On November 20 2008 RSA ran an event in Manchester for 100 Fellows to explore - among other things - how staff could best support connections and communications between Fellows, and what Fellows could do for themselves.

Here's the summary presentation:


Fellows don't need to ask permission - just do it!

One of the strong themes was emphasis on Fellows taking responsibility for themselves (slide 15
  • The RSA needs to reaffirm the fact that you don’t need permission from anywhere – John Adam Street or regional committees – to interact, communicate, organise or develop project ideas as Fellows. Don’t wait to be asked!
  • We need to foster identity and ownership of the organisation within the Fellowship
  • Part of a Fellow’s responsibility is to spread the word and be ambassadorial

Here are extracts from reports on the RSAN site, particularly relating to connections, communications and responsibilities

Responsibilities zone

  • Concern over a lack of tools and a confused introduction to Fellowship
  • Tools are being developed, and will take into account ideas and comments discussed today – can be developed in tandem
  • Idea that action and responsibility can be proactive and not wait for development of tools
  • Idea of more experienced Fellows welcoming new Fellows – personal introduction
  • Role of a sponsor to welcome and support a new Fellow if you nominate someone else to join

Connections zone

Fellows clearly demonstrated that they do not feel that they have the requisite permissions and/ or tools to be able to act for themselves in making connections and acting independently but as a part of the RSA. In this respect there is a disconnect between how the RSA would like Fellows to be ‘self governing’ and the perspective of what is considered permissible activity on behalf of the Fellows. There was some recognition that Fellows have to do more for themselves in the organising and convening of ‘events’ rather than rely on the central body to provide everything. Better communication between Fellows would aid this process, and the RSA needs to overcome the problems presented by the Data Protection Act.

Models for connecting

  • It was thought that with a stronger more knowledgeable Fellowship, in terms of understanding the core RSA mission and future direction, an environment could be created whereby Fellowship activity and Connections become normal and regular activities.
  • In order to achieve this then the structures which exist must not be exclusive. Fellows used words such as, “Clique” and “Old Boys Club” to describe the nature of some of the current Regional Committees. Another Fellow described himself as being “Horrified” upon his first encounter with the Regional Committee. It was also suggested that the society as a whole, but particularly the Committees, were not in the least bit diverse, being as they are made up of predominantly older, white men.
  • Face to Face Connections were considered extremely valuable. The work of VLF being mentioned as particularly valuable in the development of the North West and Manchester Networks. A facilitator who knows them and can make introductions was deemed as being very valuable. Whilst this is most likely, at present, to be an Outreach worker, in future it could be part of the role of Key Fellows within the region to broker these connections.
  • There is some concern, or rather a lack of understanding as to what the RSA would like the Fellowship to do for themselves and how that relates to the governance of local regions and their relationship to JAS.

Communications zone


Networks platform


Most of the people who were a part of the session groups had minimal experience with the Networks platform. Either they had tried it once and been disappointed or had not tried it at all. Many of the suggestions were related to how they wanted to connect.
  • ability for local mapping- contacts locally, regionally nationally and internationally
  • provision of complementary communications methods through platform: email, skype, linkedin etc,
  • Space to initiate face to face networks from the online platform
  • major benefit of the platform would be to get global perspective on issues in addition to the face to face
  • Can’t just be geographical based. It also needs to be issue based in order to have a wider understanding and gain from the full breadth of experience of the Fellowship
  • Variety of forums to facilitate= must be maintained
  • should there be a requirement to fellows to be involved on the platform as part of their fellowship?
  • Superdatabase to connect people to projects by geography and issue

Face-to-face

The most salient thing to come out of both sessions was the want to meet other Fellows face to face and to have meaningful communication to and from other Fellows.
The example of the Manchester network that takes place at Urbis was cited as a good example as well as the Durham network. The presence of an outreach team was seen as a positive step in the right direction for facilitating these networks. However, one Fellow expressed that he thought that he needed permission to create a group with other Fellows. He was told that he needs no one’s permission- not a committee- not JAS - in order to create a group/project etc with other Fellows.

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