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We’re always leaders in the South West and this Saturday were the first of the RSA’s 14 regions/nations to hold our 2014 Annual Conference, which took place in Plymouth. A good number of Fellows came together to receive local and national updates on RSA activity, get some background on the Maker Space network and get involved in various breakout sessions.

conf1We started with feedback from Chair, Nick Parker and the locally based Trustee Keith Read. I then spoke about my work in the region, particularly in terms of working with Fellows on their projects and connecting Fellows and projects locally. In the past year we’ve had six applications to the RSA’s Catalyst scheme from the South West, covering varied subject areas such as; restorative justice; arts and auctioning and working with army veterans. As ever showing the depth and breadth of the RSA Fellowship. We haven’t as yet had a crowdfunding campaign from the South West and it would be good to get one up and running, they have been very successful nationally, with over £100k raised since September 2013.

conf2
We then heard from Phillippa Rose and Justin Marshall about the MakeSouthWest network, which Phillippa has been leading. The network is based around the maker spaces that are fast popping up across the region (as well as nationally and internationally). There are spaces for making both practical and digital in Falmouth, Exeter, Plymouth, Taunton and Totnes. The local networks met in February at the space in the Plymouth College of Art and discussed ways in which they can work collaboratively; engage communities and learn from each other. Subsequently, they have been trialling various ways in which this can happen in practice; skypeing into activities at other spaces and linking and connecting local schools to spaces. It is hoped to run a competition with Fellows around this, so keep an eye out.  To connect with this work please contact Phillippa at phillippa@redfront.co.uk or follow @makesouthwest

Justin is based at the MakerNow space at Falmouth, and updated on their work including their up-coming conference All Makers Now. He and Phillippa also attended a national Make It Together network meeting for people involved in maker spaces that the RSA ran in Manchester.

Following on we heard from the RSA’s chief operating officer Carol Jackson, who presented an update of the RSA’s strategic review.  This is being undertaken to ensure that the RSA develops its ability to make a real difference and will guide the institution in the next few years. It is being led by the RSA’s trustees. For more information it is worth looking at the Power to Create blogs which highlight a key theme within the review.

After a morning of listening and questioning, we spent the afternoon more practically. Taking part in Fellow-led breakout sessions, on a range of different subjects relevant to the South West and the RSA. They were as follows –

  • Community: Addressing poverty in smaller urban areas. Dr Alan Sanderson and David Chaisty
  • Flooding on the Somerset levels- preserving personal narratives. Frank Challenger.
  • Education Exposed! Risk-taking, personal discovery and learning through experience. James Bond and Richard Marsh
  • The challenges of public service reform. Saxon Spence and Richard Westlake

 confFellows creating a wreath in the education workshop

All the sessions were a brilliant example of what the Fellows are involved in within the region and the informed debate and ideas they produce.

We ended the conference with thanks to all and looking forward to more connectivity and activity in the next year.

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

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