Thanks Ell Brown for photo.

This is a live blog of the ninth meeting of the RSA Fellowship Council. The meeting will start at 1.30pm today. Keep refreshing the page for updates.

Highlight’s from today’s agenda include:

  • Presentation from RSA Director of Programme, Adam Lent, on the future direction of RSA Projects
  • Proposal to make the Great Room available for Fellows activities once a month
  • Discussion around how to encourage Fellow engagement
  • Review of the nature of Fellowship Council working groups (of which #RSAde is one)
  • Summary of discussions and action points from the meeting of Regional/National Chairs

If you’d like to comment/ ask questions via Twitter, please use the hashtag #rsade. If you’re a Fellow, please join our conversation – the more interactive and representative Council is, the better for Fellows!

13.40: Meeting starts a bit late due to Connecting Chelmsford presentation beforehand. Chair Bob Porrer kicks off with introduction and apologies.


13.44: Wales/Cymru update from Michael Ambjorn, Head of Fellowship: Vivs Long Ferguson has taken over as networks manager for Wales. Wiard Sterk is helping establish a committee for Wales.


13.45: Bob: timeline for new governance structure: elections for fellowship council and regional/national chairs to be completed by end of June with individuals taking office by end of September. This will allow time for the five appointed FC members to deal with handover documents; regional conferences; transition from Bob to new chair. Election campaigning will start from end of April.

Fellowship council’s composition is changing: previously, it has been 20 elected/ 20 appointed. Now it will be 35/5. 35 will include the 14 regional/national chairs. Then there will be 14 representatives from each region. There is a question over how the additional 7 will be elected. Should we use a formula that is simply based on numbers? Personally I think it’s best to have a crystal clear formula: more democratic to do it that way. Allocation of 7 FC posts based on numbers in each region/ nation: London would get 2 or 3 additional councillors (at the moment, there are 3 representing London). South-West would recieve no extra representatives.

Comment: there are various networks, social entrepreneurs etc, who aren’t represented by this system.

Bob: The five co-opted councillors will be percieved to address this.

Comment: this seems like a fairly weird approach – we should take this to all fellows for approval.

Comment: concern about term of office for regional/national chairs: nations should have an additional representative.

Bob: that’s been considered.

Comment: if someone that’s got votes is considered worth having, then why not just allow the second closest-running losers to get allocated the remaining 7 places.

Comment: Aren’t under-represented regions going to continue to be under-represented with this system? Regions outside London will continue to have less influence.

Comment: London by default already gets a lot of representation. Shouldn’t be be looking for a different formula.

Comment: Are we falling into the trap of assuming most active members are those on the FC council? I would go for the non-geographical option. Candidates should campaign on basis of their expertise.

Comment: [sorry I missed it]

Comment: there is another option: you just eliminate the extra 7 allocated posts. Just have a smaller council.

Comment: We accept numbers without thinking consequences – I admit I’m responsible to – why didn’t we address this when we went through the review?

Comment: There’s an option we haven’t looked at: Fellows to represent three charter goals: arts, manufactures and commerce.

Comment: that’s not a bad idea, add education as well.

Bob: Ok, well core is that we have regional chair and one elected fellow, but having another one/ two elected from each region is not necessarily the way forward.

Comment: I agree. We don’t need these extra regional places, and we can co-opt expertise in.

Comment: personally I would like a Council which is more representative. I think [the idea of charter goals representation] is a really good one.

Comment: I like the idea of FC members being champions of certain areas, but that pre-defines their role within the FC.

Comment: There’s still 5 co-opted places.

Bob: There are some ‘up to’s in the actual required figures, so we have some room for maneouvre.

Comment: as a result of GAG, can I propose that we [missed this]

Irene (Deputy Chair): this is something we need to be careful of because one of the big divisions has been the attitude towards elected and non-elected FC members. We don’t want to have to re-write the Terms of Reference. Some comments I will make later will have implications here.

Bob: We need to sit down (Bob and RSA’s legal expert) to define exact wording and then will circulate.


14.09: Bob: at moment, Fellowship Councillors serve 2+2 years. Do we take previous service into consideration, do we take the current one year extension as the starting point, or do we start a new council effectively “from scratch”?

Comment: you need some continuity

Bob: we wanted to try and get a change-over period of a year.

Comment: I prefer option 2.

Comment: I agree.

Bob: okay, we’ll go with that.


