Beginnings - RSA


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  • Social networks

Freshly back from the bank holiday weekend – and it feels that spring has definitely sprung, and the cobwebs are clearing.

The past few weeks have shown enormous promise and progress in terms of the Networks project, and much us this is down to the enthusiasm of Fellows.

With this in mind I hope you won’t find it too self serving if I start this weeks blog with this fantastic contribution from FRSA Tessy Britton.

Six months after the launch of the Networks project I feel more enthusiastic about it than ever. This is not because the practicalities seem easier, but the importance of what is being attempted is genuinely quite thrilling.

The RSA Fellowship is made up of extraordinary people, drawn to the RSA undoubtedly because of the organisation’s uniqueness and breadth of vision.

Where the RSA networks project adds to our Fellowship enormously is the invitation to participate. The shift in paradigm from being an interested but largely passive member to valued contributor is a really significant one.

It changes the questions from ‘what is the society doing for me?’, to ‘how can I contribute?’, it challenges our passions, time, imaginations and our commitments. It even challenges our abilities. It shakes us up, sometimes uncomfortably, to examine how, on a very personal level, we can not only talk about social change, but do social change.

The RSA is now saying to us that it is holding open a new sort of space for our ideas to be heard, to be animated by conversation with others and to be supported in many different ways. This is an incredibly inspiring thing to do, mostly because the long-term success of the developing network is dependent almost entirely on the interest and enthusiasm of Fellows to enter this space.

By these actions and attitudes the RSA is exposing the possibilities that are energised by individual generosity. It is rejecting the reductionist, remedial view of society and humanity and is firmly putting its trust and confidence into our innate capacity for collective good. What could be brighter or more optimistic?

Take this paradigm out of the RSA into local government for a moment. Imagine a local council where they put real value into their members – all of them. What would happen if those members were stimulated, inspired, encouraged and supported to form connections and groups in those communities for positive social change?

It can be hard not to envy the nimbleness that other innovation groups can offer, especially in these early stages. However, the RSA comprises a disciplinary diversity and geographic penetration that is wholly unique – and it is through its determination to create these connective opportunities, these equalities and freedoms across disciplinary, social and regional boundaries that I feel some of the most exciting projects will emerge over time.

While others may surely look for evidence of innovation in the output of social projects already, I am simply delighting in watching and helping the process, which for me is the real innovation.  And it is amazing.

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  • What a bright, energising post Tessy (and Matthew), your words are like rocket fuel. I am so often stunned by the commitment Fellows dedicate to the RSA, both with their passion and more pragmatically their time. It is clear that this organisation means a great deal to its Fellows, in both the personal and the collective sense. I think it's within this space that our potential as a society lies, harnessing individual generousity and talent and combining it with others across regional, disciplinary and social boundaries.

    I absolutely agree with you - the long term success of this work relies upon the commitment and enthusiasm of Fellows to see this through. I must say, despite having only been here a few months, I have met so many brilliant people with so many innovative ideas that I am convinced that your optimism will be rewarded.

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