As my mum would no doubt love to tell you, I organized my first free party aged 14: handing out flyers with our home address (and carefully drawn map) around my 1,800 strong comprehensive school.
Growing up in London through the 80s and 90s, there were plenty more free parties to go to (and organise). But at some point in the mid noughties there was a segue from after hours parties in secret locations to parties with a bit more purpose.
The best business events these days combine experimentation and inspiration with the spontaneity of the pop up movement. And yes, there’s often an element of 1990s rave culture (or 1960s hippy) thrown in.
Spring has sprung…and it’s time to get blogging! If you’re an occasional reader of this blog (thank you), you may have noticed a sudden flurry of activity over the last few days. Yes indeed, after nearly a year of inactivity (apart from the odd RSA live blog), I’ve decided to renew my blogging vows.
Yes I DO promise to love, honour and cherish “Monkeys With Typewriters” – lavishing it with more frequent attention and keeping it enhanced, nipped and tucked in all the right places.
It’s been unusually warm and sunny here in London this week, so the perfect time to get down to some social reporting with The RSA, led by the awesome David Wilcox. So far I’ve reported from two events, experimenting with uploading video direct from the iPhone. There’ve been some hiccups along the way, but I’m loving the instantness of everything (point+shoot+blog+connect). Looking forward to doing a lot more of this, and to getting more RSA Fellows on board: the monkeys will out!
Lunch with the fab Jamie Coomber the other week reignited my love of Instagram, so I’ll be using that more, and pinning the results on Pinterest, to see if that ignites any new connections (while still loving Flickr, of course).
Along with RSA social reporting and a more visual style, there’ll be my usual monkey-with-typewriter musings on the impact of social technologies on the way we work: focusing on collaborative, grassrootsy, networked approaches. So yes, I’ll be cherry-picking – but this sector needs some optimism bias (there’s enoughdirt-digging already out there).
Finally, I’ll be posting on stuff that ties in with the broader collaborative behaviours identified in Monkeys With Typewriters: co-creation, passion, learning, openness, listening and generosity. So topics will include anything from diversity (listening) through service design (co-creation) to social enterprise (generosity).
At least, that’s how I think it’s going to play out. If it starts raining, I may feel quite differently…
I’ll be blogging the eighth meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council here from 1.30pm today. Please keep refreshing the page for updates.
1330: Meeting kicks off with Bob Porrer (chair) welcoming new elected Fellowship Council members and giving apologies from those not here. Introduces Andrew Summers who’ll be talking about development of the RSA House.
1334: Andrew Summers: House Development Committee formed at start of this year. Four main objectives: how to improve the use of space. 2nd: to communicate better what the RSA does. 3rd: to make it much more interactive with rest of the country and rest of world. 4th: to improve revenue stream.
1337: We started with looking at the ground floor and Great Room. Bear in mind we’ve had three groups of people in mind as audience/ users: firstly fellows. Secondly visitors – they are core targets for what the RSA wants to do. Thirdly, hirers: people who are willing to hire the House. We have a huge advantages over other societies in that our building is funded by outside hire and not by member subscriptions. Hands over to Matthew Lloyd (architect).
1339: Matthew Lloyd: Since 1774, Great Room has changed in many ways [Show some great old pics – sorry haven’t got my iPhone to capture – will source later].
1340: The ground floor seems to have lost some of the original Adam architecture in many ways. A bit haphazard. We’ve been round the building and opened up floors to see what we can keep and what we can’t. Very unusual that 8 John Adam street was built for the RSA and is still under the use of its original client. We’re going to hunt down the original architecture and bring it back.
First thing to say in terms of proposal is that we’re not changing any of the external front of the building. We want to bring back the downlighting and make it feel more like an institution. We want to bring back the Great Stair as it use to be. We want to remove the tiered seating in the great room to get a flat floor. The brief has been to give the Great Room the possibility of hosting other types of function. We want to bring it back to the Adam level. Propose to bring back in ventilation via the roof. We feel that the Barry paintings because of the raised seating are not seen properly. With the original Adam level they’ll be more appreciated. The Benjamin Franklyn Room is on a raised level, carpeted. We want to drop level and put timber floor in.
There’s been a lot of conversation about how the RSA looks highly contemporary and at the same time the original Adam architecture very much there. We wish to change the cloakroom – there’s the whole culture of Brompton [fold-up] bikes which needs to be addressed. The key route down to the Gerrard Bar can be very much amplified. The room with the disabled ramp would become a more informal meeting room. The room at the end – the Tavern Room – would have an interactive wall. The space adjoininig the Tavern Room would enable the room to be opened up. These rooms were originally the ground floor of 4 adjoining houses – nos 8, 6 and 4 John Adam Street, plus no 8 Adam Street. We want to respect those original houses. There’s a room full of chairs at the mo which would become another meeting room. To return to the Great Room, the speaker will be raised up, and we are considering more than one great screen, so although the audience sight lines won’t be so good, it will still be possible to see the speaker from all seats. Thank you very much.
13:54: Andrew Summers: £2.9m estimated cost – plans are out to tender at the moment. Refurb proposed to start in December. Will be done by June. In time for the Olympics – and the original Barry paintings contain Olympian athletes so very fitting. How do we get fellows to engage? How to we enable fellows to use the new rooms? Some of these will be made available on a regular basis for fellows – eg: Great Room once a month. Comments and questions?
