Did Catalyst Spark a revolution - RSA

Did Catalyst spark a revolution?


  • Picture of Robert Ashton FRSA
    Robert Ashton FRSA
  • Catalyst
  • Fellowship in Action
  • Youth engagement

Back in December, my social enterprise Swarm Apprenticeships won a Catalyst grant to help us scale up. It funded some events in Norwich, Colchester, and Ipswich. It enabled us to add some new features to our website, and it was planned that we’d recruit Fellows as mentors for the young people we support.

You see, to me it was obvious. Swarm attracts bright young people, who are willing to stand up and be counted. Too often the system has rejected them because they chose not to conform. They tend to be enterprising and ‘do stuff’, rather than just talk about it.

Add 40 or 50 years to their age and that same description applies, in my view, to RSA Fellows. In my experience they have the intellect to think beyond the boundaries of their role in life; the curiosity to poke and challenge their standing in society, and to get away with it. A perfect match I thought.

So we staged our three events back in March and each was a success. The only disappointment was that too few Fellows came along. That’s a shame, as they missed out.

But what’s really blown me away as a Catalyst grant winner is the serendipity that, in my book, defines the RSA. The unexpected consequences of chance meetings with Fellows has quite taken me by surprise. Let me give you a couple of examples.

An RSA blog led to a conversation that will see Swarm launch in east London later this year. I wasn’t looking for that, but it happened.

A Fellow with whom I was in deep conversation, happened to mention that her son was a campaigner with a national disability organisation. Now I’m currently battling to create new opportunities for young people, with learning disabilities, find work. Bingo! Now that Fellow’s son’s campaign has given me the hook I need to create some urgency and get people focused on helping me solve the problem.

But back to Swarm. The Catalyst grant has made us stronger. It’s opened some useful doors and given our confidence a boost too. So what next?

Well, Swarm recently partnered with a new national training provider. Someone, coincidentally, we met whist in Colchester organising that Catalyst funded event. It means we can now work anywhere we can gather together a group of young people wishing to play an active role in developing their employers’ businesses.

Now it could be that you already employ young people and would like them to take a greater interest in how they can make a difference. If you know others in a similar position, then you might just be the next Fellow to demonstrate the RSA’s greatest strength. Its ability to connect like-minded people in mutually beneficial ways!

So get in touch!

Robert Ashton FRSA.      


[email protected]

Or contact Robert directly via his My RSA profile

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