Bob: At the recent regional chairs meeting it was agreed that, for reasons of continuity, we should effectively start from scratch.

Comment: some have already been chairing for 4 years, so how will they serve another 2+2 on the Council?

Bob: all chairs are ex offio on the FC.

Comment: if we go to a clean sheet, that won’t matter.

Comment: people can do six years [or more] on the regional team, then max four years as chair.

Comment: what’s the democratic deficit? The only reason we had 20 appointed in the first place was to balance the skillset. It strikes me that if the intent is to have an elected system, then having a group of fellows that are already elected, by rights demanding to sit on a body (the FC) that is meant to be elected, seems wrong. I think this is completely the wrong way to go. We are actually pulling the rug out of the very reason for setting up the FC in the first place.

Comment: the problem was there was a complete disconnect between my region and the fellowship council. This new system is meant to strengthen the links between regions and the FC. It was for that purpose. It comes down to what is the very reason for the fellowship council. At one point it was 3+3 and that was brought down.

Comment: I understand that all regionsal chairs are ex officio members of the FC. They don’t have right to vote?

Comment: Why are we limiting the wider fellowship?

Comment: we’ve been delighted in our region by amount of people who’ve taken part in elections.

Comment: I agree that if from the start the regional chairs had been on the FC it woudln’t have looked good but we’ll have had three years of this 20/20 structure and we’ve now chosen to bring regional chairs on board. I think that’s the right way. We may not all get on with our regional committees but the system needs to be more integrated. It needs to work. It’s just up to people like us to get more involved at a regional level.

Comment: I’ve had very little to do with my local committee but stood for election and got elected and am now seeing how it all works. I’m afraid that in future I wouldn’t get elected because I’m not so well-known in the region. I relate more to fellows in the region who don’t participate in committee activities. There are more fellows that don’t engage in regional committees than those who do.

[some discussion which I missed]


14.25: Bob: The changes are about composition and requirement not to miss two consecutive meetings without recourse. The trustee board has established a group to look at our TOR. These will be drawn up and approved at next FC meeting.

14.26: David Archer: feedback from house development committee which Andy Gibson and I have been taking part in. AFter extensive competition, we’ve appointed contractors. For the next six months you’ll see extensive works. The main entrance will close and another side entrance be used. Ready for re-opening in July next year.

We have this new resource of the Great Room being available to fellows once a month. Not sure how this should be organised. Please email myself or Andy Gibson by mid Jan so we can take ideas to the House committee (dear readers if you have any suggestions, please send them in or comment at the end of this blog).

Wheelchair access will be improved; audio levels will be improved. We were unable to do a full accessibility audit, it wasn’t feasible in timeframe, but are doing best to address these issues.

Comment: London region commmittee were concerned that other regions would be disenfranchised, they were also concerned about notification and booking procedure.

Comment: there might be opportunity for two or more regions to get together to run an event.


14.30: Irene: our meetings to date have aimed to focus on engaging fellows that aren’t very active, but quickly fell to looking at the role of the Fellowship Councillor. Results of the GAG is the “Troika” and I think it really is up to the Fellowship councillors, the regional chairs and the network manager to decide how things work.

Comment: Fellows in our region wish to be continually in the frame and we’ve got to manage this very sensitively. We need to look at the role of the regional group in meeting the aims of the RSA as a whole.

Comment: we need to get cross-fertlisation between sections across our region. Everyone should be doing this. So we don’t have this feeling that there are some people who simply support charitable objectives of RSA and don’t get any more involved. We’ve been offering a free buffet supper that our regional fellows have loved.

Comment: Catalyst has been a good way of engaging fellows in our region.

Irene: In our meeting this morning we came very quickly to the importance of projects. If we could map projects, and then super-impose ourselves on it, this would be helpful (this is a good reason for us to be elected on a regional basis). Then we – FC members – could be an access point, and peole could come to us. We could become facilitators.

Comment: [missed]

Comment: It’s an important role of the fellowship council to see all these things are mapped. Not only within regions but across them.

Comment: I think once the new structure is in place, the FC should be more coordinated with regions and things will be more streamlined.

Irene: So I’m getting a general message that this would be a good way for the council to work: individual FC members more engaged at a regional level, acting as facilitators.


14.44: Adam Lent, Director of Programme: at the last trustee meeting we discussed future direction of projects. We need to start looking at this in detail.

Why change projects?

