Connecting the dots at the RSA

September 15, 2010 by
Filed under: The RSA 

A few months after I started at the RSA there was extensive media coverage of the excellent report of its Drugs Commission. This ended what had been quite a barren period in terms of press coverage, with some really good work by the Society – for example, on migration – not getting anything like the profile it deserved.

In the last couple of years RSA coverage in the national media has started to pick up gently and this week may have been the best in the Society’s recent history. Not only was there the broadcast and print reporting of the 2020 Public Services Commission’s final report, but today we have bagged the front page of Guardian Society with our Connected Communities project.

Rachel Williams has done a great job in summarising the key features of the report and developing the human interest angel around a popular local publican and quizmaster (the fact that he is called Phil Nice does help!). I feel rather embarrassed that most of the quotes in the piece are from me rather than the team who undertook the research, but knowing how modest they all are I don’t suppose they’ll care too much. 

We have always seen the second year of the Connected Communities project as the most innovative and exciting. This is when we play back the social network analysis to the community in New Cross and explore how local people can develop, strengthen and exploit their links. So let’s hope this time next year we get even more attention to the final report.

While I’m blowing my own trumpet (and, yes I know this is the unspoken opening clause to almost every sentence I write), Radio Four is tonight broadcasting a short lecture by me on the sixties. I wrote it over my summer holiday and although I am a little nervous about its personal reminiscences, I was pleased to be able to weave the RSA into my critique of the sixties idea of freedom.

The 2020 report contained many references to other RSA work, not just Connected Communities, but Peterborough too. It was good to see the Big Society minister Lord Wei say positive things about the RSA on his blog the other day. And, as I say, I was without contrivance able to weave the RSA’s work into broader reflection on British social history.

Overall, it feels like things are coming together. The RSA has always had great strengths – not least of which is its amazing Fellowship – but it has tended to suffer from a lack of understanding about its core mission and focus and limited public awareness of its work. Without, I hope, being complacent, it is really heartening to see this changing.



  • daniel


  • Phil Allsopp

    Public Awareness of RSA and its Work? Origins and Present Value:

    I recently was asked by a Board colleague in Phoenix, Arizona, what the RSA was. I told them but as I’ve been working a great deal on the measurement of so-called and often elusive ‘externalities’ – the wake across society and our environment that organizations create during the normal course of their doing business – I was truck by how current the original rationale behind the formation of the RSA 250 years ago really is today.

    In our neck of the woods, the inescapable blunders and hubris of BP and their incessant search for profits at all costs are all too visible. So too is the continued addiction Wall Street has to the fiction of unlimited growth and profits. These and the economic situation we are all experiencing today – much of it as a result of short-term thinking and action about profits and growth – has made me think of how prescient the founders of the RSA were. As cities and states in the USA have slashed educational budgets, closed state parks and eviscerated Arts and physical education from school curricula, I am constantly reminded about the RSA’s beginnings at the dawning of the Industrial Revolution. Countering the worst excesses of businesses (and the shareholders that support them) in their drive toward profits and growth to the exclusions of almost all other considerations was recognized as a critical endeavor for a sane and balanced society. It is no less important today as corporations represent one of the most visible, powerful and potentially destructive forces on the planet.

    My 2 cents on what the RSA is about and why its heritage and continued presence is so important.

    Phil Allsopp,
    Fellow, RSA
    Scottsdale, Arizona