This must be the Place: Manchester - RSA

This must be the Place: Manchester


  • Picture of Sandy Wilkie FRSA
    Sandy Wilkie FRSA
  • Picture of Rachel Griffiths FRSA
    Rachel Griffiths FRSA
    RADA Business, Client Director, Reputation Consultancy, founder. ACC coach
  • Cities
  • Heritage
  • Fellowship

What makes our cities and towns unique in terms of history, geography, economy, and that all important USP: reputation? In Manchester, we are launching a project designed to distill the essence of the city's industrial past, radical tradition and its recent resurgence through creative industries.

I’d like to introduce and invite you to contribute to 'The Mancunian Way'.

The idea behind the project was sparked at a recent RSA Manchester event, organised by Area Manager (North) Rachel Barker and Fellowship Councillor Rod Hyde. Local Fellows were invited to come together and explore how we might harness the collective knowledge, skills and creativity of our Greater Manchester based network, to share our interests with a view to working together and strengthen the identity of the RSA across the city. It was here I met Rachel Griffiths FRSA, who has her own Reputation consultancy; myself, I have a background in Employee Engagement and work for the NHS. We took part in a serendipitous group conversation, sparked by the spirit of a radical and creative city and ending with a focus on the possibilities around defining a brand... or reputation, and the inception of this project.

A city's assets

If Manchester was a business, the chances are it would be in the FTSE100. Founded in 79AD, Greater Manchester has a population of around 2.5milion people; that’s quite a workforce. A sustained economic performer that embraces a culture of innovation demonstrates technical and industrial excellence and has the ability to engage all those with an interest in it. It is a city that is a leader among its peers.

The world’s first industrial city, the birthplace of Emmeline Pankhurst, the first passenger train station, the first free public library, a university where ten Nobel Peace prize winners studied, the city where the first atom was split, the first modern computer was built, the home to the Halle, the UK’s oldest symphony orchestra, the world’s first professional football league and of course, Manchester United, Manchester City, the Hacienda, the Stone Roses and the highest number of theatre seats per head of population outside London. Bottle the ingredients of Manchester’s success and the product would be a top seller. That is exactly what this Fellow-led group will be seeking to do.

The Mancunian Way

The project will reflect upon the role of culture, history, and the people of Manchester that have played in its development, seeking to define the consistent characteristics and qualities that have enabled this vibrant city. Through evidence and research, we will be seeking to define the ‘Mancunian Way’, to distill the very essence of not what the city does, but how it chooses to be.

The Mancunian Way is all about what makes Manchester, Manchester: examining the characteristics that underpin the city and how we can harness those shared values and behaviours to build a strong future. After engaging with key stakeholders (we’re hoping to build relationships with Manchester International Festival, for example), we plan to carry out fieldwork research to incorporate people from all areas of the community and deliver an exhibition titled #100conversations, which will showcase images of Manchester residents and descriptions of the city in their own words.

Our aims are to create a place-based narrative and develop a selection of materials that can be used to promote the reputation of our city; thus contributing to its continued social, economic and cultural growth. To summarise, we see our project purpose as follows:

  • To learn more about the role of culture and people in the city’s development.
  • To evidence those consistent characteristics which have led to the city’s performance over time.
  • To understand the role that culture and characteristics will continue to play in its future performance. 
  • To define the distinction that is ‘The Mancunian Way’ in order to harness, celebrate and consciously use those qualities.

We also envisage reflecting on the creation process to design a toolkit that can be used by RSA Fellows and groups interested in developing a place-based reputation for their own city or local area. The project will freely share our learning with the wider RSA community.

Get involved

Join us at RSA Manchester: "The Mancunian Way" project startup event on 16 May to find out more, continue the conversation and contribute your expertise to the project.

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