Digital Summit - RSA

RSA Digital Summit

RSA Digital Summit

An exploration into how online tools and technologies can support the RSA and be an engine for participation and impact.

We are committed to finding better ways of thinking, acting, and delivering change. With our mission of enabling people, places and the planet to flourish, and in the glare of a global pandemic that is sharply refocussing how we connect and convene for change, we are asking, how can we best utilise digital tools and technology to support RSA Fellows and maximise our impact? 

Our inaugural Digital Summit on 16th October engaged digital expertise from across the Fellowship to develop prototype concepts that imagine what the RSA's digital future could look like.

This interactive, Fellow-led, future-focussed event was geared towards illustrating the art of the possible, and based on the stimulus provided by visionaries including Lord Jim Knight, Dr. Anton Howes, Mike Butcher, MBE, Katz Kiely, Mark Earls, Phil Harvey, and Heleana Blackwell. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA and Pip Wilsondeputy chair of the RSA Trustees introduced the session.

Working across six themes each facilitated group generated ideas to be further explored, scoped and potentially funded. Our exploration is grounded in the belief that by tapping into the collective intelligence of the Fellowship we can ultimately boost the Society's impact and enrich the Fellowship experience. 

We hope it will be the beginning of a dialogue, spark ongoing collaboration and creativity, and ultimately lead to a legacy of lasting and sustainable change.

Our six themes

The following themes were explored as part of the Summit:

  • RSA as a platform - Creating an open accessible inclusive platform and digital toolset for Fellows to use to develop their own collaborative initiatives (decentralised) and for the RSA’s research teams to use to engage Fellows on the programmatic work of the RSA (centralised). What do we mean by platform? Why do we need it, how might it be manifested?  What will make it successful?
  • RSA Insight to Action - How the RSA and its fellows can analyse societal needs and identify opportunities for action by harnessing the power of available data and technology. Reflect the pulse of the nation related to RSA policy areas through dynamic data visualisations and actionable insights; the RSA listens, engages, and responds to opportunities for social impact in powered by AI-driven insight tools and tech.
  • RSA Navigator - How to crack the RSA code and get the most out the RSA / how might it work / how can the RSA make it easier for Fellows to make the most of what is on offer and attract support for their own initiatives? How can RSA make the experience more personalised and improve it as it gets to know Fellows better?
  • RSA Learning Lab - How might the RSA facilitate learning within the RSA and beyond using digital tech and a blended approach? How can the RSA facilitate the greatest possible access to experts, peer learning and stimulating thought-fora? What form might the learning experience take? Thematic bite size learning opportunities by and for Fellows, RSA thought-leadership programmes, and/or something else curated by the RSA? Or is the RSA’s educational effort best focused on education reform? How to unlock and scale the think like a system, act like an entrepreneur methodology and ethos relating to education?
  • Virtual Coffeehouse  - How do we use digital technology to recreate the serendipity associated with attending the RSA’s Coffeehouse and face to face networking events? How can we create / curate the most stimulating opportunities for discovering how to  create a positive future? How can we promote existing networks, bring together Fellows locally, and internationally at scale virtually? Should we be creating a Tinder for Fellows or something else? 
  • RSA Maker Playground - How might we create an applied research programme which results in products? Imagine if we could commission programme-inspired product and service design experiments; moving the RSA from just thinking into doing and action, from abstract to concrete — could we also invite and support fellow-led digital ideas into the RSA’s maker playground?

Summit speakers

Leading the exploration into each theme was a speaker, supported by a facilitator. 

The real strength of the RSA is in its changemakers - its current member base - and the projects that happen when they meet. So, what if we could revolutionise the way that the RSA finds, welcomes and supports new joiners, by using a recommendation engine to facilitate human connections.

Customer Strategist, The&Partnership Heleana Blackwell

Heleana Blackwell

Heleana Blackwell is customer strategist at The&Partnership. As a trustee for Villiers Park Educational Trust, she developed an industry education programme to engage young people from less advantaged backgrounds across the UK and help them to develop their skills for a career in advertising. Armed with a passion for digital culture, behavioural science, the future of work and education for social mobility, she has spoken at events such as marketing technology conference Ad:Tech, education and inclusion initiative Pitch Futures, and Government-backed innovation hub Digital Catapult.

Mike Butcher, MBE

Mike Butcher is a UK-based journalist and editor at large for TechCrunch. Mike has been named one of the most influential people in European technology by various newspaper and magazines. He founded The Europas Awards, the non-profit Techfugees and has advised the UK government on tech startup policy. He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2016 for services to the UK technology industry and journalism.

Imagine if everyone could use data as a new sense and way of perceiving the world. Data extending not only what we know, but how we know it. Imagine if data was part of everyone's conversations and a comfortable reference point and feedback loop for the actions we take.

