Update: Strategic Review

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Strategic Review update

There have been a number of developments within the RSA’s strategic review that will be of interest to Fellows. At regional conferences across the country, members of the RSA executive team as well as Trustees have discussed with Fellows an evolving strategy that is designed to enable the RSA to have greater :

  • Focus in terms of its aims and activities.
  • Synergy between its different approaches through Fellowship, the Action and Research Centre, and its public dissemination platforms.
  • Impact in its ability to influence the positive change in our society.

In recent months we have opened further discussion about the over-arching worldview view that gives expression to our ethos: the power to create. The idea is about supporting creativity and removing barriers that prevents people from turning their ideas into reality. You can read more about it in the Chief Executive’s lecture and a recent piece by the ARC Director, Adam Lent, in the RSA Journal.

Alongside the Power to Create, a series of broad change aims have been developed in the main areas of focus agreed by the Trustee Board in 2013:

  • Design, Enterprise and Manufacturing: Unlocking Creativity to enable a sustainable, inclusive and dynamic economy

  • Public Services and Communities: A shift in power to people and communities so that they can better meet their social and economic   needs and aspirations.

  • Education and Creativity: We will lead an approach to learning and development that enables everyone, regardless of background, to generate original, valuable ideas and make them happen.

Alongside this we are now producing strategic plans for each of these three areas. There is considerable work currently being undertaken to ensure that we engage actively with Fellows who we will rely on if we are to achieve our aims. It is through individual projects that these aims will really come to life. And it is on the individual project level that we will need the support of Fellows who have specialist knowledge and the energy to get things done.

We will keep you in touch with this review as it develops through this newsletter and through the new web platform that is currently in development. Over the coming months the review and the change aims will really come to life and we look forward to working with Fellows in securing the changes we all wish to see. 

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  • Dear Tim,

    I enjoyed reading the draft Strategic Review and it really feels you are heading in the right direction. 

    I do like the notion of 'thinking like a system and acting like an entrepreneur'. Systemic thinking has always guided my way of working and I am so pleased it has now become a general way of being especially at the RSA.  

    However, I would like to comment on the pairing of 'Diversity and Inclusion' in the Review and how it might be extended little. When I was a senior academic I was keen that Universities should practice ' Excellence in Diversity', with that added word too your pairing. Unfortunately, as one recent paper at an international conference put it,as universities ''we all want to be like Harvard, don't we', many with just one simple academic and narrow focus, and I feel too many universities, and indeed too much training in general, seems to accept this narrow notion where everyone is striving to become like an  Oxbridge academic environment. I hope the RSA will continue to do more than this and if you do create a Diversity Champion, that person, and other Trustees, will continue to demonstrate and embed excellence in diversity through the RSA. One worry I have is that if you narrow down the focus of RSA work too much, this acceptance of Diversity might be pushed to one side.

    One of my own interests while more active was in creating a movement which I called Universities for a Modern Renaissance, on behalf of the PASCAL - International Board for Life Long Learning - where its members would set up a heritage of passionate people who truly want to help citizens and communities achieve the ends they desire. Unfortunately, in my tenth year of retirement, I have a general scepticism which heavily influenced by what seems to be happening here in the UK, and it feels in most of the world, where words, words and more words, or sometimes it feel like lies, reflecting people preferred world views, seem to be controlling how many are thinking and talking.   

    I sincerely hope the RSA can help to set up a very different sort of engagement, where those who can help, such as the Fellows of the RSA can help every other person learn how to achieve things for themselves and grow in a manner suiting their own values – such values do not try to control others to be like themselves. The pioneers in PASCAL seemed to be able to do this, and always have, but there are very few others who do, or can. 

    Early in my career I became aware of the work of social anthropologist, Mary Douglas, and one of her disciples, Michael Thompson. Their research comprehensively showed that there were four constructive alternatives ways of seeing the world and acting in it. When others didn’t believe in the way I saw the world, then I could begin to understand why. Such cultural constructed world views explained, at least to me, that whatever skills I possessed in developing human futures should truly reflect what others want, and not just my view.

    So, as we look to future years, I hope the RSA will continue to be concerned with, and be passionate about, enabling others achieve that which is meaningful to them, while ensuring this allows harmony with others rather than trying to control or destroy them. This is where there phrase 'Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion' rings true to me.

    The problem is that the future is indeed complex and require those of us, who want to help, to think more systemically. We all need to keep optimistic and keep trying in the face of adversity. I know it won’t be easy as I watch social and political life crashing about us:

    •in England; and the values and culture that Reagan and Thatcher so well seduced our nations into doing their dreadful damage to all we hold dear.

    •In Australia; the horrendous fire sweeping the continent.

    •In Indonesia and elsewhere; the dreadful Tsunami and flooding.

    I could go on and that would create yet more still more words.

    I have learned to use whatever skills I have simply to help other citizens and communities learn to do better for themselves. I sincerely hope others in the RSA will do like-wise and look forward to reading how our Fellows enable others, as well as themselves. I would also welcome the opportunity of again developing a ‘maturing conversation' with like-minded people in the RSA, who are well grounded in ‘good sense’. While it is important that we should all be richly engaged in discussions reflecting powerful world-wide views, if we cannot also be well anchored locally, as if we were stable in one place, I believe all our efforts will be in vein.

    When I was actively involved in PASCAL I worked with a team that developed this action based approach for those universities who truly wanted to engage with citizens and communities to empower them. It would also work for the RSA. As I said earlier, known a PASCAL Universities for a Modern Renaissance, it developed a questioning framework to help academics and others develop an action oriented approach to empowerment. For those interested in learning more please access the web site, at pumr.pascalobservatory.com . 

    Those few universities that used the approach got much creative reward in their engagement with their local communities. Unfortunately, universities seemed loathe to use it because either they hadn’t invented the approach for themselves, or is was too much effort, or there were too many words - my words and not their's.

    I would love to hear from the RSA if others feel this might help the progress of their Review  and whether it might be an alternative and complementary approach in creating deep, meaningful and lasting empowerment in citizens and communities for self development

    Professor James Powell OBE FRSA DSc DUniv

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