Matthew Taylor has a post up discussing an update on the internal conversations at the RSA  around the organization’s branding.

According to the RSA website:

For over 250 years the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Our approach is multi-disciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.

And, as he explains,

Back to the RSA. Yesterday, we had an all staff session on branding. Over the last year we have been trying increasingly to align the RSA’s activities around a core mission. We have not yet found the pithiest way to express this mission but in essence it is ‘developing citizens for tomorrow’, in other words the RSA is about understanding and advancing human capability so that people can thrive in the future.

Matthew then shares additional branding ideas and opens the floor for discussion.  Quite a few comments concentrate on the process of creating the new branding, stressing the involvement of the RSA Fellows.

I am not a member of the RSA.  I tried to add to the conversation on Matthew’s blog but the post never appeared, whether it didn’t get through the submission queue or moderation or what have you.  So, I’m writing this post instead!

I was invited to become an RSA Fellow and was very honored at the invitation, especially after such a short time here and hopefully only the very start of the impact I’d like to make and change I’d like to support.  I have also been incredibly pleased and honored at the invitation and subsequent participation at a few RSA events.  I am not, however, at least for the time being, planning to accept the RSA Fellowship invitation, and this is why:


The RSA, like many other organizations, suffers because of a lack of the most powerful aspect of its branding.  I do not plan to accept the Fellowship invitation because I have not, whether online or in person, from the invtation materials or conversations I’ve had with others, gained a clear understanding of what being a Fellow even means.  Furthermore, and most importantly to me, I have not been shown how a Fellowship will help me in my work at changing my community and the world.

Yes, slogans and colors, font and everything else are all important parts of the branding.  It’s true. But the RSA is missing the most important part, at least in bringing me on board: proving to me that being a Fellow will help ME and not just that my membership will help THEM.

As folks mention in the comments on Matthew’s piece, I don’t need to build my resume (for better or worse, I’m fine with it as it is).  But I am completely open to any and all, whether organization or individual, ready to help me make our local communities and the global community as great as possible.

So, RSA, “do you get it?”

(Just for clarification, I am hoping to get those answers and hoping the branding advances to answer them not just to me but to everyone, so that we can all start really collaborating for change!  I mean it, RSA, I’m with you when you’re ready.)

Branding the RSA, and you?
Tagged on:                 
  • Thanks Amy for picking up on the discussions we’ve been having on Matthew Taylor’s blog. Here’s my follow-up

  • Edgar

    Your attitude (that you are only interested in supporting a charity when you can work what it will do for YOU) is partly forgivable because the RSA has become utterly confused about its positioning.

    Rather than being upfront (that Fellows exist to support the charity in the delivery of its charitable objects), it has gone down some wishy-washy Nu-Labourish route that Fellowship is an end in itself — is, indeed, the whole point of the RSA. In their eyes, Fellowship seems to equal some sort of nebulous networking without any particular purpose in mind other than something about “removing barriers to social progress”, whatever that means.

    But the idea that the RSA exists to support the Fellowship was utter nonsense in 1754 and it remains utter nonsense today. Why should taxpayers be expected to subsidise a group of relatively wealthy Fellows to enable them to pursue their own hobby-horses and to receive personal benefits? It’s a breathtakingly selfish attitude, and one which I had hoped was being smashed in the aftermath of the current global economic crisis.

    If you don’t support the RSA’s charitable objectives then fine: don’t contribute (either by becoming a Fellow or giving them a donation). But don’t complain that the RSA hasn’t sold you properly on the benefits that you could/should be receiving. Instead, have a think about what greater good YOU can do, either through them or in other parts of your life.

  • Thanks, David, for including me in the conversation!

    I really do intend for this to be a discussion and hope that I can learn more (and others can, too!) about the work, the goals, and the new-forming work of the RSA and it’s Fellows.

    Thanks again

  • Hi Edgar-

    Thanks for joining the conversation here! I think we are on the same track here:

    I was saying that RSA is apparently asking Fellows to do good things in the world, and I’m asking how I can help. The same point you come to at the end of your comment. I don’t know the 250 year history of the organization; I’m just looking for a clear offer and call to action! I find the “removing barriers to social progress” bit confusing, too.

    When you say, “the benefits you could/should be receiving,” I would edit that to say that I hope RSA can use their current rebranding process to find opportunities to communicate to me and everyone else about the benefits we all will see by participation and support of their projects – as in, how the world will be better, what kind of projects Fellows and the organization itself are creating, and opportunities to help further the impact.

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one confused by some of the messaging and hope that this conversations continues.

    And for the record, I do support RSA; this post was generated specifically on the branding around Fellows and their work.

    Thanks again for joining in here!

  • Hi Amy, and Edgar
    I’ve posted an item on this discussion on the RSA London Region Network site, for discussion with candidates – do join us

  • Thanks so much, David! I will check it out now…