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The project continues...

The last few days have given me lots more opportunities to talk to Fellows about our plans for the Fellowship to become a network for civic innovation.

A great day in Bristol with the Wales and West Region turned up a couple of interesting ideas for RSA interventions.

The first was for us to host an impartial and rigorous debate on the Severn Barrage proposal that has been put back on the agenda by recent ministerial announcements and a report from the Sustainable Development Commission.

The second was for us to work with the excellent Watershed Centre and DEMOS on a project around making the night time culture in the harbour area less exclusively focussed on young people and drinking.

Like most of the other ideas we are mulling over these are only on the drawing board. But they are interesting examples of what emerges when we ask the question: "How can the RSA make a difference?"  Any answers you might have are, of course, welcome.

The challenge will be encouraging Fellows to do as much development work as possible at local level and then - when we are happy that the project is a sound one - thinking about how we can best use the RSA's resources (and particularly the wider Fellowship) to bring these ideas alive.

These are among the important issues we will be discussing at our Fellowship engagement event here on 22 November. We have over 200 Fellows signed up so far which is great news.

The event will be helped by some valuable preparatory thinking going on through the Open RSA network on Facebook. Open RSA met here the other day and generated some very useful ideas. Part of the event was live blogged by Bill Thompson.

Also, thanks to the ever-enthusiastic Ann Packard for organising a really well-attended and lively meeting of the Fellows' creative industries special interest group. I am sure Ann will be telling us more about this group as it develops its activities, and in time I hope the group will develop its own thoughts about the impact the RSA might make.

Farts and ecology...

Yes, I know it's a cheap joke (and only funny if you know we have an RSA project called Arts and Ecology).

But there is a serious point. On Monday I was honoured to attend a lunch with Helen Clark, the very successful Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The focus of the discussion was sustainability and the bold and ambitious plans the NZ Government has made as they aim for carbon neutrality by 2050.

Two of the big challenges for NZ are what is tastefully referred to as 'pastoral emissions', and the impact of transporting NZ agricultural goods around the world.

The former is a big problem and there is to be a major international conference on the issue later in the year. In this area I suspect we will need technological solutions rather than appealing to the cows themselves!

But while it may be hard to talk about pastoral emissions without a snigger, it is not so easy to understand why so little attention is given to the contribution of shipping (especially freight shipping) to global emissions.

These emissions are on a par with those of aviation, so is their lower profile in debate simply because that we find it hard to believe that the sedate movement of boats can be as damaging as the roaring acceleration of planes?

I remember a wonderful cartoon of a huge rabbit tearing down New York skyscrapers while in the foreground among pedestrians going calmly to work, a bystander is saying: "I suppose if it was a giant gorilla people would be taking it seriously."

It may seem odd to think of cow farting and shipping as big issues for the future of the planet, but they are.

Why I want an early election...

The fact is that Governments (and dare I say Oppositions too) make better policy when they have some time to let difficult change pay-off.

On election footing the horizon of politicians is no longer than a couple of months, and the demands of popular support tend to drive out those of policy rigour.

So, whoever wins, given the need to grasp some big nettles, I can't help thinking it would be better for us all if we had a Government with a five year mandate.


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