The RSA hosted an exciting programme of activities yesterday to showcase the groups of fellows that had been awarded grants under the catalyst programme. The grant is aimed at new ideas that will have a positive social impact and provides seed funding to help develop them further. Whilst attending the event, I remembered my experience co-ordinating the Bloggers Circle, which also had support from the RSA shortly before the catalst programme had been launched (I think).
Listening to some of the organisations that had been awarded catalyst funding it was clear how the RSA had helped. The programme enabled people without any organisational form or legal status the money to take the idea beyond conception. From memory, there aren’t many grants available to organisations that don’t yet exist! For Plan Zhero, for example, it provided a great deal of what they needed to get off the ground. But refreshingly its founders also told me that the process of applying for the grant was challenging yet engaging and actually helped improve the idea.
The RSA helped further by bringing together the award winners and organising a roundtable workshop style event which ensured that it was more collaborative and engaging than the typical platform-style event. In fact, by the end of the event the jaded energy of the room suggested that the fund winners would benefit from meeting more frequently – perhaps working in partnership with the social entreprenuers’ spotlight scheme. It’s when the RSA is able to effect introductions to like-minded people with a common interest that it becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Following the event, there was a lecture and the award of the Albert Medal to Alberta Ruiz, a social entreprenuer who helped organise waste pickers. What was particularly powerful about her moving story was that it combined community activity, awareness raising and policy impact. So often organisations achieve one of these three things and so rarely are all three combined. With its growing interest in social enterprise, the RSA too has the potential to do this through matching its project research, public events and fellowship networks.
One of the challenges for the RSA in this space is how it consolidates the learning from this activity. The Albert Medal lecture will doubtless be available in multiple digital formats, reaching a global audience. And that’s a massive achievement. But the lessons from an event like the catalyst worksop, or the social entreprenuers programme are currently held in the brains of each who attended. Writing these down in a report may feel very 20th century (and is also time-consuming) but each group funded by catalyst needs to be able to learn the lessons from previous startups.
When I was first labouring with setting up Newscounter, my experience would have been radically different if I’d had the RSA networks to draw on. Yesterday the RSA made a significant contribution towards its mission and it was great to witness.
No related posts.