I’m live-blogging the RSA Fellowship Council meeting happening now at 8 John Adam Street in London. Please refresh this page for updates.

1330: Bob Porrer opens meeting

1335: Update on Governance Advisory Group: latest group of proposals going to Trustee board for formal approval.

New structure of Fellowship Council: 14 regional/national chairs, 14 others from each region/nation, 7 from elsewhere, ‘at large’ (standing independently), 5 appointed. We have elections coming up. We as individulas. Request for nominations will come out 1 May and close on 1 June (approx).

Comment: how will the election process run?

Michael Ambjorn (Head of Fellowship): process will run in a way very similar to the Trustee Elections – we will be using the same electoral service.

Bob: for further details, contact Michael.

Use of the closed Ning to facilitate communication, I’ve been chatting to Bill Gibbon on the train from York about this. We want to use something to ensure more interaction between meetings. This is not for me to decide maybe next chair can address the issue. But watch this space. Not going to let anything happen until we get it right. I’m testing a dummy Ning at present with Matthew Mezey.

Comment: I’m not sure if this is the place to ask question again but has come up at regional chairs meeting again: are we any closer to getting in touch with new fellows?

Bob: I asked a lawyer at a recent RSA Scotland meeting. Latest legal advicde is that data cannot be realised by people unless it has been improved by the Audit and Risk committee.

The committee met yesterday and will report back to next trustee meeting. Things are moving forward. I can understand why trustees are wary of rolling anything forward before it’s watertight.

If we’re enjoined by trustee board to make more use of fellows we cant do it without the right data. Hopefully 14 of March will mark begining of a new era.

Comment: we must keep being a thorn in the side on that!

Bob: now over to Matthew.

RSA Strategy 2012-15

1349 Matthew: thank you for coming. We’re very grateful to you all for giving up your time. I’m going to spin quickly through the strategy. Although this is a 3 year plan it’s very evolutionary. Strategy presumes we continue to deliver on the basics: maintain fellowship numbers, hopefully we’re through the worst of economic downturn. Although things have been tough we haven’t seen a dip in numbers which shows great efforts of the Fellowship team. We’ll continue projects, house business, continue to manage our finances. Despite fact we lost quarter of a million £ we look set to break even.

Getting the basics right is a luxury because many other membership orgs aren’t managing that. I think we as a whole have a relevant and broad mission: understanding and enhancing human capability to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We are independent, and very much seen to be independent.

We are innovative in our form and content. We have a variety of ways in which we communicate.

We focus on problem solving. We know there isn’t enough to go around, what we need are solutions. If you were building an organisation from scracth it wouldnt be  million miles away from where we are. We’re not a professional association or learning society. We don’t have a focus on one particular group. We are not on the other hand, an NGO or thinktank. What I think we are is a civil association. And by this I mean an organisation that achieves change becuase of what it is: eg, Womens institute, the Rotarian Association etc.

You will know we’ve undertaken a fellowship survey. We’ll repeat it every one to two years.

Phase 1: improving recruitment process, moving away from mass marketing. We now have many regional networks and thematic networks. A few years ago there was only one group, Fellows Voices, and that was all about fellows not being listened to.

Rather than fellowship being an award for past achievement, it shoudl be somethign about the kind of person they are: on the front foot, wanting to make a difference. Getting fellowship should be the begining of a journey of development and growth.

Project: it’s worthe reminding ourselves of the progress we’ve made. In the past, we didn’t get any press coverage for our work. If you read the broadsheets you’ll find that now we get loads of coverage. WE’re getting profile. We’re getting influence. We’re getting income, and real impact. Opening Minds and RSA Family Academies are doing well.

In essence, the 3 things we want next 3 years: to be associated with successful frontline intervention. Seen to have a powerful capacity for problemsolving. This is increasingly happening. Fellows developing partnerships with local councils and universities. And we have a recognised deepning understanding of how to enhance human capability.

External Affairs: RSA brand is known to millions of people through RSA Animate etc. I know there are lots of orgs who spend time thinking about how they can emulate what we’ve done. Competition for a new animate is very important. We’ve got people working on how to represent ideas visually. That’s a really important charitable mission.

Operations. We want to be in the Sunday Times best 100 places to work by 2015. We need to be a magnet for talent. The best way to attract people is to be a great place to work. We’re losing our best staff regularly. Becky Francis ran our education department and recently left to take up a professorship – we can’t offer 5 months holiday a year unfortunately!