We already have a great deal of amazing projects under way. We have increasing influence. On monday we realised an excellent report looking at coasting schools. This got coverage in every major broadsheet. Author becky francis was interviewd on BBC Radio 4 Today programme and ITN. We’re also starting to improve fellowship involvement eg on Prisons project. But there is a sense now is time for RSA to really break through into mainstrem regualr media profile, and become a major influcne on the way people think. We want to get message aout there that RSA is the answer to a great deal of things out there which aren’t working eg economic crisis. Many of the traditional ways in which people think about the world are becoming rather stale.

First, we want to grow scale and ambition of our practical work. Sense we are ready to move  up to the next level. For example we’ve made good progress with RSA Academies. We are taking lessons learned from the Peterborough Citizen Power Example: the way people have been engaged at a local level. Our work on drug recovery means we’re now being approached by people who want to work with us: we’re taking a highly innovative approach in helping people get out of addiction and into work.

Second, more thought leadership, fiercely independent of party and ideology: alternative ways to run business and the public sector.

Third, we need a clearer focus. We will focus on three key areas: education, enterprise and community/public services. These are areas many of our fellows are interested in, they are areas in which our staff are skilled, they are also high on the policy agenda and will remain so.

We will also have a clearer focus on unique methods: design thinking, arts, behaviour change, networks.

Fellow involvement is a crucial part of this and was central in the paper that went to the trustee board. We would like to build advisory groups for major projects. We’d like fellows to act as champions for these projects, to disemminate findings.

We’re going to start exploring the establishment of Projects networks, to act as a reference group and answer certain questions. We need resources for this.
Closer links between projects, regions and networks. The development of development plans is useful here. We are talking to regional chairs about plans for their regions, and building projects.

Independent analysis rooted in the evidence and in the practical experience of fellows.

14:59: Bob: thank you Adam. This shows that we’re all working in the same direction – towards a synergy.

Comment: I think those big challenging questions you mentioned need to be identified. If you see projects as the main building blocks, you’re going to run continually into trouble. I met someone the other day who said he was so involved in doing worthwhile stuff, he hadn’t time to do it through the RSA. We need to focus on specific areas and gather the expertise of the fellowship around these.

Comment: in our region, we’ve been talking about giving fellows opportunity for discreet period of involvement, because so many fellows are so busy – not an ongoign three year commitment.
Comment: we’ve been looking at how Skillsbank relates to local projects. It’a always down to networks of networks. I haven’t seen anything in the revised website that leads me to think this is going to change.

Bob: the development of the new fellowship platform may help this.

Comment: the external branding should be the RSA and nothing else.

Comment: we should stress to fellows who create a Catalyst idea that they maybe should be preepared to let go in  a year’s time – let someone else take it over.

Adam: thanks for all your comments.

Bob: now over to Matthew.


15.06: Matthew Taylor, CEO: There are really remarkalbe things going on across the organisation and we’ve made fantastic progress this year. Our biggest problem is people being poached: they are being offered 25% pay increases to go off and work somewhere else wehre they don’t have a lot of the issues we have to face here in the RSA. People are being offered so much more to leave so if you can do anything to help this situation please consider it. Emily Campbell, our recent head of design, has just gone to work for another organisation where they have a team of 8 helping her. We have people here doing work on their own where elsewhere they wouldn’t have whole teams. I think something remarkable is happening. It’s a bit like watching a minute hand moving on a clock. In terms of integration between fellowship and projects. There is something going on here about a model of change that I think other organisations would absolutely envy. When I frist stated on this route of getting fellows more involved, a lot of peole thought it was a dangerous thing to do. I was in Ipswich a few weeks ago and its just amazing the range of new ideas. A vicar stood up and said its been the most amazing morning but why the hell didn’t I know more about the RSA. I wasnted all of you to feel you are in fact part of something quite special. This connection between the volunteers and the staff finding synergies, left right and centre is really fantastic. Thank you to FC for all you’ve done and I’m really excited about the next stage.

Comment: I’m interested in how the Academies work -what’s the structure?

Matthew: the new academy joining in January is half a mile away so you’ll be able to see it. We have set up a charitable structure. We topslice academies to fund new ones but we need to set up the structure. WE;ve only got two academies but we need to set up structure which can fund many more.

Comment: can you tell me more about RSA’s discussions with the Chartered Management Institute?

