank Michael, Lou and the whole Fellowship team – amazing to see how hard they all work. And I thihk that’s a good point to call this meeting to a close.

Meeting closed.

RSA Fellowship Council liveblog – how do we measure progress?

1330: The seventh meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council has just kicked off and there are 12 apologies – clearly some members prefer to be outside in the glorious spring sunshine 😉 I’ll be liveblogging the whole meeting here so keep refreshing the page for updates.

Matters arising

1335: Irene Campbell (FC deputy chair) on what we should actually be doing as a Fellowship Council and whether we are actually achieving it. She says this is an issue that’s been taxing her a great deal over the past two years. There are four bullet points on what we do: house-focused stuff (we spend a great deal of time doing this); regionally-focused; liaison role – reporting back from individual Fellows and administrative.

1336: I don’t think the regional focus has developed very much at all. Our liaison role – sharing the best practice from the regions so we can learn about them here at the FC; hasn’t been going on at all. We do also represent the individual Fellows in our regions. How are we doing that? How are we speaking to them?

The final bullet point was an administrative one, how should we be logging the achievements (or not) of the Fellowship Council. I don’t think we’re doing this either.

How about we actually have an away day – or away session – where this stuff is discussed, outside of the House?

1340: comment: I doubt the fellows in my region even know who their representatives are.

Comment: all these issues seem to be around engagement and we do have a “digital engagement” group but that’s only focused on engagement digitally (obv.)

Comment: a lot of discussion over governance and a lot of changes, I don’t think the structure is quite clear yet.

Comment: are the emails of council members on the FC members page? So people know how to contact them.

Discussion about emails and email addresses with no clear outcome.

Comment: re the recent fellowship survey, we should look at how fellows are engaging now and where there are gaps and how Council can fill those gaps.

Comment: we spoke about doing an induction session for new fellows in specific areas (I’m from Bristol) but nothing has materialised.

Comment: in South Central we run induction evenings for new fellows. They’re actually quite a useful retention device.

1347: Irene: all these are really good ideas and I’ll pick them up from the minutes (or liveblog).

Comment: new fellows get a welcome letter, but then nothing happens. The most common question is who’s a fellow locally?

Matthew Taylor: first of all there’s been a major shift in how we recruit fellows: most fellows are now recruited by other fellows, or because they approach the RSA because they are fans of its work. So that’s helped becasue we’ve got fellows coming in with a better idea of what the RSA is.

One idea being floated on the trustees is that every new fellow has an induction interview where we can find out what they’re expectations are and try to meet them. Using this group to bounce ideas off would be great.

Comment: this would be great. In Scotland we’re developing an induction pack for all fellows which we;re sending out prior to the Scottish AGM. It’s a two-way street. I think that message should come from the central body. I like Matthew’s idea about having a conversation, face to face or otherwise.

1350: Irene: thank you very much. I can presume you’re all in favour of me looking more into this and I’ll take it forward.

Bob: it is moving forward, perhaps not as fast as some would like. Okay, on to the next item.

Governance Advisory Group

1354: Just to remind people what the GAG [pronounced “Gee-Ay-Gee” people, not the other way] is actually all about: it looks at the composition of the trustee board, including sub-committees etc. [Note: sorry there was more on this slide but I didn’t get it]. The GAG It needs to find the right balance between proper representation of the Fellowship, efficiency and effectivesness in manageing the RSA and its resources, meeting the requirements of the Charity regulators, minimising bureaucracy, developing a governance structure that best reflects the purpose and aims of the RSA.

We need to think about a communications strategy – David will update:

David: we’re keen to ensure that FC, fellows etc have a say in proposals. Aim is to get a draft out to fellowship council and regional chairs around 7 May. Get it out to fellowship via website by 7 June. With feedback gathered back by 4 July. We’re conscious there’s a lot of different people to reach. We have to think about what goes on paper, what on the website etc.

Anne: we felt it was important for individual fellows to have their own chance to respond, not just through their committees.

Comment: we need to come together to discuss this. It’s a fairly significant piece of work. We need to discuss and then vote on the proposals. As a body we should endorse or not.

Bob: it would be useful to have an open discussion.

Comment: theres the possiblity we make this an over complex consultation.

Comment: maybe a wiki would be best for the fellowship council.

