This blog is written as three reflections, inspired by recent on RSA regional ‘meet ups’ in north Wales. It is written by RSA Fellows Dr Dee Gray, Alan Henry and Pam Luckock.
Dr Dee Gray
Personally, I am pretty much action orientated, and while I love to talk and share ideas or learning, I have to say that I feel energised when I see things changing or developing. I am a ‘newbie’ in terms of being a Fellow, and have so far been part of and co-hosted three ‘meet ups’ with the fabulous regional managers Louise (who covers Wales and Bristol) and Rachel (who covers North of England and Ireland). I am based in north Wales, and one of the reasons for having dedicated meet ups here is to encourage an action-orientated RSA presence in this area of the country. I really like bringing people together and sharing, and fortunately not only are Louise and Rachel great at this, but the fabulous Associates I work with (most of whom are now also RSA Fellows) are pretty sharp at this too.
The first co-hosted event provided an environment for invited Fellows to begin to get to know each other and share their ‘passion projects’. It gave me an opportunity to share the vision of what has very quickly become the ‘Young Carers Academy’, and gain feedback and support for what will become a long-term commitment. The thing that struck me after this first gathering was how much people really wanted to talk, to connect with others, and to feel part of something. The subsequent meet ups have enabled me to keep people abreast of where we are in terms of a Young Carers Academy crowd-funder appeal, and in recent weeks establishing the Young Carers Academy as a Community Interest Company.
The positive energy and enthusiasm from other Fellows has been outstanding, there has practical advice and tangible offerings of help. These outcomes are a reflection on the calibre of Fellows who come to these events and of the methods adopted to generate ideas and conversation.
The first two meet ups were run back to back. The first to bring people together, and that coming together was on reflection, a space for doing something that perhaps we are losing sight of….being with others physically, not through gadgets but a face to face being in the space. The second was for ‘doing’, so for Fellows who were in the space for practically giving and receiving support. The last meet up was based on ‘World Café’ principles, a method known to create meaningful and action orientated communication. Time is limited for these meet ups so this World Café was ‘seeded’ with three conversations, and the Fellows were asked to share their thinking on each. Which they did, immediately grasping the challenge and engaging with people most of whom they had previously never met. I wasn’t surprised by this, I have seen this many times. Humans are basically good, and if asked to, we will help others.
These repeated gatherings encourage the development of social relationships, which in turn foster grass roots social change projects. For those of you who may be new to the RSA my advice is ‘get involved’ don’t sit about waiting for things to happen, be the catalyst, connect and communicate.
As a Fellow of the RSA, what I find is becoming increasingly vital to the development of the network is the way in which ideas are shared through the conversations that take place within a tangible setting. This was the case at the recent meeting of local RSA members in Hawarden, north Wales. The event was notably different to a usual social or networking situation insomuch as it had a structure, which was held together by pre-determined topics.
In ‘hosting’ one of the three subjects that were presented for discussion, I was able to share and receive feedback on a report that I have co-written with RSA fellow Dr. Dee Gray. This was the culmination of a study into several generations of Gay men in Liverpool, and how they have been able to remain resilient and support their wellbeing throughout uniquely stressful periods in their lives. Sharing this topic with a fairly diverse group of relative strangers felt a little like baring my soul because, as a Gay man myself, the research felt at times intensely personal.
I wondered how the three different groups I spoke to would respond to the subject and what they would take away from the conversation as it opened up. I had no way of knowing conclusively whether any of the conversation thread was from an LGBT+ perspective, although I did receive at least one particularly interesting idea around diversifying the study and this is definitely an area that I am interested in exploring. What is just as interesting to me, is how much of my study topic (if any at all) stayed with other people I spoke to that evening, and what effect it may have had on their own notions of resilience and wellbeing.
First of all I want to share my feelings from these meet ups – which basically amount to ‘what an awesome group of people’! It felt a privilege to host 3 table conversations and to listen in to the ideas emerging in and through the flow of human connectivity. I have been left with the feeling that we are just at the beginning of a deepening conversation, and to use a quilting metaphor we are assembling all the pieces, enjoying the colour, texture, shapes, working out what to do next, allowing the creative process to flow, before beginning to connect the parts together. In World Cafe terms, I think of it as simply trusting the process of emergence.
My thoughts bring me to the realisation that here is a room rich with knowledge, experience, skills and diverse wisdom; by coming together our knowledge is multiplied and made use of.
What actions are coming forth? Besides the action of maturing community through connection the tangibles are the offerings of a ‘sounding board’ a ‘clear objective mind’, of practical introductions to ‘gate openers’ and broader networks of support.
My lasting impression is that we all feel a clear urgency to act, now more than ever! Through our attending to the gentle process of relationship building, and refining our questions to identify the things that really matter to people in the months ahead, I am sure in just a little time, the ‘magic in the middle’ will emerge.
Our (Dee, Alan and Pam) final thoughts are about what was and is our intention in being part of these meet ups, and they are the following… to help “create conditions in the soil for seeds of the emerging future to flourish”.