The RSA - do you get it?


A lot about the RSA in the blog this week (‘about time too’ some people might say). This is partly because I have been writing elsewhere. Also, some time between now and midnight I‘m penning a piece for the Times on home ownership; I’ll be able to draw on a really interesting discussion on this site.

Back to the RSA. Yesterday, we had an all staff session on branding. Over the last year we have been trying increasingly to align the RSA’s activities around a core mission. We have not yet found the pithiest way to express this mission but in essence it is ‘developing citizens for tomorrow’, in other words the RSA is about understanding and advancing human capability so that people can thrive in the future.

This is trying to move forward the old manifesto challenges, which were arguably too generalised, but it isn’t easy to communicate. Things would be simpler if we had a narrower focus or a simple campaigning goal, but our work ranges from the school curriculum to design, from user driven drug services to understanding how the brain makes decisions. And instead of campaigning for others to change, our focus is on empowering citizens through insight and innovation. Most of all we want the ethos and activities of the RSA Fellowship to come to exemplify the idea of citizens for the future.

You might say ‘why does brand matter’? I believe a strong brand can help us communicate our message and align our diverse work strands. The truth is that, despite a lot of good work being undertaken here including our amazing lecture series, very few people – even some who know us well – are clear about the RSA’s purpose. Our name – which, of course, we can’t change - doesn’t help; I still get letters from people asking if they can exhibit their work in our ‘galleries’.

We started out the branding process with a default strap line of ‘citizens for the future’. But as well as feeling a bit clunky and pompous this has the ring of a 1970s sci-fi show. In the discussions we have had recently the idea that took my fancy was ‘RSA: Do you get it?’ This plays with the idea that people don’t know what the RSA stands for but also links it to the core belief that for society to thrive people need to recognise how the future rests on all of us being responsible and creative citizens. It also refers to the power of ideas as in the moment when someone trying to understand something exclaims ‘I get it!’

The branding process is still in the development stage and I very much doubt my idea will end up being chosen. Sadly, we can’t revert to the use of talking animals and a jingle but I’m keen to hear other ideas.

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