Comment: some fellows aren’t even on email.

David: we’re mailing papers to the fellows who aren’t on email.

Comment: I’m not in favour generally of wikis but in this situation it might be the easiest way.

Comment: I think we need a proper meeting of the Council to discuss this. We need to give it the gravity and weight it deserves.

Comment: we’ve already had a great deal of discussion around this issue.

Bob: I am sensing we should do this electronically.

Comment: if we have to vote, I’m not sure how we do that electronically.

Is the draft report going to go to the Fellowship Council before anyone else?

David: no it will go to the FC and the regional chairs at the same time. Otherwise we won’t have time to finalise it before it needs to be included in the papers going out for the AGM.

Comment: it’s right to talk about the right structure but surely it’s up to the GAG to make the final decision. It shouldn’t need a substantial amount of input from us.

Comment: our role is to advise. The question is, are we content to put in our input as individuals or do we need to come together as a group?

Comment: I feel that if possible, there should be a collective view from the Fellowship Council prior to the AGM. Either we develop a collective view electronically or we have to have a extra-ordinary meeting of the FC.

Bob: I think it’s up to the GAG to comment constructively how to accommodate this feedback.

David: that would be possible. Draft report goes out on the 25 May.

Comment: the digital option is to have a draft discussion and then have a special meeting with a one item agenda where we vote as to whether we support it or not. Do we need to vote to endorse it? I don’t know.

Bob: I think the chances are the FC will agree with 85% of it anyway.

Comment: exactly. The main objections are likely to come from the Fellowship itself. So let’s not focus too much on what the FC wants but more on what the FEllowship as a whole wants.

Bob: Irene and I can get a brief summary of the consensus.

Comment: the advantage of a wiki is that the comments are all available centrally.

Bob: I think we should look into setting up a wiki and that’s something the FC members on the GAG should focus on.

David: GAG next meet on 5 May. We can then publish timetable – give you a clear idea – and get comments back from this group.

1415: Bob: these are the specific issues on which GAG has requested comments.

First: the proposals for governance: that the Fellowship Council should move to 5 co-opted members (to ensure representation) and 35 elected members including 14 elected regional chairs. All these elections would take place at the same time through a ballot of all fellows in each region. This is a big change for regional chairs because at the moment different regions do different things: usually the chair is proposed by the committee, and then endorsed at regional AGMs. It’s a bit of a mess. Holding the elections at one time would mean more publicity and hopefully more fellows voting.

Matthew: there’s a paper going to next GAG meeting about regional governance – we want to give regions scope for having the kind of model they wish to have (panel or committee selection) and move from AGM to regional conference – making it an event for broader discussion.

Comment: it seems fair that anyone who wants to become a regional chair can just get enough people to vote for them and then become chair.

Bob: some regions have different structures: there’s the question of continuity: sometimes the deputy automatically becomes the next chair. At the moment, it’s difficult for anyone to challenge this system. If you are elected as regional chair you become ex-officio member of the Fellowship Council [but you don’t have to take this role up]

Comment: I don’t want to increase the bureaucracy but anyone who wants to stand for chair should at least have been on the regional committee for a year.

Comment: I think it’s up to the fellows to decide that.

Comment: what if you want to stand for the Fellowship Council but you don’t want to be a regional chair?

Comment: I think there’s a bias built into these options. The more dynamic model is more complex. The traditional model is still there. The model we’ve got is Fellowship Council members activating the regional committees. But the committees should be adopting a much more grassroots, regional approach.

Comment: re electing the chair, I don’t think it matters if we have panel or committee. The risk is having someone elected who has no experience of the regional committee or the fellowship council. There should be some qualification element.

Comment: the only criterion you should need is being a member of the fellowship. I have a problem with the issue of chairs automatically becoming FC members. I thought the whole idea of the FC replacing the advisory council was to bring in fresh blood and fresh ideas?

Comment: we need to build some links because that’s what has been missing in the structure. We’re all getting hung up on the electoral process. Why do we have to have all the elections at the same time?

Bob: I think the idea was that if you were elected to the FC, you should be elected by the people in your region. And the same goes for the regional chairs.

Comment: the flipside of that is that you look at de-stablising some of the regions.