I am very confiednt that the first time you visit this house after July you will feel as soon as you walk in the door that this is a happening place full of ideas.

If I picked out one thing that’s a fairly new major strategic priority is that other organisations are more international than we are. The irony is that we have many fellows overseas but we need to develop into a much more international organisation. And it’s all about content: developing projects. It looks as though within next few months we’ll be launching Student Design Awards in America.

House will reopen in July but re-opening party will be in September due to Diamond Jubilee and Olympics.

The opportunity of the summer re-opening is to stress the idea that, with the RSA, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. For example, we recently won a bid to run a drug rehabiliation project in Kent – because we said our network of fellows would mentor drug users – that is why we won the bid.

Bob: Thank you Matthew – and what can we, the Fellowship Council, do to help?

Matthew: I want to know from you how we can make this strategy happen.

Comment: [sorry missed this]

Matthew: although we no longer buy mailing lists and send out mass mailings, we do detailed reserach on individuals who we really believe shoudl be part of the RSA. A few years ago we did a drive to recruit leaders in business. At the moment we’re focusing on younger fellows.

Comment: how about the groups of people we’re not representing, like women and BME?

Matthew: we’re very much looking to you to help us on how can access these groups. Fellows are going to be middle class people generally speaking. Membership is £150 and that’s not possible for everyone.

Michael: we are inherentlly a heterogenous group. For the first time the RSA will be asking regions how they are actually recruiting people in their regions.

Comment: we don’t know how many women we have in our region – going back to the earlier point! (ie: not having access to the data).

Comment: all the discussions about fellowship and recruitment are gradually getting divorced form the very nature of the RSA. The selection of fellows needs to be linked in to the notion of the rsa as a civil org. Secondly, link between fellows and projects – Kent project is great news. Now we have governance issues sort of behind us, we can get on with thinking about RSA projects and the relationship with fellows. The next stage with all the central projects is to link in the fellowship much more.

Matthew: it is happening more and more. There’s an issue of resource. We’re trying to encourage fellows networks to become more ambititious as well as encouraging staff projects to become more open to fellows. If you look at the journal, eg, you’ll see an article about corporate responsibility as well as a panel showing fellows’ activity in that area. If people think the civil association point is a good one, that is somethign we shoudl think more about.

Irene: one of the two outcomes in the report from the engagement working group was that fellowship council could be a conduit between projects and fellows.

Comment: I don’t think civil association does it for me. If you’re going to get a title that’s succinct, you need to know what you mean. I don’t think civil association will mean the same thing in other countries. We need to say what we actually stand for.

Matthew: What I want to make clear is that there are two things we’re not: we’re not a membership organisation, and we’re not a pressure group or NGO. We make the change happen by what we do ourselves. NGOs have a hammer and looking for a nail. The Women’s Institute is probably the best model. Our Indian chapter kind of took its own mandate and became a

Comment: We’ve been talking about what we are for half an hour but noone has mentioned the Royal Charter.

Bob: we do need to be reminded what the charter says.

Matthew: the year i arrived we went through the charter and re-worded it. We went through the Palace for approval, in that respect.

Gerry (former chair of trustees): It was always a challenge to take the wording of that charter and repurpose it for the modern era. As long as fellows are happy with our governance we’ve got to get out and do it. The world does change, language does change but we mustn’t let that blunt what we do. You’re absoltely right we want fellowship to be an elite status but please do not use that word because people read it as elitist. Point 2, when we appointed you, it was because we’d become a safe organisation. We’d done a wonderful report on migration but were so worried about content that we made sure we published it without press covereage. At no point do I want us to become a safe organisation again. The prison system is cyring out for the RSA to find a partnerhship with a forward thinking prison and really make an impact…sorry I’m going on.

Comment: Well we have to allow you, Sir Gerry…

[Everyone laughs]

Gerry: Don’t worry about Sunday Times 100. You’re going to get the people you get because of what you do. If we’re goign to go international, can we leave out the developed world and focus on the developing world?

Comment: RSA Music Inspiration has been helping all sorts of people to want to sign up to be Fellows…

Matthew: Elite’s probably not the right word but I want to get it across that it’s people of real standing and commitment, people who get things done. I don’t know if we’ll ever be safe. Our satisfactory shcools report was very contraversial and led to a change in government policy. In relation to international, we’re learning from past mistakes. I think the Germans have an interesting attitude in that if an engineer trains someone and he leaves to work for Google, the trainer says, great, I’ve got a friend at Google.

