Our approach to change
With our commitment to impact, the RSA’s multidisciplinary and collaborative Living Change Approach helps us to systemically understand the challenges of our time and to entrepreneurially take actions to address them.
For over 250 years the RSA has been at the forefront of social impact. We were founded with a belief in the actions of private citizens to pool their collective will, resources and voice to advocate for public improvement. From our inception, we have been a champion of innovative, practical solutions to the social challenges of the time.
From ensuring education for all by creating the first public exams to promoting the need for conservation and sustainability, from seeking technological solutions to child labour to encouraging the planting of more than 60 million trees – social change is in our DNA.
We know there are different ways of effecting and realising change. Our community is inclusive. We welcome activists working to ignite recognition of rising inequality alongside shareholders working on long-term investment strategies that help the planet.
Our reach extends from the grassroots through to policy makers. The well-established and just-getting-going. The socially connected and socially disenfranchised. In this sense, we are non-partisan, supporting the many different change-makers that share our values.
Change can be hard
Change makers know that social change is difficult. There are many reasons for this, not least, that we are dealing with complex issues.
We need to see the whole system to really understand what’s going on. Society as a living system is ever-changing, inter-connected and unpredictable. Sometimes fragile, sometimes immovable, but always dynamic.
Timing can be everything. A single event can create opportunities for change, another can bury them. We need to approach change in a way that allows us to experiment and learn quickly, to adjust our approach when things don’t work and accelerate when they do, combining knowledge of the system with the agility to act responsively.
Think like a system, act like an entrepreneur
It is the artful blend of “thinking like a system and acting like an entrepreneur” that enables us to work collaboratively with change-makers on some of society’s biggest challenges.
Our approach is strengthened by continuous learning about the system - and our roles in it - grounded in organisational and personal humility. It is flexible and broad, drawing insights from a range of disciplines and supplemented with our own tools that help to distil the “art of change-making.”
Our Living Change Approach
We have consolidated our legacy of insights, thought and practice into an approach underpinned by a broad range of practices. These tools are made available to our Fellowship and on our programmes. Now for the first time we are starting to socialise this approach.
It’s not enough to see change as a new state to be achieved; those seeking change must bring it to life and embody it. And it’s not enough to see change as a linear process; approaches to change must be flexible and dynamic.
This is why we talk about our Living Change Approach.
We know we can’t have all the answers. But we will continue to test and learn, openly sharing our experiences and inviting you to work with us to apply our approach to the challenges of our time.
Our Living Change Approach is based on some core foundations:
We start with the societal challenge at the heart of our enquiry, an idea of the system we are concerned with, and an overarching ambition for change.
We seek clarity about the scope of our enquiry and work with our partners to gain knowledge about the key actors, power dynamics and processes that are sustaining the status quo. We do this through the kind of rigorous research and analysis for which we are known.
We combine methods and draw insights from each element of our approach as we work with our partners on the challenge. These methods build out in unique ways as we get deeper into the issues and start to surface opportunities for change.
To harness opportunities for change requires a collaborative approach. We work with a diverse range of policy-makers, practitioners, Fellows and partners, as well as those impacted by the issue at hand. Collectively we design and test the kinds of interventions that might start to tilt the system towards change.
The RSA has been a great thought leader and partner for Mastercard - its networks, reputation, actionable insights, a focus on innovation have helped us refine our approach to social impact in the UK and beyond
Articles about our approach
We must look for the potential of change in the crisis response. The post-crisis task is to find ways to amplify and embed the most promising changes and innovations.
Now is the time to combine design methods with systems thinking to enable the adaptive and innovative institutions we need for the future, argues Rowan Conway.