Now on my way back from Manchester. It was a success. The turnout was good, the commitment tangible and the quality of discussion high. There will be time for a fuller report – coming soon on the revamped networks platform – but here are some highlights of the morning.
In a breakout group to discuss Fellows’ responsibilities the question was posed: ‘what is it that we have in common?. We knocked this around for a while before someone said ‘isn’t what is different about the RSA is that we all come from different backgrounds and perspectives, so isn’t it up to us to create what we have in common?’ What a brilliant thought.
In a group to discuss communication, a Fellow who had been quiet up to then suddenly burst out: ‘you mean, if I want to, I can just contact local Fellows and start a local group; I don’t need permission from London or the regional committee?’ Exactly. In another group a universal agreement that being an RSA Fellow didn’t mean you have to sign your life away or promise to have a great idea every ten minutes; it means being open to the possibility that you might one day choose to work with other Fellows to develop their idea or your own. Unlike being a member of other organisations, being an RSA Fellow doesn’t mean a choice between disengagement and diving in at the deep end - there are plenty of ways to paddle too. Absolutely.
On days like today it feels like we are so close to the tipping point, when the Fellowship starts to generate the level of engagement, the quality of ideas and the practical action which make us a real force in the land. There are bad days too when it feels like we are pushing water uphill or when we have to deal with the loud but dwindling minority who want the RSA to be little more than a closed social club. But, overall, I am convinced we are getting there.
Thanks to everyone who made today - the Fellows who gave up their mornings, the staff who made it all work and most of all the magnificent Vivs. She is one of those people who creates energy wherever she goes.