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Peter Clitheroe FRSA, Fellowship Council Deputy Chair, shares his experience of the role ahead of the 2020 Council elections.

As RSA Fellows we sign up to a vision of a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future. Being able to do so entails convening and enabling people, influencing and demonstrating practical solutions. Through my time as a Fellowship Councillor, I’ve discovered that these principles apply just as much within the RSA ecosystem as they do in the wider world.

In 2013 I attended a Fellowship event in a town (fairly) local to me and discovered an important and urgent need for action. But the action was beyond my individual capabilities. Privately, I wondered if I couldn’t solve the problem, perhaps I should just let it go. Chatting at the end of the event, it was apparent that two other Fellows had been similarly struck and felt equally powerless to make a difference. But that brief conversation revealed that we had very different skill sets - and that, combined, these might just be a useful foundation for action.

Connection with other Fellows through the group of FRSA organising activity in the region plugged quite a few gaps. Before we knew it, a project was up and running and it delivered an outcome that we believe really made a difference.  Without the encouragement and connection of a couple of individuals, the work would never have started, the moment would have passed - and I’d probably have ended my Fellowship that year.

Shortly after that experience, I was invited to join the team of Fellows organising activity in the region and, a couple of years ago, became an Area Fellowship Councillor working with Fellows and the amazing RSA staff, to plan, host and run activity, initially in the East of England and now right across Central England.

Encouragement for Fellows to connect and collaborate is a necessary precursor to the formation of local and thematic groups and networks.  With the support of Fellowship Councillors and the RSA Fellowship Areas & Engagement Team, these groups can work together to set and achieve goals, share learning with Fellows from across the global community.

For me, that’s where the value lies in RSA Fellowship. It’s not the letters FRSA, not our excellent Coffeehouse nor even the quality of writing in The Journal. It’s the people from all walks of life who willingly come together to convene reasoned debate, demonstrate practical solutions, realise change and, by doing so, create a powerful influence for good in the world.

As well as our global conversation within Council, Fellowship Councillors play our parts in the governance of the RSA, for example by sitting on the panel which considers applications for the RSA’s Catalyst Grant. We also have dialogue with RSA Trustees and the organisation’s Executive and programme teams, which is always stimulating.

Perhaps most importantly though, Councillors help to connect Fellows. From my conversations in this role, I can tell you that the prospect of connecting with others to help bring about positive change in society is a major theme within our community.  As well as connecting individuals, groups and networks, I believe the Fellowship Council have a responsibility to enable this by meeting with Fellows, understanding their needs and interests in the context of place or theme, and being a key conduit between them and the work that the RSA is undertaking.

Across society, Covid-19 dictates that the old ways simply cannot continue. We have been thrown the challenge of finding better ways of functioning in so many aspects of life. The increased number of online Fellowship events has enabled me to join many more brilliant local meetings and to work with some fascinating people. 

For me, that’s where the value lies in RSA Fellowship. It’s not the letters FRSA, not our excellent Coffeehouse nor even the quality of writing in The Journal. It’s the people from all walks of life who willingly come together to convene reasoned debate, demonstrate practical solutions, realise change and, by doing so, create a powerful influence for good in the world.

These times are extraordinary, and they present a rare opportunity for us to create that influence, but there is an urgency. We can’t wait until things become more “normal” again before we take action to shift the dial towards a better future. By then things may already be backsliding towards the old normal - which was never acceptable anyway.

Now, more than ever we need activist Fellows to step up as Fellowship Councillors and network and group leads. To meet with, listen to and support Fellows, and use their energy and determination to mobilise the Fellowship, designing and hosting events and activities, and helping to get Fellowship projects off the ground. The benefits are not financial but, take it from me, they far exceed the annual Fellowship fee and so represent a fantastic return on investment!


 

Find full details of the Fellowship Council roles on the RSA website and apply by 8 June 2020.

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