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Tony Hoskins FRSA organises the RSA Thames Valley Network. 

Many Fellows tell us that networking is one of the main reasons for joining the RSA, so providing an opportunity to meet seemed like a good idea. In fact, it seemed to us to be almost akin to going back to the roots of the RSA’s original coffee club atmosphere (as well as the basis for many learned societies and clubs). From our experience of running new Fellows events, this is exactly how it turned out.

The RSA Thames Valley network has successfully run a new Fellows evening for a number of years.   Although the RSA hosts New Fellows Evenings and regions often send out welcome packs, we wanted to provide an opportunity to meet and be greeted locally by existing local Fellows.

A view from a new Fellow

Maurizio Fantato attended a new Fellows evening in Henley 2010.

“I wanted to join the RSA because of its vision of contemporary society.   But I didn’t just want to be a number; I wanted to meet other Fellows, to find out whether their aspirations were similar to mine and, above all, see if we could work constructively in our part of the country.

Our experience is that lots of ideas are normally floated around the rooms and in some instance these develop into concrete proposal and even projects.

I had attended the welcome evening at John Adam Street.  However, not living in London, for me it felt remote.  So when the opportunity came to attend an event locally I welcomed it.  Living in West Oxfordshire even the trip across the County to reach Henley isn’t a quick one, but it was a well worth effort, with both the company and the environment being conducive.”

As a result of his attendance at the new Fellows evening, he soon became an integral part of the Thames Valley Events Committee – it stimulated him to be more involved in the RSA.

“For the last two years or so I felt that we have been able to provide something of value to our Fellows by offering a good selection of interesting activities.  For example, local Fellows have been able to visit science laboratories normally not accessible to the general public, as well as art collections that are often hidden away in academic institutions.  Above all, however, I felt that I was able to work towards social improvements in our region.  Thanks also to another new Fellow who also attended an introductory evenings in Henley, we were able to explore opportunities to help social enterprises in our region.  At one new Fellows evening we were able to start up another project,  exploring ways of working with professional organisations in order to leverage on shared interests to support worthy community causes.  Surely this must be the essence of the RSA in 21st century Britain and a proof that combining social with societal interests works to these days.”

Our approach

All Fellows from the area who have joined within the past 12- 18 months are invited to attend.  We did this with the assistance of the Regional Programme Manager.

Typically, we have achieved attendee numbers of 6-10 plus the Thames Valley group members.   To make it easier for as many Fellows as possible to attend we start the proceedings at around 7.00 pm, with tea and coffee available from the start.

The format is variable but we generally start with an introduction on the local network followed by each of the existing Fellows talking about the activities we have organised locally.

Then new Fellows discuss in groups their expectations of joining the RSA, what they want to get out of it, and as importantly, what they want to put into it.  The group conclusions are then fed back in a plenary session with a view to concluding some actions (if possible) on which the existing Thames Valley group members could follow up.

Our experience is that lots of ideas are normally floated around the rooms and in some instance these develop into concrete proposal and even projects.  The event finishes its formal part at around 8.30, but many continue the discussions until later in the Leander bar, overlooking the river Thames!

You can contact Tony Hoskins FRSA if you are interested in finding out more or setting up a new Fellows evening in your area.


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