Matthew: It’s a continuous source of fascination for us is how do you get small groups to work together.
Michael Ambjorn (head of Fellowship): if you go to the fellowship section of the website, you’ll find more information on that.

Comment: I know the academies want more engagement with the fellows.

Matthew: When the RDIs were set up in the 1970s, designers didn’t have status they do now – we’ve now asked RDIs to give somehting back to society. Stephen Jones Milliner went to the Whitby Academy and gave a talk – it was all over local papers.
Comment: can I propose that we as the council thank the staff for all their hard work.
(General agreement.)
15.19: Bob: Thank you Matthew.
15:30: Zena Martin (FC rep on trustee board): the main feedback is an update on new fellowship platform: this project is still progressing but it made sense to ensure that new IT manager was in place and that a well thought-out IT strategy was established before proceeding.
Bob: At the last FC meeting it was agreed we’d review the nature and organisation of the working groups. Does anyone have any comments to make on the paper that was circulated on this?

Comment: The groups I’ve been involved in have served their purpose and then been wrapped up. It all seems to have worked fine.

Comment: My group (RSAde) is more of an ongoing project. We have nearly 100 members on the Ning, but the core group of active members is far smaller.

Bob: it’s up to working groups to come forward with proposals for how they want to work.

Comment: there’s a need to link in more with how projects develop and how the house develops.

Bob: If we could come up with a few principles to work with, I think that would be good. It would be good to have a group looking at the FC’s relationship with the regions and networks: how it manages reporting in, for example.

[Sorry there was another discussion but I missed it]


Bob: You’ll all have recived the working group updates circulated prior to the meeting. Any further comments?

Comment: Re RSAde, the interim head of IT has now been appointed and we’ll be meeting with him to discuss fellows’ requirements for the new platform on 21 December (there is a paper we’re preparing and if you want to contribute it will be posted on the Fellowship Ning in the next week or so).

Gerard: I’d like to feedback from the International Group. A lot of our colleagues internationally feel quite disengaged from our work and we are looking at how we might support fellows in other countries. Our support needs to be appropriate, tailored and valued. We’d like to provide some inspiration through case studies – what’s worked in the past. Secondly, we’d like to provide some resources. I was involved in the Coffee House Challenge and would like to see how we could replicate that sort of thing. At the moment and it’s a really fledging working group, we are looking at how we can support international fellows. We are looking at three countires: 2 where there hans’t been much activity and one, the US, where there is lots of activity but they feel disenfranchised. I feel this is an untapped opportunity.

Comment: Can we know which the other two countries are?

Gerard: Germany and Poland

Comment: there are a large number of fellows who are not getting as much from this organisation as they might do.

Michael Ambjorn: We’ll be interested to see if there’s an opportunity to revive the coffeehouse challenge, or something similar. This will be a good test case. Let’s see if we can really deliver.

Comment: I don’t want this to be a dialogue between Council and staff, but rather between Council and itself.

Comment: the dominant ideology in the RSA is push – push from here outwards. This is a plea to look very carefully at the supply side model you currently have that needs to be addressed.

Bob: We’ve got to get this two-way flow, that’s the thing, Probably more than two way, in fact.

Gerard: Anyone else who wants to participate in the International working group, we’d be delighted to have you along.

Comment: We are launching a music mentors’ project in Yorkshire that should have implications all round Britain and abroad. So I’d be happy to share that with you.


16.07: Bob: We would like to set up a new FC Ning to circulate papers etc. Email is really not ideal. Myself and Matthew Mezey (online communities manager) are working on this.

Just to round up, I’ve been reviewing what the Fellowship Council has achieved so far and I think we’ve actually a lot to be proud of. We have:

– improved relatioship beween regions and networks

– rewritten the RSA charter

– had active involvement in the governance advisoryr group

– changed the nature of the fellowship council

– introduced Catalyst

– set up the RSAde group which is doing ongoing work

– set up a group on fellowship engagement

– plus a lot of practical improvements in fellowship support and engagement

– we’re really opened up communications between the fellowship and the house

Comment: I don’t think Adam would have given such an open presentation on projects in the past.

Bob: It’s this joining together and conncting. It’s not perfect but I feel quite happy. Thanks to you all for constructive and helpful dialogue.

Comment: And we should all say thanks to Bob for his great chairing!

16.15: Bob: Thank you. And with that, we’ve made up time. We’re ahead of schedule. And I’m pleased to call this meeting closed.