One of the things I like best about RSA Fellowship is the people I meet. In a world where most seem content to follow the herd, my experience of the RSA is that it attracts people who ask questions. What’s more, they’re often people who speak with the credibility that comes from experience.
As a social entrepreneur I’m driven by the opportunities that now exist for individuals, organisations and even whole communities to take control of their futures. Recently I helped the people of Thetford take over a redundant High School campus. Many saw it as a problem, but with the asset transferred from Council to a community benefit society, the Charles Burrell Centre is now home to more than 40 businesses. West Suffolk College now deliver courses there, a foodbank and crèche are based there, and many voluntary groups meet there.
More recently I co-founded Norwich Mustard, crowdfunded a budget and set to work on the business plan. Local people were angry that Colman’s was closing after 160 years in the city. Now we have mustard growing near the city and hope to set up a small production within Norwich Prison. That will give us real social impact and a clear point of market difference too.
I’ve found the RSA Fellowship invaluable, both as a sounding board for ideas and a place to find others treading similar paths. But as I’m discovering, the RSA is not the only network for those leading social change. I’ve just been invited to join the business panel at Power to Change, advising and challenging the organisation in its mission to create better places through community business and promote a community business movement.
Power to Change was set up with a £150m endowment from Big Lottery and has been given just 10 years to use that money to stimulate and support this growing sector. I can’t help but think that having a foot in both the Power to Change and RSA camps creates opportunity. Let’s grab our opportunity and start to change the world.