Comment: have you consdired the noise made by air conditioning and have you contacted members of the Adam family who are in fact fellows to see if they have any records/ pictures you can refer to for original colours?
Matthew: it’s quite difficult in a Grade I listed building to install absolutely silent air conditioning. As to the colours, we have commissioned a colour-investigation specialist to strip down certain key walls to find those colours. I’m still not sure whether we should go for historic or modern approach. I don’t think we want to produce a musuem piece.
Comment: the one art that seems to have been omitted is music. Can we use the Great Room for concerts?
Matthew: very good point. We are acousitically engineering the Great Room.
Andrew: concerts here have been talked about for many many years.
Comment: why not retractable raised seating? I’m sure I’m not the only person who wants to see the speaker not a screen. If I’m not at the front, I might as well stay at home.
Matthew Taylor: the sight lines have been worked out so whereever you are in the room…
Andrew: this way gives us flexibility.
Comment: Could I urge the house develpment committee to consider the development of RSA hubs – local networks of hubs – where fellows feel there is a place out in the sticks they can go to? I feel that would fulfill the objectives of the central house being able to successfully network with a very widely dispersed fellowship. Feel it should be within your remit to consider these hubs.
Andrew: I think that may be a second phase
Matthew Taylor: a few years ago we closed down hubs because they proved to be very expensive, and not always close to everyone in the region. We now try to develop partnerships with venues in the regions. That’s a separate debate.
Comment: thank you for an inspiring presentation. I believe the RSA has a collection of artworks, can we re-hang some of these? Also incorporate with all the new technology?
Andrew: we like the communication in the house to be around projects and what fellows are doing. Creating all the screens in various rooms will provide a platform to do that. But it’s a good idea to think about painting re-hanging.
Matthew: We would like to see th paintings and talk about how to rehand them.
Comment: I’m not clear how you’ll restore these paintings and show them at their best?
Matthew: We;re not going to specifically light them becacuse they’re quite old.
Comment: I think it looks great and it’s really exciting. We need to think about how to launch all of this.
Comment: What are we going to do about the Gerrard Bar? It’s very cramped…
Someone (house manager?): You’re right. It’s very small and very overcrowded. Some weeks we’re up to 5 events a week and they’re all fully booked so that’s 1000 people a week. We’re looking at some ‘pop-up’ solutions so that demand can be reached when it’s very high.
Comment: Taking into account what the modern space looks like, how the world has changed so much in past ten years, will reflect the spaces that will come on stream in the next ten years. It was on my watch we got rid of all the oil and watercolours in this room. Can I just warn you about getting old paintings in a room that is not suited to old paintings.
Andrew: very much in line with my thinking, thank you.
Comment: Have you looked at impact assessment. What struck me in the lobby was that there was a receptionist standing up – have you considered impact on staff? And wheelchair users will be looked down on.
House manager: the desk on Durham Street will be the main reception. As in many nice hotels these days there are people to meet and greet you, and walk with you if necessary.
Matthew Taylor: the overall plan improves disabled access around the building.
Comment: Who did the access audit?
Matthew: We haven’t done an access audit.
Comment: I’m dismayed. There are many organisations that look at access that have connections with Fellows and this is somethign that shoudl be looked at.
Andrew: Sorry that’s a very unfair comment.
Another commenter: I agree – this should be looked at. Disabled means more than just people in wheelchairs.
Matthew: We have British Heritage and Westminster breathing down our necks, their angle is the architecture. Very difficult to include veryone’s views but i will talk to our client about this.
Matthew Taylor: Let’s consider how we’d decide bids by fellows for monthly use of the Great Room – surely this is a great idea?
Bob (Chair): Thank you. We haven’t got time to go through this right now but if you’ve any ideas as to how bids might be considered, please send them to Matthew.
14:20: Bob: now moving onto Matters Arising and the situation in Wales.
Comment: when are we going to have a meeting to address this?
14:22: Michael Ambjorn: There’s been a range of meetings in the past year and quite a few have had the title ‘the future of Wales’ in them. And I believe you have been a speaker at one of them.
14:24: Governance: is everyone happy to discuss this after the AGM in October?
General agreement (or no loud disagreement anyway)!
1425: Josef Lentsch: We did pilot fellowship survey in March and would like now to consider doing an annual fellowship survey. As it’s a huge sample we’d expect response rate to be quite high. Survey in March had a 27% response rate. Quite high.
Comment: Josef just to point out we did a regional survey in the north west recently and can send you the results.
Josef: Yes please. We would like to compare on a yearly basis how we’re making progress.
Bob: If anyone has done surveys, please share what’s come out of them. Now onto academies and whether we cna arrange a visit.
Matthew: We are about to open a third academy just half a mile from here.
Bob: Yes maybe that shoud be the one we visit.
1428: Bob: now onto website development.
Josef: A brief update on progress on the website. It’s been a year since we started. Launched in June 2011. We jumpted from 40,000 page views a month in 2009 to average 120,000 in May 2010. That was mainly down to RSA Animate. This also very prominent on the new website. Since website relaunch we now get 5 x as many unique visitors. At least one person per month was downloading and sending in an application form. Now it’s around 30. The new application form is clearer and more approachable – we’ve embedded the fellowship charter into it. [shows wordle graphic of most popular words in 15 recent fellows applications, key words are work, social, education, support and community].
