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Following a successful Manchester Network meeting with UnLtd, Adrian Ashton FRSA guest blogs here about inspiring social enterprises and how important brokering partnerships are.

Last week the RSA Fellows in Manchester did something different. And unusually for what may potentially prove to be one of the more significant initiatives for our august society, it didn’t take place in London...

Instead, a group of fellows from the North met in an unassuming hotel conference room on a cold, icy night in Manchester to hear the stories of 3 people who are changing the world. These are people who aren’t Fellows, and before being invited had never even heard of the RSA! They were incredibly diverse in their vision for changing the lives of young women suffering from various gynaecological distresses, of empowering people with learning disabilities to find their voice through dance, and using workspaces to transform whole communities.

So if they didn’t know us, how did we come to know them and what were we trying to do together in this unassuming hotel room? Well – you may have heard that the RSA has recently explored collaboration with the UnLtd, the largest support body for social entrepreneurs in the UK.  UnLtd have being getting on with supporting social entrepreneurs (like the three who shared their stories) for 10 years through various means – including a mentoring programme and small awards scheme.  Now if those latter ideas seem familiar, it’s because we as the RSA do the same thing through our recently re-launched SkillsBank and Catalyst Fund. The RSA and its Fellows have also been making deliberate efforts in recent years to also better engage with the wider ‘social enterprise’ movement as its aspirations for changing the world and society for the better seem strangely reminiscent of the original aspirations of the founding members of the RSA a couple of hundred years ago...

It therefore seems logical to try and connect our two bodies – the RSA is seeing to find ways to better mobilise and inspire our Fellowship to become more pro-active in changing the world, and Unltd are keen to broker more and richer relationships that could better support social entrepreneurs. Further joint events are planned for later in the year.

Our evening in Manchester was the first in a planned series of similar ‘brokerings’ around the country: creating spaces and opportunities for Fellows to be inspired and realise how they can use their skills, knowledge, experience (and contacts) to further achieve the RSA’s ultimate vision of a changed world.

But as for me – I won’t be doing anything different as a result of that evening and that’s because as well as being a Fellow listed on RSA SkillsBank, I’m already mentor for some of the social entrepreneurs that UnLtd support – so for me, it’s business as usual. But for the RSA and Unltd, it’s (hopefully) the start of a beautiful friendship.

For further information join the  social entrepreneurs network

Adrian Ashton FRSA



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