As I am closing out my tenure with the RSA as a member of staff (and rejoining the Fellowship in full, so to speak) I thought I'd take a brief moment to take stock of what’s been achieved over the last three years.
The RSA’s vibrant Fellowship is at the heart of our work to remove barriers to social progress through understanding and releasing human capability. Our founder, William Shipley wanted to engage ‘Members from all Ranks, Professions and Trades’ to engage in ‘Undertakings for Publick Good’, and we’re still delivering on that promise today. It’s what inspired me to put my nose to the grindstone here at our historic headquarters on the Strand, and it’s taken me across the country and beyond meeting Fellows and working with them. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege.
My main goal during this time has been to deliver on our Trustees’ ambition that the RSA should support our most active, engaged and innovative Fellows, and that they should see the RSA as a major resource for the achievement of their goals. Here are just some of the things that we delivered, working closely with the Fellowship Council – the elected, volunteer body that champions Fellows’ interests:
Better guidance for Fellows wishing to engage with the RSA for the first time, including the Four Ways to Engage, our new skilled volunteering strategy, and the ChangeMakers’ handbook, which supports people who want to be more active in their communities. This marks a sea-change in the way we work with Fellows: recognising the ways they are active in their communities and professions, and making the RSA a place that deepens and amplifies the impact they have.
The RSA Small Groups methodology, an approach to supporting community activity developed in partnership with ICA:UK, which uses facilitation techniques to help Fellows and others work collaboratively towards a shared outcome.
Development plans for all the Fellowship regions and nations, through which our Regional Programme team have supported approximately 100 regionally based, Fellow-led projects. The RSA in the United States has also been leading the way as our premier overseas affiliate, and now has a clearly articulated impact strategy for both engagement and growth.
'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.'
More and higher quality applications to RSA Catalyst, our seed fund for Fellows’ projects. In a survey of Catalyst-funded ventures who received funding in 2012/13, we found that over an average of six months following their grant, they had raised a further £6.00 for every £1 received from Catalyst – and 83% described themselves as running their “first social venture” thanks to RSA support.
Finally, sharing and disseminating all this good work: every fortnight, we highlight the best projects from the Fellowship through our feature The Big Idea. I'd definitely encourage you to have a look at some of the brilliant ideas that our Fellows are turning into practical action.
It has been a long journey - and both a challenging and worthwhile one: a big thanks go to the team of staff and Fellows who have poured endless time and energy into making both iterative and at times exponential improvements for the RSA. I will forever be grateful for the time and dedication put into making the RSA one of the best places to have an idea, and make it happen (including coming up with that phrase). You know who you are.
I'd like to also call out the Fellowship Council leadership from these years, without which none of this could have been achieved: Irene, Wiard, Andy, Bob, David and Zena - and through the Resource Working Group effort, Vanessa. Then there are the tireless Chairs around the country, the working group leads and so on. Thank you.
With that, I'll leave you with an African proverb which I think encapsulates how we got things done in the last couple of years: 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' - and with that, here's to the road ahead, I hope I left this a better place...
Michael Ambjorn was Head of Fellowship 2010-2013, having originally joined as a Fellow in 2003.