Comment: we don’t know what individual fellows are interested in. Is there any mileage in the survey asking existing fellows what they are interested in?
Irene: Can we pick this up later down the agenda when we cover engagement?
Comment: Arts is a tiny word in the corner but I can’t see manufacturing or commerce at all [in the wordle].
Josef: next steps: by end of 2011 we hope to submit to trustees our choice for a prefferred platform supplier. Launch the platform in Q3 2012.
Comment: this website has been used to virtually eliminate regions. The regions are part of the structure of this society. Should not be appearing 9 clicks down on the website. Teh committee is 2 years out of date and the programme is also out of date. Many regions suffer from the same problems. Why are committee details not up to date? This society is based on a royal charter which gets no mention in the first 8 pages of the website.
Josef: I think the evidence quite clearly shows that we have not buried the regions.
Bob: There is still an issue about the updating of regional pages. We still need to resolve this.
Comment: I know this is a work in progress but please remember the nations are involved also.
Comment: how many people are actually visiting the regional pages and how many are actually fellows?
Josef: With the current set up we can’t identify who’s a fellow and who’s not.
Comment: congratulations on the website revamp – good job. Do we know how many people come
from the youtube channel?
Comment: Can you update the map/ calendar facility?
Michael: A lot of people react to the map more intuitively. It’s nice to see you putting so much energy into this Kevin. We’ve put out a paper to the regional chairs and we’ll be revisiting that.
Comment: fellowship directory?
Josef: now you have to opt out rather than opt in; we should see improvement.
Me [your faithful blogger]: Can we just have an update on how people use the Nings. Is anyone finding them useful and if you’re not using them, why not?
Comment: we use our Ning a lot in Yorkshire. It woudl be good if each regional Ning could be linked up with the other regional Nings.
Comment: There’s not enough people using it [in our region].
Comment: I alwasys forget the Ning exists – would be good to get an [email] reminder
14:50: Irene: report back from ‘engaging the fellow’ brainstorm this morning: key question is what are we meant to be doing on the fellowship council: some felt we were meant to be represneting our regions, some of us didn’t. Most of us felt we weren’t representing our local region and we needed to do somehting to change that. Maybe with new governance that will become easier. But there has to be a way in which fellowship council have a role in the region.
Comment: I was like a stuck record on the GAG: If the fellowship council doesn’t represent the regions, what’s the point of it?
Irene: these are just preliminary thoughts. We have to work together in the regions to decide what individual roles we all have. I’m a regional chair and I’m also a fellowship council member so I wear two hats – but it doesn’t always work like that.
Matthew: if the GAG resolution passes at the AGM, we will start to make genuine comparisons between regions and nations that we at the moment can’t. We’ll be able to know how they are contributing to the RSA’s national objectives. We’ll have richer data. We want every fellow whereever they are to have a richer offer.
Comment: that sounds like it will be useful…
Matthew: It’ll be a relationship of two-way challenge and support.
Irene: I think we all have specific roles within our regions. We need to think about, what are we going to do to engage the individual fellow? I went to a meeting in Brighton and Hove and they said to me: ‘well who are you?”. That doesn’t matter. How can we as FC representatives have a role in our region? We need to have choices.
Comment: the London committe just did a survey and a lot of the responses were ‘what London committee?’
Irene: let’s give people a lot of channels, a lot of communications choices to choose from. Are we here to act as MPs? Most of us probably think not! But should we be having surgeries? Workshops? Panels? Whatever…please email your views to me. The next meeting is going to be just before the AGM and look at how. We need to look at how we engage locally to enable the individual fellow to have a voice.
1500: Comment: A lot of fellows are on a career path. They could offer a valuable resource – not sure if skills bank is the right way to realise that. We need to develop a more sophisticated way of tracking the activities of fellows.
Irene: I believe that’s the fellowship directory…Michael?
Michael: We use the skills bank for matching. Catalyst bids are also a useful source of information. There’s also the more informal phone call that can be made by a member of staff to a fellow who’s help is needed.
Comment: engagement is better face to face. What about Skype contact details?
Me: if you email me your Skype details I’ll send you the list I have.
Michael: We haven’t asked for Skype details but we can come back to that. During the coffee break take a look at the mock-up I’ve done with contacts etc for fellowship council members for the website.
Irene: thanks. Please email me with any comments. Next meeting at 4pm before next AGM in October.
1510: coffee break
1520: Adam Lent: update on RSA Projects:we’ve just opened our third Academy. Peterborough Project going well. We’re learning from lessons there. Drug recovery project is pretty smallscale but has rapidly become very influential. Design is historically a very important area for the RSA – how people who’ve suffered from spinal cord injuries can redesign their environment to live fuller lives [mentions some more projects: here’s a full list of current projects]. There is a lot we can learn from private sector on how to engage with others – wider fellowship – on our projects. We’ve restarted the working group on projects and will report back next meeting.
Comment: can I underscore the importance of getting what you’re doing out into the world at large.
Adam: it’s an extremely challenging media environment. You can’t just produce a good report and expect the press to respond to that. It’s not just about good PR.
Comment: How does a project become a project – is there a link to Catalyst?
Adam: There are many different elements in getting a project off the ground…[sorry he explains but I missed most of this]
Comment: There has to be a way of communicating projects up front and asking for fellows involvement.
