Farewells and the Future - RSA

Farewells and the Future

Blog 2 Comments

Yesterday's post was a bit heavy so here are some lighter bites...

Wednesday was an emotional day. I somehow found my way into Downing Street to wave off Tony Blair.

There was hardly a dry eye in the house but TB managed even in his last minutes to find time for an anecdote, telling the assembled staff that when he first arrived in 1997 several of those who met him at Number 10 were in tears, 'but not of joy'.

Behind the political headlines a PM leaving is just like any boss's last day. TB was very popular with staff ranging from senior civil servants to the indomitable Vera who made the tea and helped run the house.

TB's last day is also the end of employment for all his political staff, so between the memories and hugs there are lots of questions about future plans.

What made it even more poignant was finding that two out of the three of the people moving into my old office used to work with me before I went into government.

As I was leaving I literally bumped into another former colleague - my successor at IPPR - coming in to his new job as an education advisor. GB has certainly got a very talented team around him.

That was then and this is now.

RSA Fellowship

Work for the Fellowship re-launch is gathering pace. Our focus groups have confirmed that Fellows really are up for a more challenging and rewarding role.

We've had fantastic pro bono support from the agency ?What If!, who have both forced us to think though exactly what we are trying to achieve and offered us some great new ideas. We are also hoping we can draw on the innovation expertise and support of NESTA.

The new Fellowship model will have much in common with the best examples of the Coffeehouse Challenge.

As the CHC gathers pace I have been thinking about what makes an event successful and what this tells us about the kind of Fellows' networks we want to develop in the future.

In essence it's all about connecting three key links in the chain.

First, creating the right networks of people - sharing commitment and values but bringing different skills and perspectives.

Second, it's about clarity in thinking - what do we want to achieve and how can we go about it?

Third, it's turning intentions into actions in a way that is effective but realistic, given all the other demands on people's energies and time.

Getting groups of people to work together to achieve real benefits to wider society is part science part art. It involves good process, clear thinking and soft skills such as communication and empathy.

I hope that through the CHC and the new plans for the Fellowship the RSA can develop strong insights into how to make this happen. Insights that we can then share across the Fellowship and more widely.

Moving on

I have been having some very useful discussions about the RSA's future.

Last week I was at a large and enthusiastic gathering of Fellows in Birmingham and earlier this week it was the staff that gathered to brainstorm the RSA's role in social progress.

I told all our staff that I want them to become Associate Fellows. They don't get the letters after their names, or voting rights, but it means that apart from their work they can participate in emerging RSA networks in their neighbourhoods or areas of interest.

The team here is really keen to get going.

In the staff discussion we asked colleagues to think of any one thing they would like to change in their area or the wider world. There were some great ideas, but being the bighead I am I have chosen mine to share with you.

How about this idea

Could the RSA do something at a local level to persuade more well off parents to send their children to state schools?

We know that schools benefit from having the full ability range in them and that society is stronger if children from different backgrounds mix together.

Better off parents can bring valuable support to state schools and children themselves gain from meeting and befriending youngsters from other classes, races and cultures.

Some people choose private schools precisely because they want their children to be in an elite group, but for many others the concerns are different. As one friend put it to me: "I know that if I pay I will have the right to be listened to by the school if I think my child needs more support or opportunities. In the state sector you are just another person trying to get the bureaucracy to respond."

This is a difficult issue, but it is also very important.

Could the RSA get a more open and constructive local dialogue going about how we might give every parent the assurances they need to feel confidence in the state sector (and encourage parents to band together so they have more strength)?

This is not something that could be done overnight, but a good group of RSA Fellows willing to open up the issues in an intelligent and responsible way, to think about how bridges might be built and issues concretely addressed, could maybe stop and even reverse a process which is threatening to create a educational apartheid in too many of our towns and cities.

Join the discussion


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

  • Matthew, I'm not a member of the RSA but I am a governor of the Habberdasher's Askes Federation in South East London, and share your desire to continue to see children from a mix of backgrounds in state schools.

    I'd be happy to approach the school to see if they wanted to work with you on what has worked for them should you be interested.

  • Great idea, but in my limited (but personally distressing) experience the soft, minority middle class kids just get bullied - the bigger urban schools perhaps have more of a chance

Related articles

  • Nine famous female Fellows inspiring inclusion

    Dean Samways

    International Women’s Day 2024 invites us to imagine a world where all genders enjoy equality. Where prejudice and discrimination no longer exist. This is the world our work is helping deliver to this and future generations.

  • Fellows Festival 2024: changemaking for the future

    Mike Thatcher

    The 2024 Fellows Festival was the biggest and boldest so far, with a diverse range of high-profile speakers offering remarkable stories of courageous acts to make the world a better place.

  • Inspired by nature

    Rebecca Ford Alessandra Tombazzi Penny Hay

    Our Playful green planet team summarises a ‘lunch and learn’ at RSA House that focused on how the influence of nature can benefit a child’s development.