A question raised with me from time to time is whether the RSA does enough to live up to the manufacturing and commerce words in our full title. My answer tends to be a bit defensive but by the middle of this year I would like it to be more positive.
If we take commerce to mean enterprise we do have a reasonably strong story to tell. There is, for example, the work of our social enterprise network, which was highlighted in a recent Journal. We have also been trying to develop a project on promoting enterprise among older people. Our initial ideas had to be shelved when we found there was already a charity – Prime - doing more or less what we proposed. But – in typical RSA style – we have eschewed competition and gone for partnership and are working with Prime on a collaborative project. And there is the small piece of work we did last year on Business Improvement Districts which has led to the possibility of us working with businesses in Peterborough to establish a BID. I will also shortly be meeting with some Fellows who have a particular interest in the area of manufacturing.
The problem with the industry/manufacturing theme is not a lack of interest or will, but identifying the right project. It is obviously not realistic for us to be involved in major manufacturing R and D, nor am I particularly attracted by the idea of writing a worthy report about the future of British manufacturing (there are many such reports gathering dust on Government bookshelves). Instead, we need to find a niche which combines our interest in policy and ideas with practical innovation.
An area which might be worth thinking about combines the aim of encouraging more people involved in arts and crafts to expand into small scale manufacture with the potential of new technologies, not just the internet but other new applications, like 3D copiers.
Anyway, our Projects team is starting to think about this in earnest and given the quality of the recent comments on the theme of organisations I am very keen to trawl more ideas from my readers. The general criteria we apply are that a project should be
• coherent and engaging to the layperson
• innovative and distinct
• affordable (preferably externally fundable)
• capable of being piloted by the RSA (maybe working in partnership with others)
• with scope to engage RSA Fellows as partners
Come on, it’s not that hard is it?