Matthew: Just as an example of how fellows invovelment doens’t always help, I remember a while ago we were trying to launch a project in a region – our first meeting was dominated by a campaign to stop the local council doing something. It turned out the council was lead by a a fellow and the campaign was led by a fellow so the idea of our project for civic engagement died a death.
Comment: I happen to have been one of those fellows who objected to the involvement of the RSA in the academies – I work with the academies now. It’s worthwhile binging some of the non adademy schools in the opening minds curriculum.
Bob: Thank you Adam. MOving onto report back from David Archer.
David: this is the report back from the trustee board looking at fellowship recruitment and retention. Trustees wanted reassurance that the new strategy of fellows recruiting other fellows (as opposed to mailshots) is working.
Comment: If we’re all goign out and bringing our friends into the organisation, how will balance be addressed?
Josef: Well, since Matthew has been CEO we’ve had many more women being recruited [this statement causes quite a few giggles] but we’ve also had an issue of more women leaving [more uproarious laughter].
Matthew: We are looking at ways to recruit members from the Pakistani diaspora in UK.
Comment: We need to speak to lapsed fellows and find out why they left.
Josef: We do have an exit questionnaire, but this only works for fellows who’ve left recently. We’ve recruited a retention specialist – Samanthat Fletcher – sitting beside me.
Matthew: two biggest reasons are finance and people saying they don’t have time to be active fellows.
1548: Matthew: when I tell people how great the RSA is, I wish they weren’t surprised. I wish everyone was aware of what we do. We want to use the huge event next July (re-launching the RSA) to let people know exactly what it is we do. The fact people will be able to watch the lectures around the country and interact will be a help.
1550: Bob: Thank you, and now Zena with report back from Trustee board.
[Zena has asked me not to liveblog the first item as it has staff have yet to be told – update 22/9/11: Please note that the first issue Zena reported back on was a minor matter internal to the House – it was not of major significance outside and certainly not of importance to the wider Fellowship – I realise the above sentence as written during my liveblog understandably aroused intense curiousity among readers – apologies – please do not contact RSA staff asking for details as you have to trust me on this one – it was really not a major thing. Please note if you do continue to press staff for details on this minor matter, one of two things will happen: either I will not be permitted to say if something in a meeting is not live-bloggable, which for context and integrity would be a real shame, or I will be prevented from liveblogging altogher, which would be altogether more disturbing. I promise to choose my wording more carefully in future].
Zena: the other relevant item is that the charitable company, RSA Academies, has now been set up and a part-time executive director is being recruited.
1552: Michael Ambjorn shows new 3 min video promoting Catalyst Fund. [Video will shortly be up on the RSA website].
1557:Matthew: we launched Catalyst 18 months ago and had no idea how successful it would be. The Fellowship Council has been really important from the onset in supporting Catalyst.
1558: It’s not just the money, it’s that applying to Catalyst puts you in touch with other fellows who can help you.
1600: Comment: can we have more information about Catalyst projects that have succeeded.
Gerrard (Fellowship Council working group on Catalyst): those stories will be up on the website
Rosie: (FC working group on Catalyst): We want to be careful about designing the life out of Catalyst – we want it to be live and relevant.
1602: Gerrard (International Working Group): We’re working with new International/ Online manager Matthew Mezey and will have something to report for next FC meeting
1604: Jonathan (Education group report back: we have 10 fellows regularly attending meetings. We’re tyring to set up some interactions across the country to identify key issues.
Rosie (Youth working group):1 November 4-6pm: there’ll be a debate here about 21st century youth work. We’ve written a publication called Hunch which will be launched in November. Please get in touch if you want to help with facilitation.
Bob: After two years it might be a good point to review structure + function of working groups – if anyone has any comments, issues or ideas please email me or Irene.
Comment: Is there a communications working group? There seem to be a lot of issues around communications…
Me: yes, please come and chat afterwards!
1609: Bob: We’d like to thank the outgoing COO for all his hard work and welcome Carol Jackson who started this week.
Comment: this year is the 50th anniversary of the first regional meeting of the RSA – it was in Birmingham.
Comment: This is my first meeting and I couldn’t hear very much. Is there any chance the aircon could be turned off next time?
1611: Bob: We’ll look into that for next time. Thank you everyone – that’s the end of today’s meeting.
The main aim of our RSA digital engagement (#RSAde for short) strategy meeting last week was that we would come out with some kind of strategy: even if it was just a list of action points. I’m pleased to say we just about managed to achieve this. And that in itself was no mean feat! Trouble is, you get a cluster of clever people, especially teccie types, in a room together, and the probability of going off on all sorts of different (and not necessarily related) tangents is high. Also, we only had two hours.
We agreed a while ago that the meeting should be in Manchester. Some of the #RSAde’s most active members are in the North of England, and a couple in Scotland, so it seemed only fair to move in that direction (last year’s meeting was in London and when we meet in person again, it’ll probably be the West country). Luckily, Vivs Long-Ferguson arranged a fabulous venue for us – the Portico Library and Gallery, which was built over 150 years ago and recently restored, partly with RSA money. It was the perfect place to put any digital navel-gazing into context!
In an attempt to prevent too much techno-babble, we used Forrester’s POST model to structure the meeting. The great thing about POST is that it forces you to think about the people involved (the ‘P’) before you look at anything else. I think POST is a great method but, in retrospect, not really workable in two hours! You probably need a day long workshop to really do it justice.
