A few months after I started at the RSA there was extensive media coverage of the excellent report of its Drugs Commission. This ended what had been quite a barren period in terms of press coverage, with some really good work by the Society – for example, on migration – not getting anything like the profile it deserved.
In the last couple of years RSA coverage in the national media has started to pick up gently and this week may have been the best in the Society’s recent history. Not only was there the broadcast and print reporting of the 2020 Public Services Commission's final report, but today we have bagged the front page of Guardian Society with our Connected Communities project.
Rachel Williams has done a great job in summarising the key features of the report and developing the human interest angel around a popular local publican and quizmaster (the fact that he is called Phil Nice does help!). I feel rather embarrassed that most of the quotes in the piece are from me rather than the team who undertook the research, but knowing how modest they all are I don’t suppose they’ll care too much.
We have always seen the second year of the Connected Communities project as the most innovative and exciting. This is when we play back the social network analysis to the community in New Cross and explore how local people can develop, strengthen and exploit their links. So let’s hope this time next year we get even more attention to the final report.
While I’m blowing my own trumpet (and, yes I know this is the unspoken opening clause to almost every sentence I write), Radio Four is tonight broadcasting a short lecture by me on the sixties. I wrote it over my summer holiday and although I am a little nervous about its personal reminiscences, I was pleased to be able to weave the RSA into my critique of the sixties idea of freedom.
The 2020 report contained many references to other RSA work, not just Connected Communities, but Peterborough too. It was good to see the Big Society minister Lord Wei say positive things about the RSA on his blog the other day. And, as I say, I was without contrivance able to weave the RSA’s work into broader reflection on British social history.
Overall, it feels like things are coming together. The RSA has always had great strengths – not least of which is its amazing Fellowship – but it has tended to suffer from a lack of understanding about its core mission and focus and limited public awareness of its work. Without, I hope, being complacent, it is really heartening to see this changing.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.