The new model for Fellowship is my obsession right now and there are some encouraging straws in the wind.
I have been a very poor member of Bloggers’ Circle, not having quoted a fellow blogger for weeks. But the other day I dipped into the always engaging Living with Rats, the blog of Julian Dobson. The post in question was describing a visit he had made to look at Incredible Edible Todmorden,a fantastic project in which community activists find and reclaim land so it can be made available for local people to grow their own vegetables.
When I see a project like this it inspires me with the vision of an RSA Fellowship which boasts fifty such brilliant projects in the UK and around the world. In fact, we here at the RSA have our own similar initiative as part of our connected communities programme and it’s something in which we aim to engage our Fellows.
I have sitting on my desk another good example of the gradual shift from RSA as social club to RSA as force for change. It’s an event to encourage people to become active philanthropists (at whatever level they can afford). On 5 October, the London Region, in conjunction with the Funding Network, have organised an evening on social change philanthropy, when three people, who give at very different levels, will talk about their personal experience. Three London charities will also be there. It's taking place at at the Royal College of Surgeons and the entrance fee includes a starter donation to one of the charities. The organisers hope it this will be the beginning of a philanthropic group within the RSA. If you want to know more you can contact the Elinor Pritchard at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As I said last week, the RSA is committed to establishing next spring a social venture fund to back Fellows’ initiatives. I have given the Fellowship team at JAS the target of having at least six good Fellows’ projects to showcase ahead of launching the fund. This way we can bring alive what we hope to see.
Last night I was at a well attended and enjoyable event with the Oxford RSA City Network (for those of you who think I should avoid talking about my political past I might just point out that the group asked me to focus on my years in Number 10). But much as I enjoyed the evening and the excellent hospitality, I was frank with the audience of Fellows that social and networking events like this should complement a focus on the difference that RSA can make in the world outside. The social side of the Fellowship is the icing on the cake, but there must be a cake.
The Fellowship has the right values, attributes and skills to be able to generate and implement ideas as good as Incredible Edible Todmorden - we just need to raise our sights and provide Fellows with the right support.