My first full year in post as chairman has been a hectic but rewarding time.
Two clear messages stand out from my conversations with Fellows and non fellows. Firstly a need for greater clarity on where and how the RSA should focus its efforts, and secondly a strong wish for the Fellowship to be better connected. I am sure that the remit for the on-going Strategic Review (positively received last week by the Fellowship Council) will help with the first. With regards to upgrading our technology I am pleased that we are now able to report steady and significant progress. The first phase has been essential ‘housekeeping’, which after the inevitable teething problems, is beginning to make a huge difference to the back office Fellowship operations. The next phase will focus on improving Fellows online experience (and that of the 90 millions globally who have accessed our website in the last three years) by making it easier to personalise content and connect with others.
One focus for me has been my tour of the regions and nations. My apologies to those I did not manage to get to. Visiting twelve out of the fourteen areas was incredibly informative and enjoyable. The desire for ever greater Fellowship engagement with the activities of the RSA was tangible.
In another busy year for the RSA, with a range of activities too numerous to mention here, I would like to highlight the Raising the Bar Inquiry on educational attainment , commissioned by Suffolk County Council, which had considerable Fellow input; the continued impact of our work in the area of pensions policy through the Tomorrow’s Investor project; and the Great Recovery, our closed loop manufacturing initiative. I was also personally delighted at our collaboration with the Arts Council which looked at new ways the arts could articulate their value. We also saw the launch of the City Growth Commission, an independent authoritative inquiry into how best to enable England’s major cities to drive growth and respond to fiscal and economic challenges. It will be chaired by Jim O’Neill, retiring Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and will report next year. Work continues on the development of our Re(Make) Hubs (spaces for new types of small scale manufacturing), which I know has received a great deal of enthusiasm in the Fellowship and we look forward to seeing our work in maker spaces develop in 2014.
Finally a very big thank you to all those Fellows who have supported our projects, research and events through your annual Fellowship donation. Thanks to all who have given their time and support so generously in a variety of ways which helps us to improve society through ideas and action and for being a part of this complex and significant organisation.
With all good wishes for the festive season and 2014.
Vikki Heywood, RSA chairman.