Comment: there are two roles: being a regional chair is different to being on the Fellowship council. It’s a great idea to encourage people to engage in a democratic process.

Comment: I don’t know enough about regional committees and how they’re structured but it does occur to me that this a bloody big job. I wonder how many people might actually be able to do this job.

Bob: This was actually requested by the regional chairs.

Comment: no it wasn’t.

Comment: I believe that there is a reasonable number of reginoal chairs already on the Fellowship Council.

Comment: that might be a happy coincidence.

Bob: The idea is to cement the link between the regions and the fellowship council. The GAG have been giving a great deal of consideration to this.

Comment: the other issue is the regional representation: so is the intention that everyone on the FC should be representing the interests of a region? So what’s the role of the FC?

Comment: what’s the point of us being elected to represent regions when we don’t get a vote on anything anyway? It seems to me that representing the regions is a particular skillset.

Comment: I represent a region and I haven’t found it too ardous – we give feedback after meetings, the lines of communication are open. I think.

Comment: but I don’t define my relationship with the RSA by where I come from. It’s defined by my interest and the projects I’m involved with.

Matthew: that’s a good point. We wanted to ensure a good representation of skills on the FC. It’s interesting to note that the co-opted FC members are younger than the elected ones, for example.

Comment: I’m not here to represent my region because they didn’t vote for me. I’m here to help with other things.

Comment: the entire regional set up gets £40,000 a year. That’s woefully inadequate. There is a confusion and Matthew this needs to be addressed. The regional managers get £700,000. Where does that money go?

Matthew: the figure is nothing like £700,000. That’s the total cost of fellowship services. Everything that network managers do is a reflection of what the fellows ask them to do. If the regional group decides it wants to spend money on ski-ing, painting, that’s what the money gets spent on. As long as the use is within the charitable remit of the RSA, the money gets allocated. There is an issue aroudn getting regional and network managers to work together. That’s what we have to work on. It’s not about network managers being sent from here. We have 9 network managers with an average salary of £23,000.

The big question is getting that bottom up resource and Catalyst to work better. We can’t mandate regions to work well with network managers.

Comment: we need to keep this simple enough so that everyone understands it.

Bob: what I’m getting here is that we need to see the right mix of skills and backgrounds. Can I basically say that there is general support for what is proposed [FC becoming a council with 35 elected mems, including 14 regional chairs]?

Comments: NO!!

David: we don’t have to vote on this now.

Matthew: to be helpful, GAG was set up by the Fellowship on a vote, with delegated powers. It seems to me that if we go back and disagree with what the GAG says, then we risk making the Fellowship rather angry. GAG was set up by the Fellowship. If we start having minority reports, we could be in a lot of trouble. These should simply be recommendations.

1452: Bob: Let’s take on board all those comments.The GAG is also looking for a combination of 6 elected and 6 co-opted members on the Trustee board.

Comment: but how about the 5 co-opted members of the FC?

Matthew: it could be said that the co-opted members of the FC weren’t eligible.

Comment: I think we’ve done this item to death. Can we move on?

Interim arrangements

1455: Bob: I’ve circulated a paper. The idea is to extend the office of current elected FC members by one year. But as the idea is that we should be moving to a more elected council, maybe we should just leave things as they stand. Are people happy with that?


Fellowship survey

1500: Matthew: There was a lot of discussion last year about what fellows wanted. So we decided to run a survey on what fellows wanted. The survey run 9-28 March. WE got 1,950 responses. 10% of fellowship. It was incredibly representative, more men than women not much we can do about that. Slight under representation of over 75s.

98% were aware of the Journal.

94% were aware of the lectures.

Surprisingly, RSA Animate has been watched by 27m people around the world but only 23% of members are aware of them. By the way, RSA Animate has been nominated for a Webby award: please vote for RSA Animate here!!

90% were aware of their local network.

The general description of RSA fellows is “happily unengaged”

Nearly 20% have attended a local network event in the last year.

70% were aware of the Felllowship council, although a significant percent weren’t sure what they think about us [Oh dear!]

56% are aware of Catalyst.

41% are positive about the RSA – feel it’s got better in recent years. Less than 2% feel it’s got worse.

26% of Fellows want us to focus investment on web based services and support (top choice for investment).

Only 8% weren’t aware of any of the RSA’s public platforms.

