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Bringing nearly thirty social entrepreneurs supported by RSA Catalyst together with Fellows leading social enterprises and from social enterprise intermediaries meant that there were many opportunities for good things to happen…

I’ve already blogged about some of what happened on the day here, but wanted to give a further update after collecting feedback from the Catalyst winners about the event over the past few weeks. What were some of the achievements of the day? How could we (and hopefully other Fellows looking to put on similar events) make it better in the future?

Firstly, we watched relationships grow as people had the opportunity to informally network, as evinced in this graphic mapping the connections made by a sample of the Catalyst venture leaders:

There were also specific collaborations started during the afternoon. This photo shows Richard Butler FRSA swapping cards with a lawyer who specialises in advising on different legal formats project like his venture could adopt. In the background, a Catalyst-supported venture in Cardiff is meeting another Fellow who gives charities and social enterprises access to empty spaces. They are now pursuing access for the venture to a 3space in Cardiff.

This opportunity to strengthen relationships and encourage collaboration was talked about by my colleague Vivs Long-Ferguson on her recent post evaluating recent Fellows’ events.

But in addition to this, the afternoon aimed to help those Fellows leading Catalyst supported ventures to overcome specific challenges they were facing areas on the day itself – over and above any connections and collaborations started on the day. We used information gathered from our survey of Catalyst projects that have delivered the outputs promised with their grant to assist with this. Kate Welch OBE FRSA leads a venture currently based in Durham working with prisoners to build outdoor living products. And here she is having a one-to-one talk with marketing professional to build a plan for getting their projects or services to market.

It is always impossible to make the event perfect for everyone in the room. For example, those who had read all of the event brochure on the train to the event were frustrated that people took too long introducing themselves; those who hadn’t read anything felt things moved too quickly.

Another example is that we couldn’t get all the expertise there on the day that people had requested in their survey – the requests were wide-ranging. We are looking at covering some of this through follow-up with the individuals in question.

One interesting suggestion that came in after the event was to split the room up according to different common threads between the projects, rather than letting people select their workshops. This might go as follows: a social impact workshop might be more productive where the beneficiaries of the social venture were similar; funding workshops might be more productive to be discussed among social ventures that employed similar means of achieving their impact, or were at similar stages of progress.

There were also suggestions that as well as hearing from successful social entrepreneurs from the RSA's Social Entrepreneurs Network and Skills Bank, we might turn the focus on one or two of the Catalyst projects for a part of the afternoon.

This is all really good feedback that’ll go into the planning of next year’s Catalyst event.

Meanwhile, I will finish with some of the extremely positive feedback: comments on the presentation from Albert Medal Winner Albina Ruiz ranged from “very inspiring” to “mind-blowingly brilliant.”

Thanks to the RSA’s social media reporter Matthew Mezey, we have videoed some fantastic interviews of Catalyst venture leaders. So in the New Year we hope these will offer a good chance to share the progress of Catalyst projects more widely.

You can find out more about RSA Catalyst and apply for grants and support at www.thersa.org/catalyst

Alex Watson is Networks Manager responsible for RSA Catalyst – follow him @watsoalex

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