So what's next? - RSA

So what's next?

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What an amazing event we had here on 22 November.

Over two hundred Fellows and staff working together all day exploring how the Fellowship, together with the team at John Adam Street, could become a network for civic innovation.

The day exceeded our most optimistic expectations in terms of the energy, ideas and goodwill of those attending. The conversations started that day are now being actively followed up by the team here and continued online.

The challenge now - and the hurdle at which other membership/Fellowship initiatives in other organisations have fallen - is to follow through.

It will take several years, a great deal of commitment and investment (from Fellows and JAS) to achieve but the 22nd gave us a glimpse of the kind of innovative, collaborative, high-impact Fellowship we can become.

The last few weeks I have continued to tour around with versions of my speech about the social aspiration gap (the gap between the people we are and the people we need to be to create the future we want).

The biggest speech was to an audience of over seven hundred at the annual Cornwall lecture.

The positive reaction to the speech and the interest in the RSA underlined to me again that we need to strengthen our Fellowship operation outside London.

Our regions do good work, and many are themselves trying to devolve, but it is at the level of counties, cities and towns that I think we will be most able to articulate the RSA's potential.

How we build this kind of more local presence is a big issue for the next stage of the RSA's development.

Given the turmoil over 'Donorgate' I have being doing yet more punditry lately.

If anyone is interested in my overall perspective there is a piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free website.

That article was written before Gordon Brown's comments at the weekend which seem to suggest that he too is now convinced of the case for more profound reform of party funding.

Given the damage these 'scandals' do to the already low opinion of politics among the public let's hope we can at last drive big money donations out of party politics.

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  • Until I read Paul Ormerod very recently I was unaware of Thomas Schelling, referred to in the Cornwall Lecture. However I wonder at an exercise which claimns insight by applying mathematics to social science. The checker board is an artificial construct; poor people from poor countries moving to countries where rich people already live cannot opt for any square on the checker board, they go to the few places where the rich have chosen not to go, malaria, poor water whatever. And they continue to congregate there because their fellows will help them let them sleep on the floors, park their broken down vehicles in the road. But the other problem is the market research to the effect that 70% or some such of those polled were not bothered whether or not their neighbours were of similar social status or origin. As a former marketing manager I know the perils of market research, as someone who has lived, worked, socialised, politicked and canvassed amongst 'white' working and middle class my perception is that whilst those living in rented local authority housing are unable to choose as soon as there is the chance of purchase the aim will be to find a neighbourhood of people 'like us' or like what we want to be. Ghettos are not accidental creations.

  • I wonder if the reference to Thomas Schelling and his demonstration that ghettoisation is a consequence of mathematics and not choice is not something of a red herring. His checker board was a level playing field, poor people from poor countries arriving in countries where the rich have already staked their claim find not a broad level field but just the interstices in the narrow ravines and the unfriendly crags. And they stay there because they can sleep on the floors of relatives rooms, leave the clapped out old bangers out in the street. I forget the figures but I thought that 70% of those questioned cared not a fig for who their neighbours were. Commercial experience has left me with little faith in market research polling, growing up in communities of predomonantly 'white' Brits, working, socialising,polliticking and volunteering with working and middle class friends, opponents, relatives who might be either I would cast doubts on that figure. Look where the slightly upwardly mobile council house tenant chooses to buy a home and there is little chance that the choice will be for an ethnically and socially diversified environment. Don't use badly grounded maths and dodgy market research to excuse the way we live amonst clones.

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