Cloud Solution Architect, Microsoft UK Phil Harvey

Phil Harvey

Phil is a big beardy data geek who loves working with data and solving interesting data problems. He is especially interested soft skills for technical people in data, empathy, ethics and in the impact of data on what people know and how they know it. Starting his career with a BA in AI, he has worked in a wide range of industries from surveying, to architecture, to advertising, to being the CTO and technical founder of a data start-up. Phil now works at Microsoft as a Senior Cloud Solution Architect for Data & AI in One Commercial Partner.

Imagine if there were a voluntary, subscription-funded, member-led improvement agency, devoted to improving anything and everything that needs to be improved - to fill in the gaps of what's not already being done. Imagine if it constantly reinvented itself for hundreds of years, adapting to society's new challenges. Well, it already exists - it's the RSA.

Historian in residence, The RSA Dr Anton Howes

Dr Anton Howes

Anton is historian in residence at the RSA. He recently published a new history of the RSA, entitled Arts and Minds: How the Royal Society of Arts Changed a Nation. He is also a lecturer in Economic History at King's College London. Anton was previously a post-doc at Brown University, and completed his PhD on inventors of the British Industrial Revolution at King's College London.

Imagine if we could unleash the network effect of the RSA membership. If we could harness digital to transform into a decentralised do-ocracy; where members were incentivised to share knowledge, insights and experiences. Where we could easily connect with collaborators, supporters and investors around projects that drove measurable impact toward a shared north star.

CEO, Beep Katz Kiely

Katz Kiely

Katz Kiely is a transformation expert and culture architect. She has helped some of the worlds biggest companies use digital to survive and thrive. She designed the first open innovation platform for HP, rearchitected the way a UN agency does business and designed a city scale behaviour change platform with Intel. She is now CEO of beep: a platform that embeds continuous improvement by empowering people, Chair of Trustees for Frontline.Live and an advisor to the Burning Man Foundation.

Imagine if our network grew to be the largest peer learning community in Britain. Modelling new ways of developing and certificating the higher level skills and learning that we all need to thrive.

Chief Education and External Officer, Tes Lord Jim Knight

Jim Knight,  The Rt Hon Lord Knight of Weymouth

Jim works in education, digital technology and as a legislator. He is the Chief Education Adviser at Tes Global Ltd. He founded Tes Institute, the fifth largest qualifier of teachers in England, in 2014; he also managed Tes Resources, a global teacher community of 13.5 million. As a UK government minister his portfolios included rural affairs, schools, digital and employment.  He was a member of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet 2009-2010, before joining the Lords in 2010.  He is Honorary President of COBIS, on the Global Advisory Council for BETT, Chair of Whole Education, advises the London School of Commerce, and is working on teaching climate change with Purpose, the social impact agency.


Mark Earls

Mark Earls (aka HERDmeister) is an innovative and award-winning writer and consultant on marketing, communications and behaviour change. He has written a number of highly influential books and articles like HERD and I’ll Have What She’s Having which apply insights from contemporary behavioural science to modern business and behaviour change challenges. 

Dominic Graveson

Dom has been working at the intersection of technology and society for over 25 years, leading digital programmes across education, public engagement, broadcasting and corporate transformation in the UK, Europe and developing nations. He is passionately interested in how people are responding to the technical and societal challenges that face us in the early 2020s, and finding practical ways of making sense of the world. Currently based in the Netherlands, he is a fellow of the RSA and is Strategy Director at UK digital agency Netcel.

Alex Mecklenburg

Alex is co-founder of Truth & Spectacle and an experienced, provocative business coach, working with leadership teams, CEOs and boards of organisations who are looking to break through their own business bubble. In her time as Global Brand Director and Business Director, and Global Digital Lead for Unilever she delivered seminal work like Dirt is Good.

Charles Veal

Charles is a membership and digital strategy consultant helping organisations with their business strategy, membership engagement and technology. He has extensive experience of working with membership bodies in sectors ranging from education, business and finance to sport, healthcare, construction and publishing for large and small organisations. He has also worked with local and central government on digital transformation and business strategy projects. His early career involved working internationally for financial institutions and working on development projects in Africa and Central America.

Brought to you by:

Ann Longley, Fellowship Councillor / Founder Something New Together

Peter Clitheroe, Fellowship Councillor

Yasmine Boudiaf, Creative Technologist

Chris Ward, RSA Head of Digital

Download the Digital Summit report

We're delighted to share a report produced by Ann Longley FRSA, with support from the Summit working group and participants at the event, outlining core recommendations from the Summit. These are being fed into work being launched this summer. This work will focus on how the RSA can improve the end-to-end experience of Fellows online and support Fellows in having impact.

Download the report (PDF, 1.4 MB)

Fellowship Digital Services project

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