Having said that, the discussion was animated, productive (we got our action points) and no one person or point of view dominated. Everyone seemed to have their say, and some great connections were made. The best thing about #RSAde – like all the working groups set up by the new RSA Fellowship Council – is that it brings RSA staff and Fellows together in a focused community of interest. One year on from #RSAde’s inception, it was great to see a mix of high level staff and expert fellows around the table. Long may this community continue!
The RSA Fellows who attended were: Lilian Barton, Charlotte Britton, David Dickinson, Charles Millar, Roxanne Persaud, Kate Pickering, Don Pinchbeck, Bob Porrer, Edward Truch and myself. And from the RSA staff: Michael Ambjorn, Josef Lentsch and Vivs Long Ferguson.
Big thanks all for your time and wisdom – look forward to a productive year!
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.
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]?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
1330: I’m live blogging the RSA Fellowship Council (FC) meeting at RSA House, London, which is about to start. Please keep refreshing the page for updates.
1332: New chair Bob Porrer welcomes everyone to the meeting (Go Bob!)
He and (new deputy chair) Irene Campbell will aim:
for constructive dialogue
to meet needs of fellows
to improve communications all round, and to ensure FC has more of an impact on policy etc at RSA House.
to make the fellowship council more representative, with more elected members
to listen to the regions and better understand what they want
to set realistic goals
to find out new ways of working together, through digital engagement etc.
He hopes the FC will join him in seeking to achieve these aims.
1339: announcement about liveblogging: just so everyone knows meeting is being blogged live.
1340: 2 vacancies on FC due to resignations. As elections are coming up later this year, the general feeling is to leave these positions unfilled for now. The resignations came from 1 elected and 1 co-opted member so the balance (19 elected/ 19 co-opted) still holds. To ensure continuity, it’s proposed that the current elected members be invited to serve an additional year, rather than renew the whole FC in one fell swoop.
We are hoping to move towards a more fully elected FC – the sensible solution at present is that 35 are elected with 5.
Comment: my heart sank when I heard that the elected members had to continue for another year.
Bob: they will be invited to continue, they won’t have to.
Comment: I disagree, I think the elected members should stay on as we need to ensure some continuity from one FC to the next.
Comment: Unless we want complete disruption every year with the whole FC standing for re-election, then the elections will have to be staggered.
Bob: the elections will be held on a regional basis, as last time.
Comment: if there are only 5 co-opted members, won’t this create some kind of co-opted elite?
Comment: the difference between being appointed and being elected is only a fine line.
Comment: In the spirit of openness, we should try and get new blood. That’s why everyone should stand for reelection.
1349: Bob: are we agreed that we should move as soon as possible to a more elected membership (ie: 35 elected/ 5 co-opted)?
1352: Bob: are we agreed that continuity is important (ie: that elections should be staggered and some of existing council members should stay on for an additional year to put this split in place).
2 against/ everyone else for.
1354: Are we agreed that the existing council members who stay on should be the 19 that were elected?
2 against/ everyone else for.
1355: If an elected council member doesn’t want to stay on, how do we decide who should fill their shoes (general chat ensues with no decisive outcome for now).
1357: All council members will be aware that there are some genuine concerns about the establishment of the Governance Advisory Group (the unfortunately named, GAG) and these are summarised in two proposed motions put forward by Tessy Britton via email.
While I myself have some concerns about the way the formation of the GAG was agreed at the AGM, and appreciate concerns of Fellows, unfortunately, legal advice sought by the RSA’s CEO is that a resolution passed at the AGM cannot be reneged. If the trustees departed from the wording of the original resolution, they could be subject to legal action by the proposers of the motion. So as it is, we need to go with the resolution as agreed that only elected members of the FC would be allowed to stand for the GAG.
I propose we make a strong reocmmendation to the GAG that one of their first actions be to co-opt some of the co-opted members of the FC.
[General murmur of agreement]
1403: (Bob) I’ve received quite a few emails in the last few days berating the FC for getting stuck in structural matters and not devoting enough time to general, wider matters of far more genuine concern to the Fellowship.
[General mutters of “here here”]
1405: comment: I would propose that FC members be considered for the co-opted 3, but the wider fellowship should be considered.
Comment: has the proposer of the original motion (Rudi) being invited?
Comment: as far as balance is concerned, we shouldn’t be asking for some bias in favour of the Fellowship Council.
Comment: as a co-opted member I think it’s right that I shoudl have been excluded from the GAG. It’s very bad democratic process to appoint a bunch of people to then take a vote on how democratic they think they’re going to be. Advisors can be called in but they don’t need to have a vote.
Comment: as another unelected member I do feel that I have a responsibility to talk to fellows about what they want so I have been actively trying to understand and deliver the views of the wider fellowship.
Comment: this view starts from a viewpoint that the elected FC members are better than the non-elected ones.
Comment: there is a presumption of bias and it seems to me that this presumption is justifiable. The bias in the way this group is set up actually reflects the purpose of the group.
Comment: the past is the past. There are 3 more places. It would be wrong of us to give preference to other FC members. If there is some original bias so be it. This group will come up with sensible conclusions and if it doesn’t, it won’t be accepted by the fellowship.
