Last week marked my first anniversary in post. Funnily enough, I didn’t even realise at the time, partly because it has felt like a lot longer (all in a good way, I promise!). I think it is one of the realities of both the job and the wider RSA that time can be a very precious and limited resource, meaning that months slip by before you’ve realised.
It does seem a good time to stop and reflect, to take stock of where the year has taken me and what lies ahead. The role of a Networks Manager is an incredibly rewarding one, providing opportunities to engage with projects, thinkers, leaders and ideas which are stimulating and world changing. I often have to stop in awe at some of the work that I am privileged to come in to contact with, as there are very few other positions that would have provided me with such a breadth of opportunity and variety. To bounce from meetings and events covering topics as disparate as civic engagement, innovation, community redevelopment and gardening, I certainly have had the chance to broaden my own knowledge base and to push my own professional and personal development.
The role is also a difficult one – I have several more grey hairs this year than last. True they could simply be a reflection of the ceaseless march of time (and I do have the joy of a birthday ending in 0 to look forward to this year), however they do testify to the challenges of covering large, far flung areas, travelling away from my family (Ben is now grown up enough to tell me he misses me, always tugs at the heart strings!) and trying to manage the ideas, requests, demands and thought provokers that Fellows bring.
I suppose that final point is really Matthew’s fault – if he had not bothered to take the lid off the can of worms by challenging Fellows to become active participants and leaders then my workload would be much lower! Of course it would also be far less rewarding and the Fellowship would not be the inspirational gathering that I am so proud of.
Additionally, any of the work I put in is complimented, refined and expanded by the work of Fellows across my areas. This can be seen in the exciting changes which we have witnessed over the last year, with activity springing up across Scotland, Ireland and the North East. I am writing this as I travel to Newcastle for the Big Jump, a Fellow-led project funded by RSA Catalyst; after having been at the RSA Scotland New Fellow’s Reception in Edinburgh; and as I look forward to the RSA Ireland Annual Dinner in Belfast. On the 9th April I’ll be in Inverness for the launch of the RSA Highlands Network, a fantastic opportunity to broaden the reach of the Society far beyond the urban conurbations. In Ireland, a group is forming to bring together innovative civic leaders to confront the challenges faced in the current economic climate. And in the North East, the Cultural Partnership between RSA NE and Northumbria University continues to grow as a powerful resource for Fellows in the region, and as an example to the rest of the Society, with similar concepts being explored in Scotland and the South of England.
For me, the next year is about embedding this growth across the areas as a fundamental aspect of our nations and regions. Scotland, Ireland and the North East have the opportunity to continue to grow as exemplars of Fellowship in action, as thought and action leaders across the RSA. I believe we should be continuing to set our targets high, to be pushing the growth of the Fellowship by identifying and attracting exciting new Fellows. We should be increasing the recognition of the Society across civic society and with decision makers, building fascinating partnerships with likeminded organisations. We should be organising interesting, provoking and relevant events, designed to stimulate debate and thinking. And we should be implementing projects which change our communities, redeveloping the world around us in to an Enlightened 21st Century environment.
I think my first year with the RSA has been a tough, exciting, stimulating honour and in my usual optimistic fashion I believe the second is going to be even better. Thanks for the friendship, support, encouragement and challenge which I have received from Fellows to date, I look forward to working with you all over the year to come.
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