There’s lots more interesting stuff and I’ll try to find if full results of survey are posted online anywhere.

1510 Break for coffee

1530 Back from coffee; brief discussion as to whether FC members are happy to have their email addresses given on RSA website; suggested that links to LinkedIn/ Ning profiles might be preferable.


RSA Strategy

1534 A strategy paper outlining aims for 2011-13 was circulated with the agenda. What do FC members think/ any comments?

Comment: this seems very ambitious, lots of stuff in there – how will RSA meet its ambitions?

Matthew: yes we need to ensure our aims are matched with resources.

Comment: is there something that links the results of the survey with the strategy? I like the strategy but it is aspirational. What does the survey tell us about the granularity for the potential of fellows projects etc.

Matthew: we hope for some cross-tabulation. If we get a region with only ten respondents it might be hard to do that. Engagement is very age-related. Young fellows tend to be more engaged and more positive. There obviously are exceptions but generally that’s the pattern. We’ve got to look for multiple levels of engagement. The uber-task we have is aligning eveything we do: ensuring that each bit of the RSA turns another bit of the RSA. More and more fellows are coming together to discuss the same issue: what can places offer at a local level? This ties in with the top level research we’re doing on place-shaping. When you start to see that, then we have a proposition that no other organisation does. There are a lot of thinktanks etc. Number 10 find the idea of an organisation combining grassroots input with professional insight is a very useful things.

Comment: by September you hope to have 10 per cent of fellows in the directory seems a bit unambitious.

Matthew: you can’t force fellows.

1540: Matthew: we have much more discussion on the trustee board about fellowship matters than we’ve ever had. Our levels of engagement are higher than ever. Every weekly meeting we get input on what the fellows are doing. I’m being asked all the time on how you get these levels of engagement going.

1543: Comment: how about new fellows? No of new fellows has gone down.

Comment: our strategy on fellows is quality not quantity. We’ve seen two massive bursts and that relates directly to direct mailing campaigns. Then we get a bunch of fellows joining who don’t really know. We want to reduce the number of fellows who join AND the number of fellows who leave. So we get a stronger, more engaged fellowship. Growth follows engagement not the other way around.

Comment: what have you been doing in relation to retention?

Josef (RSA operations manager): Retention starts with recruitment. We are making sure we contact fellows throughout the year personally. When they leave, we need to find out why. We’re looking at conducting an exit interview.

Comment: the main reason people leave is not getting time to get involved, and money.

RSA digital engagement

1550: Jemima (yes, me, your faithful liveblogger) gives a brief overview of RSAde and asks for input from FC.

Comment: you should speak to RSA projects about semantic representation of their work.

Comment: data visualisation becoming increasingly important; might be a tie-in with RSA animate.

Matthew: we’re about to launch a competition to find the next step after RSA Animate.

Comment: one of problems is RSA brand doesn’t have a personality. There’s a distinct lack of personality.

Comment: Euan Semple is writing about this a lot. His line is organisations don’t tweet, people do. And the personality of an organisation comes its people.

RSA website review

1555: Josef (operations manager) runs through changes to the RSA website. (Sorry I would list them all here but you’ll see them when the site is refreshed next month).

RSA brand redesign

1605: Matthew: the new logo is meant to be a platform, so that the space below “RSA” can be used for any words or phrase depending on the context (eg “21st Century Enlightenment”), and it can be in any colour, so for example when addressing fellowship issues, it will be in green, which is the fellowship colour.

The reason the RSA website doesn’t have the new logo yet is because we are going to incorporate that when we re-launch the site next month.

Chief Executive’s Report

1610: Generally agreed that this was really useful to read and requested that this be circulated regularly.

Comment: I’d like to extend thanks and appreciation to Matthew for sharing this.

Comment: are you and the trustees responsive?

Matthew: there are a few fellows who are hostile to the way in which the RSA is going, but there’s not a great deal I can do to respond to that.

Comment: there’s a lot of work to be done, that’s why I’m here. A lot of work at the RSA is with English government but a lot of good work happens over the borders in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Matthew: there is a history of collaboration with Scotland. We share your frustration that we do not do as much work with Wales as we’d like.