Comment: some of the elected members of the FC weren’t elected because there weren’t elections in their area. While the co-opted members were sometimes 3rd or 4th in their regional vote and the decision to appoint them was made by the nominations council. This really is a false dichotomy.
Comment: an awareness has being created that the whole Fellowship should be considered when it comes to co-opted appointments to the GAG.
Comment: surely the existing GAG members are capable of identifying what skills are missing.
Comment: if anyone knows anyone with particular expertise in their field, please could they let Bob and/ or Matthew know.
Matthew Taylor: if we’ve any hope at all of getting any resolutions to this year’s AGM, then the GAG has to work fast. We need recommendations by the time we get to the summer. We’ve a lot of ground to cover in the next four or five months.
Comment: the trouble with putting a call out to potential GAG members to the wider fellowship is going to hold the process up and if we get more than a few who want to stand then we aren’t in a position to hold elections. Also, some members of the wider Fellowship have already put their names forward.
1419: Next up: Irene (new co-chair): We sent out a questionnaire to find out how FC members were feeling about the progress of the FC. Unfortunately we only had 6 responses.
Comment: when was the questionnaire sent out?
Irene: just before Christmas.
Comment: I’m worried about inconsistency: some working groups have completely disappeared, the RSA road show caused a great discussion, and then completely disappeared. We need more consistency.
Comment: The trustee elections motion was withdrawn after a long discussion on the FC. I think that was a great achievement.
Comment: I don’t find discussion of the structure of the FC very satisfying. Nor the fact that the working groups are doing good work doesn’t mean that the FC as a whole is achieving anything. We don’t want to get stuck up in a kind of organisational hyperchondria. I don’t think we’ve begun to make any kind of impact on the RSA at all.
Comment: I think the one thing the FC has done is create a state of chaos and disruption. The good thing that’s come out of that is that we’re now looking to make the RSA’s governance more democratic.
Comment: lots of people at the RSA and in the fellowship want to change the world. As a result these people are extremely ambitious and extremely impatient. I think we can sometimes be over-ambitious and unrealistic about our goals. I feel very nervous about too much introspection. The best meeting for me was the one back in June where there was a lot of discussion about different initiatives and I was able to go back to fellows and flag up ways in which they could get involved.
Matthew: the trustees under Gerry agreed to the establishment of the FC. I felt I was bringing Fellowship issues to the trustee board that the board was not equipped to deal with. A challenge to the FC is to ask itself are we the activist core of the Fellowship? We have more fellows doing more stuff than ever before, eg: we are getting 20 catalyst bids a month. It’s a challenge. A real challenge.
David Archer: one thing we have achieved is a Fellowship voice on the trustee board. The emphasis on Fellowship has significantly alterered. We’ve been asked by the trustees to seek FC views on certain matters and vice versa. We have a channel there that wasn’t there before.
1433: Comment: do people have a clear view about the purpose of the FC, and is that a shared view? If we could develop a clear view about our role then we’d have more success.
Comment: Certainly 9 months ago there wasn’t a way for fellows to get their projects funded, now we have Catalyst. Which could be bigger and better but at least it’s out there.
Comment: re Matthew’s point re the activist network, that’s very much while I’m here. And the fellowship spoke with a full voice by not electing me to be on this committee. But we have been mostly focusing on structural and governance issues that have been brought to us. It’s too much about what the FC are doing and not enough about what the fellowship are doing. I don’t want to waste my time talking about bylaws. Let’s do some stuff.
Comment: we don’t have any way of systematically monitoring the change processes that we’re involved in. Do we have a list of the stuff that the FC has done since it’s been established. The FC has had a dramatic impact in terms of it’s relationship with trustees, but not in terms of its releationship with staff. For example, when I was trying to establish a certain initiative, I couldn’t do it without a considerable amount of negotiations with RSA staff. That’s fine. But there doesn’t seen to be any sort of proceedure for FC members wanting to initiate something with RSA staff. We always under estimate the scale of the problem of change. People are always in a tremendous hurry to bring about change. Understanding the underlying problem is not always given enough time. We shouldn’t undersell ourselves.
Irene: we have only been going for 15 months. I think we have had an influence.
Comment: I didn’t think the FC could work. Because the FC was simply another layer of bureaucracy. It was not a constructive move. It was a sidestep. There’s a much better dialogue now. 9 per cent of fellowship voted in the AGM. In my region, I get at least 30 per cent of fellowship there to attend my events. Nothing will change until the FC realises where the problem is, we’re just going to be a talking shop. No body can function successfully when there are split objectives. We are here to encourage arts, manufactures and commerce, to assist the poor. We can’t do everything. We must stop getting diverted.
Comment: the overwhelming feeling within the FC is bottom up: there’s stuff going on out there in the Fellowship and we want to push that up. But we need top down as well. I feel a dissonance between Matthew’s work at a policy level (which I totally support) and what happens on the ground. We are seeing activity being internalised and contributing to that policy role. We need to interpret our mission in a more modern way. This is the place where that should happen.
1446: Irene: what are we collectively and individually doing in our regions?
Comment: FC is about what’s happening out there, being taken in and shared among us. I said in the very early days that we were in danger of becoming a division 2 Trustee group. And I think that in some ways is the case.
Comment: one of the issues is, what do the fellows out there want? And I think it’s not a lot. I did a survey a few years ago and there’s a fairly high level of apathy.