Comment: have you thought about setting up an RSA alumni?

Matthew: most students and staff who leave become fellows.

Bob: And now Irene.


1435: Irene: The average age of fellows is 48. I’m going to give you a few questions and I’d like you to jot down your first thoughts privately for a minute and then engage with the fellows either side of you. We’ll stop you after ten minutes and ask each group to give us one point that would be helpful. My three questions are:

1. Are we interested in engaging people under 30?

2. If we agree we want to attract younger fellows, what’s our offer?

3. What could younger fellows bring to the table?

Vivs: At the moment we have 400 under 30. Out of 27,000.

Michael: with the current rate of recruitment it woudl be 2035 before we have a balanced fellowship.

Comment: why is the cut off 30?

Michael: it’s very arbitary.

[General discussion – will resume liveblog in ten minutes]

1456: Irene: Okay we’re over time. Can I ask each table to tell us what they’ve been talking about? We will give Matthew a page of thoughts from the Fellowship Council to feed into what he’s doing.

Comment: We were running an event in the Worcester Network and not sure if that would have been of appeal to a young person walking into that event. We asked how could we make that sort of event relevant to young people?

Comment: We were talking about how we might identify people to be the extra 7 on the Fellowship Council. Should we ask young people to put forward nominations?

Bob: And that’s one of the 5 gaps that could be filled.

Comment: The RSA bursaries – to give a 4/ 5 year bursary to a young person who might want to build a relationship with us.

Comment: There’s two distinct conversations – first, how do you get young people to start thinking about fellowship – not sure it’s that different to why people generally would want to be engaged. The other point was on “careerability”, getting people into work – the social networks offered by the RSA are potentially a huge resource for young people.

Comment: Just one more point, if you want to attract young people you need to run projects that are relevant to them. And you need to ask them what they want.

Matthew: don’t forget we’ve got 2,000 people in RSA Academies.

Comment: I remember a time when we had a young person on our regional committee. The person we had I’m still very much in touch with. He stopped being a fellow because he was working for a [bank] and literally didn’t have time.

Comment: I’m definitely under 30 and so is Matthew and if we want to be a civil association affecting change in what we do then we want to represent that so yes we need people with experience in all kind of areas. The most important thing we offer people is crediblity. I was at Comic Relief this morning and the girl who came up with the idea of Comic Relief was 19 at the time.

Comment: I would like more young people of all ages. I think we should also consider inviting more people with learning disabilities. We would learn a lot from them.

Comment: Matt is great and he knows what he’s talking about and we should trust him to do this stuff well.

Irene: If you’ve a point you’d like to debate, let me konw and I’ll facilitate it next time.

Bob: Time for coffee.


1520: Bob: now Josef is going to talk to us about the Fellowship survey.

Josef: so, what is the annual survey? We wanted evidence to back up core strategy, to ground everything in data. Performance meausurement. Who are our fellows. More than 6000 respondents – 22 per cent of fellows replied. Some complained it was too long. 20 per cent said it was too short. 633,000 word of qualitative feedback. Survey was a success in itself. 9 to 1 I agree with the RSA’s C21st enlightenment mission. Our annual churn is about 8 per cent and we want to reduce this.

Comment: why? If we’re an organisation that is changing, an organisation effecting change, it makes sense people will want to leave.

Michael: it makes sense that we try to look at the reasons for leaving and address some of them.

Josef: Of course there will always be some degree of churn. So moving on, we are looking at how to improve our platforms…

Comment: can we receive regional breakdowns?

Josef: [hmm. not sure what he said here exactly]

Comment: the standard of intellectual debate is goign to be more rigourous at national level than at regional level.

Comment: to have such good figures is outstanding.

Josef: perceptions of governing bodies: it’s healthy that not everyone cares about governance.

Irene: it’s quite interesting how many people were actually aware of the fellowship council.

Josef: Fellows have a lot of reasons to be fellows. There is somethign to the brand that attracts fellows and keeps them attracted. The facilities, taking part in projects – it really is different things. We need to cater to all those interests. Really prominent was the idea of a network of likeminded individuals, from diverse backgrounds.


