Join a history of enlightened thinking - RSA

Join a history of enlightened thinking

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  • Curriculum
  • Climate change
  • Social networks
  • Fellowship
  • Social innovation
  • Technology

What do you say to people when you talk about the RSA? Do you mention a great lecture you’ve seen, a Fellow you’ve met or perhaps share an animate online? It’s easy when you’ve got an example but sometimes when you’re on the spot, it can be difficult to in articulate all the many aspects of the RSA’s work. It’s a multi-layered, multifaceted organisation that is governed from a huge house which can feel like a bit of a labyrinth -  so where do you begin?

RSA pamphlet: ' Welcome to the RSA the home of enlightened thinking since 1774'Here in Fellowship we’re pretty clued up on the benefits of joining the RSA’s 27,000 strong network; we can tell you about the Four Ways to Engage, all the House facilities and how our Regional Programme Managers can help you find like-minded people in your area. But, we also know that when you join an organisation it is important for your commitment to have meaning that goes beyond having a place to meet and free Wi-Fi. You need to have a clear idea about what those four letters - FRSA, represent. There are thousands of organisations out there to join and thousands of worthwhile charitable causes.

What makes us different?

elightened thinkingWhen you join the RSA you join a rich history of enlightened thinking. As the Changemakers handbook demonstrates, the RSA is here to facilitate people thinking differently about social challenges. Back in 1754 when the RSA was founded, the people of Britain were facing the dawn of the industrial revolution; a period that saw great technological advancements and equally, many unforeseen problems.

What is remarkable about the RSA and its Fellows is thaelightened thinkingt they began to find solutions to global problems long before buzz words like social justice and sustainability were on the national political agenda. In 1758, an RSA Fellow suggested providing an award to whomever could devise the best plan for the establishment of a charity house to shelter women whose poverty put them at risk of prostitution. Just under 20 years later, we offered an award for inventions that could reduce smoke emissions.

It is easy to underestimate the importance of having a social space to share ideas.

In 1852, the RSA organised the trial of the first public Water Closets but unfortunately, few people were inclined to use them and the campaign was deemed a failure.  The idea was temporarily laid to rest but then dug up many years later and, where would we be today without public lavatories?

Sometimes, planting an idea is enough.

This is how I prefer to explain the RSA’s significance to people who are interested in getting involved. By joining our network you are continuing the history of Fellowship: a group of people who are not only willing to think more broadly than the majority, but who have proven many times over that they have the tenacity to pursue their ideas and turn them into practical solutions for the public good.

Find out more about Fellowship

If you already a Fellow but know someone who would be a great addition to the Fellowship, why not nominate them?

 Alexandra Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordinator at the RSA

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  • During my travels in London I often see buskers - usually young persons. They appear to be quite good 

    musicians looking for a break. Most are perhaps going through a rough patch. I am not aware but perhaps there is some sort of network that connects them. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get them involved in clubs & pubs where they could be safer, contribute to the entertainment world and be gainfully employed too..

  • Hi Alexandra
    Great post, thank you. I've been lucky to hear some of this rich history of the RSA from Keith Horsfall, who leads RSA activity in the West Mids. I agree with you that being part of the RSA is much, much more than an 'offer' to Fellows, it's that Fellows should be people doing things for the public good (or those with ideas and the potential to do such things). So being part of this network is different to being a member of a network or charity because RSA Fellowship isn't passive, Fellows live and breathe enlightened thinking and action. We are helped and inspired to do this by the work of other RSA Fellows, RSA staff and the speakers and thinkers which the RSA brings to our attention in such useful ways.

  • Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment and suggestion. We definitely want to help Fellows contribute as much as possible online. You mentioned RSA Comment ( which is one way to do this – you'll also notice we have regular guest contributions from Fellows on this blog talking about projects they're working on.

    As well as this, there's our Fellowship social network ( which provides a place for comment and discussion. We think more is needed on this front, though, and staff, Fellows and Trustees are currently working together to improve our website and online community tools. Helpfully, Charlotte Britton (one of our Fellowship Councillors) has set out the plans at length in a recent blog, which you can read and comment on here:

    Hope that's helpful!

    (Project engagement manager, RSA)

  • I have some recommendations. Personally I think joining the RSA Fellowship would be alot more attractive to people if they thought membership made them really feel a part of the organization. It's a real honor to be part of a prestigious organization like the RSA, but Fellowship in its current form doesn't feel that way. And, of course, people act far more on how they feel than on how they think. So let me provide an idea that I think might help.
    RSA Fellows should have a home page at the RSA and be able to blog freely. I know you're going to say "We have RSA Comment." But that's not strictly for Fellows, it's for anyone who submits commments as I understand it. Many Fellows can't travel to events nor do they always have the time to put toward lengthy research projects, but they would like to contribute in some way. They can research a related topic and post on it at the RSA. This does make them feel apart of the organization regardless of where they're at. A presence, a home page, and a list of blog posts at least gives the member a sense of ownership.
    Again I realize you can say that in some ways you have all of this. But it's not structured very well or asthetically appealing. I recommend having a Fellowship communinty blog page strictly for Fellows around the world. You can moderate new Fellows who post for, say, the first 10 posts to see how they write and then allow them to post on their own. RSA editors can always pull stuff that doesn't fit in with the RSA's mission.
    Personally, I think this might really help in attracting more Fellows to the RSA. People want to feel apart of the organziation more than just paying annual dues, having a membership card, and getting the quarterly publication. For myself I think it would be an honor to say "I blog at the RSA. Visit my RSA home page where you can see my contributions and interests."
    Just my thoughts.