Comment: I represent the London region, and the three of us London representatives decided we’d try to report back to the London Regional Committee after every meeting. And I’ve been drawn into projects which are being led by fellows and being taken to new places as a direct result of being on the FC.
Comment: I feel the opposite, I was very involved with my local region before I stood for the FC, and now I feel less involved.
Comment: I get very worried when I hear that the role of the FC is to be involved in strategy and policy of the RSA. That is the role of the Trustees. And we must not get diverted. If the trustee board isn’t doing it’s job then we need to let them know.
Comment: I’ve enjoyed the chance to be able to link fellows together in my region: geographically people are very far apart and I’ve enjoyed being able to really help them. I agree, can we leave the strategy and the policy to somebody else, please?
Comment: The trustees recently had one of the richest conversations they’ve ever had on fellowship. There was a great slide with some cogs on it: as each cog turns, then the other cogs should turn. That’s the process we are trying to achieve.
Comment: I wanted to just note that not all the fellowship engagement happens here at the FC and we could maybe have a better relationship with fellows who are actively doing stuff. I keep going back to the social entrepreneurs network and maybe the FC should put more weight behind this. How do we bring in people who are doing interesting stuff and help them be part of this network. Let’s try and amplify.
Comment: I don’t want this council to get deeply involved in RSA strategy but I would actually like to know what that strategy is.
Comment: we as FC members have responsibility to listen to what others are doing and taking that back to the regions to invigorate them.
Comment: I don’t believe that strategy and policy should be left to the top layer. There are many different ways of contributing to strategy and policy and everyone in the organisation should be able to play a part. For example, that’s exactly what the digital engagement working group is trying to do.
150O: Irene: okay, thanks everyone. Now back to Bob.
1502: Bob: now, let’s move on to possible reference to the FC terms of reference.
Comment: why are we no longer going to have co-convention of FC working groups? It’s worked well so far having co-convenors, one on staff, one on the FC.
Bob: There will still be at least one member of staff on each group, but they will be convened by a member of the FC.
Comment: how often will the terms of reference be reviewed?
Bob: every two years or so? The TOR need to constantly evolve.
Are people generally happy?
1509: tea break.
1524: back at the tables with our cuppas and cookies. Next up, it’s Zena Martin and David Archer reporting back from the last Trustee meeting.
[RSA Strategy 2011-13 is handed out]
David: Now, points arising from the last Trustee meeting. First up, we would like ideas from FC as to how RSA academies might be supported.
Matthew: The RSA trustees created their first academy before I became CEO. The new model is to develop three other academies which will partner with schools in deprived areas. The original model was to take over a failing school, the model is now working with schools that are already doing well in deprived areas.
Comment: is this just in the UK, as part of the Opening Minds project?
Matthew: no, we also have schools in Europe.
Comment: there was initially a lot of anger in the fellowship when the first RSA academy was set up, because the fellowship weren’t consulted. I can see some anger in the fellowship now, with this new phase. RSA should focus on Opening Minds and not on creating an academies network. Andy Burnham is already arguing that switch in academies policy is going to alienate 50 per cent of the young population.
Matthew: we want to put together a system of regional hubs. In relation to the academies, it’s a trustee decision and I have to support that decision. The RSA academies would have been government academies anyway.
Comment: this to me would be another example of the trustees not consulting with fellowship on such a politically sensitive matter.
Comment: our original academy was built on Opening Minds and has shown great results. I am totally fine with expanding Opening Minds and establishing academies that are linked to demonstrating the power of Opening Minds. I’d be very concerned if any of our schools picked up organisations that weren’t committed to Opening Minds.
Matthew: We should look at the wording. We must always look for new forms of innovation. One of our schools wants to build a hostel for its pupils who are helpless.
Comment: The RSA academy is fantastic. In fact, we should do a feasibility study into opening this up as a revenue generating model for the RSA.
David: okay, let’s look at other points. RSA strategy has come up at a number of FC meetings over last year, and has just been circulated to you now.
Matthew: at your next FC meeting you will have a new director of programme who spans both projects (Julian Thompson) and fellowship networks (Michael Ambjorn). This is a radical change to what’s gone before and will take a while to bed down.
Comment: there are two pages on strategy re Fellowship. I’d have liked it if the FC had been consulted before these decisions had taken place and not simply seeing them now, and asking to react.
Matthew: nations and regions have their own sense of what the RSA can offer and it is different in each region, reflecting fellows interests. What matters is our influence in these matters. I don’t think the trustees would want to second guess that. If the Scottish committee decides they want to focus on say design, that’s great and completely up to them where they want to focus resources. The more we can move towards projects that are funded on a regional and national basis, the better. It’s a very tough job getting funding for projects. I hope we’ll see more projects get funded at both levels.
Comment: can we know more about fellows undergoing RSA training to become accredited RSA project managers in their areas?
Matthew: because of the research and funding we’ve got, we’ve got quite a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. It seems a good idea to pass that info on.
Julian: one of our plans is to create a platform for people who can help. What we’re hearing from charities etc on the ground is that they need some kind of quality assurance about individuals who are coming to them offering help and saying they have experience in certain areas.
Comment: the first mention of fellowship is on page 2. This is a fellowship organisation. I do not pay my subscription to the RSA to fund a thinktank in London. Look what happened to the Work Foundation. It was very like us. Now it’s bankrupt.
