Inspired by the RSA Local Area Team’s ‘Change Stories’ series, Lauren Orso highlights some of the many brilliant projects being undertaken by the RSA’s international network of Fellows.
The RSA works to create a world where people are empowered to create a society that is sustainable, democratic and just and we support our 28,000 strong Fellowship to bring about real world change. Our global Fellowship extends over 100 countries, with one in every ten Fellows based outside of the UK and Ireland. With two affiliated organisations, in the United States and Australia and New Zealand, and active Fellow-led hubs from Finland to Japan, our international community is growing rapidly. Fellows are working on a myriad of place-based projects tackling complex global issues and working to improve society. In my short time at the RSA, I have already met an astounding number Fellows who have shared their ideas, projects and stories with me. With too many to cover in one blog alone, this piece is the first of many that will seek to celebrate and share the incredible work of our international network of change-makers.
Teaching English to migrant workers in Singapore
Bangladeshi-born Singaporean Fellow Sazzad Hossain, 23, is working to provide 100,000 migrant workers in Singapore with the tools to communicate in basic English. He leads a social enterprise - SDI Academy - that has coached more than 5,000 migrant workers already. Sazzad has authored two English textbooks, and recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on the GIVE.asia platform for the latest one, Dr English, which was launched in May 2017.
Sazzad initially started teaching four or five workers at a park bench in his local neighbourhood but the number swelled rapidly through word of mouth. He was inspired to make a difference when he found out that one of the migrant workers living in a dormitory near his home, and with whom Sazzad had made friends, had experienced a terrible accident at work as he was unable to understand the relevant health and safety instructions. After the accident, the worker had to have his hand amputated and was unable to work and so was sent home. This compelled Sazzad to act. As one of the RSA’s youngest Fellows, Sazzad works tirelessly to ensure that migrant workers in Singapore have access to English textbooks, but his mission is also to engage Singaporeans and encourage them to challenge negative stereotypes about migrant workers in their local communities.
A Tokyo-based charity supporting refugees and internally displace persons
Jane Best is a member of the Japan Fellows’ Network and is the CEO for Refugees International Japan (RIJ) – a small NGO registered with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Jane sums up the work of RIJ by describing it is a “small organisation with a long reach”. RIJ provides funding for projects supporting refugees and internally displaced persons. Jane raises funds to support projects that provide opportunities for people to lead an independent normal life while staying near to home. RIJ favours projects that enable people to give back to the community and make valuable contributions to the local economy as well as rebuilding their own future. RIJ believes that it is essential that the refugees and international displaced persons have a role in these projects and that they make them successful. Jane believes that ownership encourages commitment and sustainability. RIJ is a small organisation with no branches other than its office in Tokyo and Jane is the only full-time member of staff. There are two part-time staff and all other staff members are volunteers. Readers can find out more about RIJ from their Facebook page, and can get involved by organising events to support its work.
Scaling and spreading impactful projects from Milan
Margherita Pagani is an FRSA based in Milan. She is the founder of Impacton.org, an organisation that creates and spreads the blueprints of existing, effective impact projects, so that others can adapt them and replicate them in other locations. Margherita and her team work with grant giving organisations and funds interested in identifying their most successful projects and spreading them, and with social enterprises and NGO interested in expanding their reach. Impacton’s latest pilot on climate change and education was replicated in 50+ cities in less than 2 months. It has a database of 2000+ projects focused on different global challenges and their team is gradually extracting their blueprints to allow communities around the world to use them.
An international network of change-makers
A blog about our international network of change-makers would be remiss not to mention our brilliant RSA Connectors – a growing network of Fellows who organise events, convene local Fellows, and collaborate on projects in their respective countries. Connectors drive social change in their areas, connect actors across industries and interests, and create spaces to promote open and collaborative debate. RSA Connectors are also invaluable in helping us to gauge local social issues and priorities, synthesising key areas of interest and relevance. If the RSA is to become a truly global organisation with a local impact, our Connectors are an invaluable source of information, helping us to understand the system context in each country, ensuring that – through them – we can make the greatest impact.
The RSA recognises that any change needs to take account of the different sources of power in any social setting and our Connectors help us to understand these contexts in different locations by informing our perspectives. For example, Petra Stefankova, the RSA Connector in Slovakia, has been introducing the RSA Student Design Awards to design schools in Bratislava and has relayed country specific learning back to us as we embark upon a project to globalise the SDAs. Connectors Alain Ruche in Belgium and Ulf Brandes in Germany were invaluable in relaying what Fellowship might mean for different groups in different localities and they highlighted the gaps for citizen engagement in their respective countries. Indeed Connectors also learn from one another; as Alexandra Krawiec recently put it, ‘being part of the RSA's Global Fellowship has allowed me to learn a great deal about the international community, and to gain valuable insight into some of their local problems’.
The RSA offers Fellows a range of opportunities to foster and expand their initiatives to harness positive social change, click here to find out more about the various kinds of project support.
If you are passionate about the RSA and eager to contribute to social change in your country, you may be interested to hear more about the RSA Connector program. If so, please contact Adanna Shallowe – Senior Manager, RSA Global at [email protected] to find out more.