Welcome to my first blog post. It's a regular chance for me to chat to Fellows about what's happening at the RSA, or about broader issues that I think the RSA should be engaging with. I hope I will provoke responses but rather than just a dialogue with me, the aim is to get conversations and ideas flowing across the Fellowship.
The last two months have been pretty intense. As well as getting to know the RSA, I have been writing an essay and speech on 'pro-social behaviour'. The speech was delivered last week and the response seemed pretty good. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne even wrote an article in the Sunday Times claiming that my speech showed I was now a Cameronian!
The job now is to turn the ideas into a project: there are a lot of people and organisations interested in how better to engage and mobilise citizens so we need to be clear how the RSA can add to this debate. And, as always, we need to develop practical ways of testing out ideas on the ground. Oh yes, and we have to find a way of funding the project.
Today (Thursday) sees the third in our new series of lunchtime lectures and debates. The first was delivered by Ronald Dworkin one of the world’s leading political philosophers and the second by Ali A Allawi, senior adviser to the prime minister of Iraq. Today we hosted a debate about why it is that society gives so much status to actors. Academic and author Michael Bywater who thinks it is a sign of how infantilised we have become locked horns with Michael Attenborough, artistic director of the Almeida Theatre in London.
The idea behind RSA Thursday was to underline that the RSA can be opportunistic and provocative. I am really pleased with the way people here have risen to the challenge of being a bit more fast-moving, and with the response we have had from people attending. If any Fellows have ideas for topical debates don’t hesitate to drop us an email.
Preparation is also well underway for this year's Coffeehouse Challenge. The CHC is the practical expression of our commitment to 'citizen-centric' social change so we are aiming to have more events and achieve greater impact than ever before. We’ll keep you updated on the website.
That's all from me today. Next week I’m on holiday but it won't stop me blogging!
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As we emerge from Covid-19, Ruth Hannan argues there is an opportunity to shift from short-term solutions to approaches based on deeper understanding of citizens’ needs and which focus on systemic change.