Bob: I think we’ll put this strategy document on hold for now and discuss at the next meeting when we’ve had time to digest it.
Comment: can we circulate to wider fellowship, will there be an e-version?
Matthew: that can be arranged.
Comment: I think we (the RSA) are a thinktank and an actiontank.
Comment: we are a thinktank with delivery.
David: just wanted to add that with regard to fellows concerns about access to RSA House, we’re setting up the house development committee chaired by Andy Gibson looking at ways in which house can be of more use to fellows.
1555: Bob: thank you. We’re now running quite late so will need to speed up. Now, the Report on the Meeting of Regional Chairs and the Review of Regions (and I was really keen that we got to this point before the GAG started its deliberations). The main bullet points are as follows:
It’s clear that each region and nation has its own distinct ambitions and needs.
How about reporting back? Should this be through the FC?
We need to improve communications between all the national and regional committees.
How do we get the best out of the regions and nations, and the FC’s relationship with them?
Comment: I’m surprised you’re not being a little more radical. The regional committee has no role otherwise than as a treasurer. How do you have local networks, local initiatives? If you are going to have elected chairs, it’s quite an arduous task. I propose you’re elected to become deputy chair for a year and then become chair subsequently.
Bob: a member of our East network recently said he appreciated the support he’d had from the committee and we are looking to replicate that.
Comment: it might be helpful for the nations to have more focus on what is the difference between a region and a nation. There should be more awareness of the distance in Scotland between Dumfries and Shetland. The meetings in London are very good in terms of opening your mind and engaging but £200 doesn’t even begin to cover the cost.
Comment: there’s a different narrative coming from government about how we define communities, even how funding is distributed (more locally for example). Has this influenced the RSA at all?
Bob: you need people on the ground defining the issues.
Comment: I live in one region and work in another. We need to look at the distinct needs of each region, and at population density, eg: London region has a third of the fellowship: should it be broken into north and south?
Comment: I think this document gets parked in some sense because of the work of the GAG.
Comment: whatever funding mechanism is decided, it mustn’t be too rigid.
Comment: and not necessarily about only making it happen in your own region. You can share a successful project with other regions.
Comment: I think this is a very good document but there should be clarification between the regional committees and the regional fellowship teams. I think it’s a good idea but worried there will be too much overlap.
Bob: yes, the idea is to share objectives. Ideally what you’d have is a team made up of activists – people who are actually doing stuff.
Comment: RSA Scotland is developing a project with RSA USA so it’s possible to collaborate with other regions.
Bob: how we share this information across is one of the fundamental issues.
Matthew: each region is very different in the way they organise: South Central has 9 local committees, London has just one central one, there is another region with no committee at all – they just want to act as a catalyst for local groups. Having said that, getting alignment is absolutely crucial. Just want to say a word for regional managers. They work very hard and where they’re working effectively with regional committees, they’re really getting results.
Bob: That’s good. I just wanted to see general support for this report. Thank you very much for that.
1615: report back from working groups:
Gerrard (Catalyst group: we’re moving forward and it’s great to know that even those who haven’t recieved funding have appreciated the feedback they’ve got.
David (Projects group): do we wish to re-constitute the projects working group?
Comments from floor: yes
Jackie (Charter group): we reckoned it was done and dusted. The recollection was that it would go to the AGM and be approved.
Matthew: the specific holdup is that the new charter should be considered in the light of the RSA rebrand which has been put on hold due to a staff bereavement. But things should move forward soon.
Jemima (and yes – that’s me, your loyal live blogger) (Digital Engagement): latest development is that we’ve put together a Digital Engagement Quick Guide which we’ve uploaded to the RSA Fellowship Social Network and would love FC members feedback and comments. We’re also very pleased that our proposal for a full time RSA member of staff for digital engagement has been taken on board, the job spec is currently being written up and we’re hoping to see that role filled in early summer.
John (Education): we’d like ideas on how to help with Queue-East. Please email me.
Bob: nothing to report from Youth as Rosie isn’t here. I went to a meeting in Cardiff and they are trying to work out an appropriate model for Wales: how they make things happen while still keeping bureaucracy to a minimum. If there are any burning issues?
Comment: can we have more information about changes in funding for the regions?
Comment: could we have a summary of the recent staff changes in the next fellowship newsletter?
Comment: can Matthew be present at each FC meeting?
Next meetings: Tues 19 April; Wed 21 September and Thu 8 December. At least one of these will be out of London, most likely at the RSA Academy (Birmingham New Street).
Comment: well done Bob on excellent chairing.
1630: Bob: thank you, and I’d also like to say thanks to Belinda (Lester) for being here. We all know how much effort you’ve put into being Director of Fellowship and on behalf of the FC, I’d like to say thank you for all you’ve done.
1635: Meeting closed – now we’re all off to the pub, I will tweet when I find out which one!
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!
The second meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council took place yesterday at RSA House and I was able to blog the meeting as it happened. The Fellowship Council is made up of elected and co-opted RSA members (known as "Fellows") and marks a concerted effort by the RSA, a 255 year old body, to open up its governance to all stakeholders within the organisation. I was elected to the Council in July.
We are still trying to decide exactly what it *is* that the RSA Fellowship Council should do. And I thought that decision-making process might make interesting reading for anyone aspiring to move towards a distributed, "leadership 2.0" type model in their place of work.