Sixty per cent of fellows want to engage; 30 per cent said they just wanted to be fellows, didn’t want to engage. Almost 60 per cent said they had participated in an RSA project. Most fellows networked with 1-5 other fellows – this is a very low figure and something we really need to develop. 72 per cent of respondents said they used LinkedIn so if we dont want to reinvent FAcebook that’s the platform to use.

Comment: I was informed by Fellows that it was such a time-consuming expereince, it really put them off filling in the survey. You must give people sufficident time to fill in the survey.

Josef: yes for the future we will make it shorter.

Comment: I’m concerned that a survey on a regular basis can mean the survey ends up running the organisation. If you’re going to survey on a very regular basis people will just ignore it. Always a danger with surveys.

Josef: Many fellows have said thanks for doing this.

Comment: networking figure is very poor. A lot of orgs are doing it very effectively. What’s the problem. Waht are the barriers?

Josef: We are currently carrying out a scoping project for a new fellowship platform.

Comment: We will be establishing a new group to look at this and I’ll be talking about it at 3.45pm – think you’ve just signed yourself up for it.


Gerard: We’ve got target of getting 40 overseas “connectors” – we have 10 at the moment. We are trying an approach of seeing what’s working on the ground and hope to feed that back to Germany. We’ve got student design awards starting in US. Meeting in Helsinki – 60 fellows. Meeting last week in Brooklyn so there is some exciting stuff going on. If you know of anyone you think might be a good connector outside of the UK, please let us know. If you have any ideas to help this network let me know, third, if you know any countries with a nice sunny beach where I can go and help I’d be very grateful!

Comment: I understand there’s a Japanese group.

Comment: Yes that’s progressing well.


Bob: Thanks and keep up the good work! We talked about terms of reference at the last fellowship council meeting and thanks to RSAde and Jemima for being first to produce a document – anything you’d like to add?

Me: Just that although the right noises are being made about user-centric design, we’re not happy with the process so far. RSAde is meant to be involved but we feel shut out.

Bob: Okay, well that will be noted and passed on.


Bob: Two new groups – one on regions and nations, one on thematic and free-standing networks [I’ll upload more info on these]. Is everyone happy with these?


Comment: there’s considerable frustration in my region with people applying for Catalyst projects, not getting fundind and then trying to raise funding at a regional level.

Bob: The resources review group will be looking at all these things. It’s about getting the balance right.

Comment: We have a regional social innovation fund in South Central. Fellows were confused about whether they shoudl go for regional or national funding and we actually merged the two.

Bob: A Scottish fund might be for the low level seed cause and Catalyst when it develops to another level.

Comment: at the moment there’s a kind of mis-match. If in the future the regions are going to need a plan instead of something ad-hoc then we need to be clearer.

Comment: there was a failed Catalyst bid in my region which is now looking for funding from Norwich City Council. We’re looking at helping people articulate themselves. We’ve entered into a partnership with Future Radio in Norwich and from that started a national roll out project. We are now fairly self-sustaining.

Bob: It’s really good that you’ve found another source of funding. Do any other working groups have anything in particular they’d like to say?

Comment: there’s still the question of how to connect fellows projects with staff projects…?

Michael: We have a proposal but it’s subject to budget approval.

Comment: We have a project in the South West that’s had no support at all from the centre.

Comment: it has been publicised.

Comment: Just 200 words.

Bob: Some areas have had more investment in publicising etc than other areas and that’s one of the issues that needs to be addressed.

Michael: 240 projects have been submitted to Catalyst and that’s really encouraging. If you don’t get funding, you still have access to other points of resources through the RSA – fellow support etc.

Comment: there is an art to applying and it’s now becoming increasingly competitive. I’d be happy to offer help.

Comment: is it possible for fellows to know what’s been approved in their regions or nations?

Bob: it would be good to identify to can we just note that point?

Rosie had to leave but she thinks the group she’s running would be better as a thematic network.


1606: I had the delight of going up to Leeds recently. It was suggested that an annuity they were running would be better managed as (sorry missed this – will recapture).

Comment: We’ve now rebuilt our relationship very positively with Leeds University. We’ve now got other projects with the University and will now strengthen those links.

Michael: Matthew Taylor would welcome some feedback on his CEO’s report so please read and let him know.

Comment: are you planning anything to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee?

Comment: something is being planned but nothing significant. The society will send a message to the Queen.

Bob: Thank you – and I’ll now call this meeting closed.

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