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?


[General agreement]


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


Comment: Ning was sold this morning for $150m so things may change – things could go very much the right way for an organisation like us, or they could go the other way.
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.
See you all at the AGM!


Photo credit: Herry Lawford

Jemima Gibbons
Jemima Gibbons

Social media consultant and author of Monkeys with Typewriters (featured by BBC Radio 5 and the London Evening Standard). Get your social marketing up and running with my Social Media Launch Pack!

All author posts

Privacy Preference Center