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The future is ours to create

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Last Friday morning an angry woman from Hartlepool rang the BBC; ‘we voted out but I’ve turned up at my hospital and there’s no sign of any extra money’.

Seventeen million people, many of whom were already disillusioned and angry are starting to realise there will be no more money for the NHS and that most migrants have no intention of ‘going home’. Low paid people in the UK have seen no rise in their living standards since 2000 and over the last six years the fabric of public services has started to come apart. The likelihood now is that things in the short and medium term will get worse. 

A vote inspired by the dream of British people having more power will, for the foreseeable future, leave our country and its people with less control over our destiny. Even if Brexit is somehow negotiated, over which of the following forces will a newly independent Britain exercise the most sovereignty; global capitalism, climate change, international crime, conflict, terrorism?

Yet, put almost any cross section of British people in a room together and ask them what kind of future they want for themselves and their children and a remarkably similar list will emerge; a country which offers opportunity for the ambitious but also decency for all; a country that combines tolerance with a strong sense of belonging and shared purpose; a country where leaders in all sectors earn and receive trust; a country that is a force for good in the world; a country where the quality of our lives and relationships matters more than the quantity of stuff we consume; and, most of all, a country where everyone has a chance to become the best person they can be.

Here at the RSA we talk about ‘The Power to Create’ by which we mean harnessing the opportunities provided by the modern world – most obviously technology – to enable people to live a full and creative life. It runs through all our work. On government and public services, how can we best support citizens to develop their own solutions and initiatives? In education, how can we support teachers and schools to enable every child to grow up a confident and creative learner? On the economy, how can we ensure that work is meaningful and that citizens feel the economy is something that can serve us not a system beyond our understanding or control?

Symbolising our approach we today launch our Citizens’ Economic Council. This is a two year national initiative which will show that ordinary, thoughtful citizens can understand economic ideas, enter into informed debate and explore urgently needed new ideas. After the 2015 general election we concluded that the low level of economic debate and awareness had become a major barrier to citizens making informed political choices; something grimly confirmed by the referendum debate. We spent a year designing an initiative aimed to address this issue in a fresh and powerful way. The Council will feature a diverse group of fifty to sixty citizens chosen through stratified random sampling to engage with diverse perspectives across British society, but we hope that hundreds of thousands of people will follow its work and become more confident economic citizens.

When the gap between what is happening around us and what most of us want for our country is huge and getting wider every day there is a burning question; how can we make change happen? This question rumbles like a drumbeat through all our work. As an agent of change the RSA has a unique collection of assets. Our online content and major social media presence gives us a rapid and global reach. Our research and on the ground innovation enables us to develop new ideas and test them out with our partners. And, best of all, our 28,000 strong Fellowship of like-minded, creative, committed people are working with us to be change makers themselves.

In the face of the abject failure of our political establishment the yearning for control can lead to delusion and rage. We have to believe that same yearning can be channelled positively. Across the country and around the world RSA Fellows and staff are getting together, imagining a better future and developing the practical next steps we need to take. Our belief is simple: it is not hope that leads to action but action that leads to hope. The RSA aims to be the kind of organisation the 21st century needs. 

We’d love to tell you more.

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  • I just came across this job description for the Prime Minister role - www.directreports.com/ukpm, it looks like they are seriously considering non-politicians for the position like the US. I pray that no Trump types apply.

  • A remarkably stereotypical statement. We are an Island People comprizing of a range of peoples who by their nature desire to choose their own destiny and not be part of 'the plan' that is now time expired and not fit for purpose.

    My trips to Brussel;s will end and so the predictability of conformity will end. The reaction of many young people, taught in the state sector and fed little more than a diet of 20 C history, is predictable. Similarly, that of older people fed on diet of narrow media opinion in a something for nothing culture.

    • Hi Allan, I Agree, I myself am not a typical "Island People" having worked in Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Rhodesia, South Africa, Angola, Chad, Mozambique, Nigeria, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, India, Bangladesh, Burma/Myanmar, Korea, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Cuba, to name but a few.  To my mind the "Little EU" who are "Brussels Minded", are stunted, narrow visioned, with no imagination,  The world is far bigger than the small minded, conservative, protectionist, troglodytes in Brussels.  We would be better off remembering the issues that got us into the EU, and avoiding them in the future rather than blindly following in the path of the "EU backed Mandarins".  

      The Issue now is to break away, including from the ECJ legal system and back to UK law taking precedence.

  • I get offended by the comment that I am a  'mis-under-educated' Brexitieer voter".  I would like to see more representation for the lower middle income groups that are continually dismissed by the "London Bubble Elite" (I'm all right Jack).

    Politicians from "The Bubble" are parachuted in to a constituency, that they know little of, or care even less, until election time.  If we had Proportional Representation more notice would be given to the voter and what they want from "their" society. The "ordinary" voters have been disenfranchised for so long by both major parties they have staged a "passive revolution" with voting against UK leaders, with Corbin on the one side, and against Cameron with the anti EU vote.  I would hate to see the passive revolution turn into a real one with the removal of "The London State". But we live in "Interesting Times" as the Chinese would say.  The "average Joe" has been lied to for so long by "The London Bubble Elite" that there is no trust left.  

    We as a society would be better to act as go between's and interpreters, to make a connection between the disparate factions.  Unfortunately I can see by the comments posted here that this will be hard to do for the "Bubble Elite" who are only interested in themselves.

    • Excellent comment. My posing has yet to be approved - that says it all. Fellows cannot be trused.

  • The starting point for resurrection, or even for creative destructionism, is to recognise the death/destruction, not to pretend that things are sort-of OK.

    We do not need to accept the Brexit WMD. There are ways around this, for example the City of London might invoke Magna Carta and its right to exist independently as city state, like the Vatican. A London free trade zone can follow.

    Come on RSA, please really take the lead in the way that innovative people can challenge the 'mis-under-educated' Brexitieer voters. If nothing else, we can create cultural, familial, and virtual Europes - just as Estonia has created its EU e-citizenship.

    RSA, please don't just roll-over on our backs and accept that this selfish misjudgement of Cameron et al cannot be subverted. (BTW, ditto Chilcot-Blair.)

  • Asking citizens if they wish to be confident economic citizens is like asking them if they wish to be diagnosed as having cancer and will likely get the same response. I suggest it is, therefore, the wrong question to ask for that reason alone


    I also agree with the comment of one panel member at the launch event who suggested that if the goal is better, more informed, decision-making there are a lot of other 'experts' we need to be listening too - and probably harder than we should listen to economics. It is a discipline that deserves the scorn that is piled upon it. And I say that as someone who has qualifications in it.

    The far more valuable debate would be had by a Citizens' Prosperity Council, to help citizens make better informed political choices, based on a better understanding fo the kind of world they want to live in, and how that might be achieved. 

    I believe that if prosperity, rather than economics, were the focus of the discussion, the stated objectives of the group would be far easier to achieve, and far more likely to interest and engage a far greater number of people. Talking about economics will inspire far fewer.

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