Report back from Trustee Board

1615: Zena Martin: I’ll just report back on a couple of things. First, the family of schools. We’re pleased to report that Whitley Abbey in Coventry would like to be part of the family when it becomes an academy in July. The board’s approved the creation of a new committee. That’s really exciting. It’s very near and dear to my heart. At the last meeting there was concern about the FC not being consulted about the family of schools, strategy paper etc. The board said the issue was not so much about transparency, it was about timing. Really it’s got to be a case by case basis.Sometimes the FC can be included a bit more and sometimes it can’t. On a good note, the FC has seen a lot more of the survey than the trustees have seen. As we take more shape and really understand our role, we will see more of engagement.

Bob: the key issue seems to be to plan as far as possible so that we will be consulted.

Comment: With regards to the family of schools, the point really was that if we could balance this off a bit – it was really about ciriculum and not so much about academy, if there was stuff we could share with other educational establishments, that would be great.

Zena: we want to make sure there’s consistency across the board. We don’t want schools adopting the opening minds curriculum when they haven’t been accredited to do so.

Matthew: it was intended to be a collaborative model ffom the very beginning.

Comment: It shouldn’t just be about schools. That curriculum could be used in community centres etc.

Comment: I’ve sent a letter to Michael Gove pointing out that academies are not necessarily superior institutions to other schools. The verdict is still open. There are good academies and bad ones. This structural change may not be the most significant factor.

Matthew: there are a number of schools that want to be an academy, and they’re deciding who to be an academy with. If you look at Tipton, that’s a very progressive academy.

Comment: this academies issue, I’m still not clear on what the RSA is contributing. Looking at the survey, only 17% wanted money to be invested in education.

Comment: this is a completely different model to the Tiptree academy where there was a lot of capital investment.

David: The new Great Room project: we can open up the room to give access to simultaneous events nationwide. The idea we’re floating is that every month there should be a free fellowship activity. I’d like to talk in more detail but there’s not enough time. The plan is to complete it by 2012 as it would be so great for Olympic-related events. There’s an opportunity for people in this room to get involved in focus groups.

Matthew: our new house manager Matthew Bates has seen that with the new Great Room, we can have two big events going on at any one time.

Reports from Working Groups

1630 Bob: Any questions on the reports from working groups?



Bob: Just to note there is a meeting coming up for regional chairs on 13th May. Hopefully that will tease out issues which we can then bring forward.

We dicussed holding the FC meeting at the Tipton academy but that proved tricky. Are all agreed we should organise a visit to the academy as a separate event?


Next meeting

Re the next meeting, would be like to incorporate feedback/ presentations from regions/ other groups on good practice?


Comment: maybe we should take governance off the agenda, then we’d have more time!

Comment: if we had a Fellowship Council wiki then we could actually discuss a lot of this stuff online.


Comment: maybe next December we might have some time for a bit of informal networking?!!

Matthew: the budget might stretch to that.


Comment: I was hoping we could have a few minutes on the agenda so I could take back to my group some ideas from the fellowship council. My group (Norwich) wants some guidelines back. So you have an intersection between what’s going on nationally and what’s happening locally.


1638: Bob: any other business? Nope, okay.


Meeting closed









Today is Ada Lovelace Day and I’m grateful for family planning

And of all the women in science and technology to whom I might be grateful, Marie Stopes (pictured above in her laboratory, 1904) has to come pretty near top of the list.

Stopes (1880-1958) pioneered family planning as we know it today. She was a tireless campaigner for women’s rights and her book, Married Love (1918) shattered taboos on love, sex, marriage and child-rearing.

Although her UK business ran into trouble in the 1980s (the clinic I went to as a teenager no longer exists), today, Marie Stopes International has more than 450 clinics worldwide and has protected millions of couples from unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion.

This year, Ada Lovelace Day takes on a special significance because I’ve been working on the RSA’s initiative to recruit more women members. The programme will officially launch at a glitzy reception next Tuesday (I think it’s sold out but you can always pop your name on the waiting list).

Although the RSA has always welcomed women Fellows (Marie Stopes was one of them), the current female membership stands at just 23 per cent. By celebrating female RSA Fellows in science and technology we hope to raise the RSA’s profile among women just a little bit.

The RSA’s Matthew Taylor and Laura Billings are also due to write posts today. It turns out Matthew is related to Ada so I’m intrigued to see if he says anything!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons