Some of the key statements from Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, about RSA networks and the role of Fellows 2007 - 2012.
Matthew Taylor’s original vision, in an email to Fellows on September 6 2007
In essence, our aim is that the RSA becomes a network for civicinnovation, empowering both Fellows and staff to develop new initiativesthat promote and deliver progress in society. We want to make it easierfor any Fellow who wants to get involved to connect with otherlike-minded Fellows and to develop initiatives that seek to removebarriers to progress, working locally, in professional groups or simplyamong people who share interests and enthusiasms.
This is a huge step, arguably one of the biggest in our illustrioushistory. Whilst individual Fellows have actively engaged with the workof the RSA, the experience of most Fellows has tended to be morepassive. You’ve told us you want that to change, so the plan is to bringthe Fellows from the periphery to the heart of the RSA’s activities. Therole of the team at John Adam Street will be to enable and empowerFellows to be a force for progress. If we get this right, we will bebreaking new ground and hope to draw invaluable lessons about howvoluntary networks can best deliver positive interventions in society.
Videos from the OpenRSA event on October 1 2007 Matthew Taylor thanked OpenRSA members for their support for RSA networks, explained his vision, and answered questions.
Video interview in 2009 as part of the RSA networks evaluation - RSA is “the RAC of civic activism”
One of the ways in which I characterised the RSA ... the model I had at the very beginning ... was I wanted us to be the RAC of civic activism.
When you needed a group of people, people like us, reasonably high powered people from different kind of of backgrounds, quite self confident people, with a set of skills, - and you needed a group of people to come together to solve a problem - ring the RSA.
Wherever they are, they are that kind of people and they have got that kind of network. That is ultimately my aspiration.
In a series of blog posts about RSA mission and Fellowship in 2012 chief executive Matthew Taylor set a major challenge: how to achieve more through the activities of Fellows, and wider relationships, in pursuit of the historic mission to encourage arts, manufacturing and commerce, and in the current context to develop human capability supporting social progress.
The challenge came at a time of major innovation for the RSA. The new chair Vikki Heywood and Board of trustees were refining how the broad mission could be turned into a fresh round of projects and programmes; regions were developing teams to support local action; the technology board were scoping new online systems for Fellows and the organisation as a whole.
In his post Matthew indicated that progress will require more than just “try harder”. He wrote:
these posts are about how the RSA moves from good to great and, as I have said throughout, I think this depends most on taking the mission of Fellowship engagement to the next level and doing it in the next couple of years.
We will know we have together achieved something really significant when:
- Projects begun by Fellows and led by Fellows are starting to become as high profile and influential as the research and development projects managed by professional staff and, as a sign of this, Fellows’ projects are starting to access external funds.
- Research among FRSA is showing a high and rising awareness of all aspects of the Society’s work and how Fellows can get involved.
- More Fellows are being recruited (and retained) because they see the RSA, and the Fellowship in particular as a powerful vehicle for innovation and social progress. At present the numbers are pretty steady (which is a good outcome in the current economic environment), but a gradually rising roll will make it possible for us to continue to invest more in Fellowship.
- And, most of all, outside the RSA there is a growing sense that the Fellowship is made up of people with the inclination and the tools to intervene when new solutions are needed.