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Whilst the London Fellowship have been taking the lead in their highly successful Reboot events, where Fellows share a range of innovative and exciting Fellow-led projects, I have been running Ideas Cafe style events in the West.

The most recent was held in Bristol at the Create centre, where we had a room full of Fellows - some pitching their projects and ideas towards tackling social problems, others assisting with connections, expertise and local knowledge to help develop ideas.

Some of the most valuable outcomes of such sessions can be the connections you make and it seems like this worked well here.

Here is a taste of the ideas pitched on the evening, which demonstrate the strength and depth of the Fellowship –

Richard Guise – The paved street heritage - Richard believes there is a skills deficit for people who can lay traditional paving materials; and that it is worth developing apprenticeships for people to learn this skill and generally to raise awareness and interest in the heritage of our streets. Bristol offers the ideal street environment for this project Contact Richard

Jon, Sam and Dave – Bristol Story Lab - Children have incredible imaginations, they just need somewhere to unleash them. The Story Lab's writing workshops let children's minds run riot, while they build confidence, self-respect and communication skills. The Lab follows the model established by 826 Valenica and the Ministry of Stories, which has been proven to do all of this and improve academic performance. Contact Jon.

Bristol Story Lab in pitch mode


Penny Hay - Artspace for Bath - An encounter with the city - their vision is to create a vital contemporary arts space in Bath that encompasses an art/gallery/workshop/café/studio: a place of serious creative play. Contact Penny. In follow-up to this, Penny will be presenting to Fellows in Bath at their May networking event to see if any local Fellows are interested in getting involved.

Alex and Jamie – New Dawn Traders - they hope to lower the carbon footprint of long-distance transport through raising public awareness creatively – including sailing voyages across to the Caribbean to fair-trade products. Contact Alex, if you are interested in getting involved they are holding an event on Wednesday 12 June in Bristol about one of the projects they are involved in.

Deepesh Patel - Deepesh is keen to connect university students to small enterprises and charities, to help find solutions to social problems within the local community. Contact Deepesh.

Laura Pictor – Trowbridge Town Hall - Laura works on a team to develop the creative space in the heart of the community, “introduce, involve, inspire”, our vision - to reconnect an iconic building to its original purpose; providing a cultural hub to its community. The Town Hall will become a place where the arts are accessible to all; introducing new experiences, involving everyone, inspiring and enabling people to learn, share, create and play. Contact Laura, her and the team involved in the Trowbridge Town Hall project have recently linked up to share learning from Ed Whitelaw (Fellowship Councillor at large) at the Real Ideas Organisation’s Devonport Guildhall, which stemmed from a similar project and is a social enterprise hub and cultural venue for the community of Plymouth.

— Ed Whitelaw (@EdWhitelaw) April 26, 2013

Francesca Wakefield - The Ideas Arcade – Francesca envisions an online collaboration hub, looking at creative ways to inspire people to live better and understand the links between the big issues. Contact Francesca

Some of the most valuable outcomes of such sessions can be the connections you make and it seems like this worked well here.  There are also avenues available to apply for seed funding, through the RSA’s Catalyst scheme and West seed fund.

I am hoping to hold some more ideas cafes in the South West region in the next few months, please get in touch if you are interested, or have other project ideas you would like to discuss.

If you are interested in running an Ideas cafe type event, below are some simple tips, and if you need support for your Fellows' meetings, network or projects? Go to the Fellows' tools & techniques page - for guidance, how-tos and other support.

  • Identify thematic areas that are of interest to attendees

  • Ask attendees to gather around tables they are interested in the themes of, think about the overarching question – “What themes/ideas are coming out of the this region that Fellows can take forward” – how can these be taken forward by Fellows?

  • Facilitator finish with future steps, make sure there is a follow up to the event sent round to attendees, ask for people interested in leading in projects/ideas, facilitate connections with other Fellows regionally/nationally

Lou Matter is the Programme Manager for West and South West. You can follow her @loumatter


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