Guest Blog from Dharmesh Mistry FRSA
RSA Dialogue serves as a fantastic platform for Fellows outside of London that are looking for ways to engage with the RSA Dharmesh Mistry
Fellows in the North West are always keen to try something new. Their latest initiative is RSA Dialogue, an alternative book club method using articles within the RSA Journal. The Chester Network volunteered to run a pilot which offers a chance to discuss a topic and then, vitally, generate output that can be fed back to the Fellows network. Meeting in March at Chester University, the group debated Can Cities Save Us?by Dr Benjamin Barber from Winter 2012.
The session attracted a diverse group of people from local residents, professionals plus many international students with interests ranging from architecture to students of faith and culture, IT professionals and community organisers. The diversity of the group enriched the conversation.
Some of the key points discussed included
- Cities maybe the largest level of organisation that people can conceptualise and identify with. A resident of a city can easily keep track of how different areas are developing. Even for a small country like England, it is difficult to have the level of insight of different parts of the country. For this reason, cities can foster increased participation and can be more democratic.
- Cities are not immune to the conflicts or ideologies that nations are. Currently, conflicts between nations are visible. Regional cooperation such as the EU would be much less possible with city level organisation.
- In the western world, perhaps in UK only, the current generation is much more likely to self organize and not rely on government to do things. RSA and its Fellowship does and should continue to encourage this. The establishment of cross-discipline networking platforms in cities can make a big contribution here. Is this why the RSA should priorities the establishment of City Chapters as considered by Mathew Taylor is his comment piece for the Winter 2012 Journal.
- The idea of the Parliament of Mayors was initially received with cynicism that it could become another talking shop, however through the conversation opinion moved to seeing the value as a platform to share ideas and practical solutions.
One group voted at the beginning and end on 'whether cities are better at getting things done than nations.'
Start - Yes:9 No:5 Dont Know:5
End - Yes:9 No:2 Dont Know: 8
This change shows the impact and value of dialogue and hearing the different opinions.
Other questions raised during the Dialogue session were
- What can cities save us from?
- What defines a city? Its people or its infrastructure?
- Would the opinions be much more in favour of cities if this conversation happened in London?
Feedback on the format and approach of RSA Dialogue has been very positive. The session served the purpose of engaging locally based Fellows and taking the ideas of the RSA to a wider group. The second RSA Dialogue will be organised again in Chester following the publication of the Spring 2013 Journal.
Thanks for such an engaging session. Our European colleagues gained a unique insight into the RSA Allan Owens, Chester University
If you are interested in getting involved with the Chester Network or would like to organise your own RSA Dialogue event please contact Dharmesh Mistry for more details.