Clem Henricson, Chair of RSA South East for the last two years, gives an overview of the achievements made by the team and the Fellowship in the area during her time as Chair.
As we come towards the end of a term in the South East it is perhaps time to reflect on achievements – a pat on the back or bemoan…. How far have we matched up to our aims, how far has our reach been and what were the drawbacks and limitations? This is intended not only as a personal retrospective exercise as Chair, but also to be of some help as we go forward in the Autumn as a new area as part of the recent review of Fellows experience.
Our aim was:
“To deliver a contribution to support creativity with particular reference to education, fulfilment at work, social mobility, the reduction of inequality and enhancing community sustainability.”
Progress on this aim was to be made through focussing on the following priority areas:
1) Events in each network area
2) Supporting project work
3) Supporting the development of networks
4) Supporting communication flow between Fellows
5) The development of partnerships with other relevant organisations to enhance impact.
Without over egging the pudding, I think I am justified in saying that a fair amount of headway has been made with all these aims and objectives. Let's have a look at what we've achieved...
A series of stimulating events, seminars and conferences have been held in Brighton and Hove, Surrey, Tunbridge Wells and Canterbury addressing aspects of the region’s themes including issues relating to health, education, an aging community, communications, community engagement, women’s leadership, trust in public life, devolution to the cities, child protection and family wellbeing. These events have been well attended despite the challenge of our close proximity to the resources of London and competing networks.
Partnership work has been developed. A number of initiatives, such as events and mentoring provision, have been conducted in conjunction with academic institutions (e.g. the University of Brighton), the statutory and voluntary sectors (e.g. schools and health services in Tunbridge Wells) and other community groupings
An invitation to bid for seed funding has been publicised through events and the mailings and there has been a successful catalyst funding bid for a community arts centre by Nigel Ryan.
Communication flow between Fellows, programme prioritisation and fair and effective resource distribution have been sustained by regular team meetings, discussion of activities in the Region at events and our e-newsletters. Support has been offered by the team leads to individuals on project development, and likewise, Fellows have shown a key interest in sharing their own skills to support each other.
Two event series have been particularly successful in involving and kick starting communications between Fellows –
New Fellows’ dinners - with introductory talks by the Fellowship Councillor and Chair of the Region
Engage events - held across the region where Fellows were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas and projects and engage in discussion in relation to a wide variety of initiatives and issues.
The development of the networks has been remarkable, sustained by very active leads in Brighton and Hove (Kerrie Howard) Hastings and Bexhill (Mark Hadley), Surrey (Caroline Clark and formerly Mike Mosely) and Tunbridge Wells (Pippa Doran). Our thanks go to them for the skills and time which they have given to the South East RSA community. They have been supported by a devoted, hands on and experienced Fellowship Councillor Irene Campbell and a highly efficient regional Secretary Rosemary Olivier, and for much of the period by the steady steer of our Treasurer – Brian Byers. Many thanks too to all the staff at the RSA who have helped us with our work and in particular Viv Long-Ferguson and Rachel Elston. As Chair my thanks go to all these RSA Fellows and staff for making it possible for things to happen and for making the process of developing the region so very pleasant.
On the limitations side, the uptake of seed funding has been low. The reasons for this are as yet unclear, but the intention is to try other approaches as we work to improve the local experience.
So what legacy is being passed on to our Council successors for further development?
A cohesive network team that has worked successfully together to deliver across the southeast of England.
A high level of social capital and partnership working particularly within the Brighton and Hove, Surrey and Tunbridge Wells networks.
A process of assessing and monitoring Fellow-led projects.
Experience within the area of delivering events on a range of different topics which have supported both the RSA’s overarching aims and those more specific to the South East team.
With this legacy and with a view to encouraging diversity and maximum participation, here are some options that might be considered for the future:
* Expanding the delivery of events that stimulate conversations on multiple topics that are pertinent to the RSA’s aims and ethos.
* Encouraging a wide range of Fellows to lead in their particular interest areas, delivering events and projects.
* Exploration of the Fellow-led events - RSA Watch where talks from the RSA are screened followed by facilitated discussions. Encourage attendees to share their experiences and outcomes of these discussions
* Exploration of ways of involving and sustaining the interest of new Fellows in the RSA and its initiatives.
* The development of networks in areas where there are individuals and organisations with an interest in what the RSA has to offer.
* Further development of partnerships with external organisations where this effectively supports the delivery of the RSA’s priorities.
* Enhancing collaboration with the RSA’s Action and Research Centre and the Catalyst Fund.
* Reflecting the new framework for local activity working to mobilise Fellows, develop new ideas and providing resources and funding to support Fellows.
* Good practice to be exchanged by the Fellowship Councillors and project leads within the new expanded area.
* Collaboration across other regions and areas to support Fellow’s initiatives and practice development.
Clem has been Chair for the RSA South East Region for the last two years. Get in touch with Clem via her MyRSA profile or email her at: [email protected].