For the past two years, I have used the post-nominal letters FRSA, having been invited to apply for a fast-track induction. I looked around my networks and saw that a number of people who I respect and admire were fellows of the RSA and so felt flattered that I should have been considered to be worthy of the honour. That should have been the first warning. Flattery is a powerful marketing tool.
At the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) we believe in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future, by uniting people and ideas to resolve the challenges of our time.
We do this by bringing together a global community of proactive problem solvers, supported by our Fellows and partners.
The RSA’s website describes the mighty aspirations, which sound nice. Couldn’t agree more. When I sent in my solicited application form, it was quickly endorsed and the payment taken. I was welcomed as being “quite the polymath.” My old pal Jeremy Standen once responded to a similar assessment of my various experiences by describing me as “someone who can’t hold a job down.” Maybe. I have only ever broken my 5-year rule twice, both times in education, and both times I think I have regretted it.
So, the polymath has taken a good hard look at himself and decided that I joined the RSA, not to support the bringing together of a global community of proactive problem solvers, but because I wanted to have an “F” in my list of postnominals. I now think I don’t, and ceratinly not enough to throw money at it every year for others to spend on things I’m not that bothered about. My influence is far more direct and personal in the jobs I do, and that is where my attention and energy should be directed.
As for the RSA, well, make your own mind up. I read the magazines, listened to the podcasts, and even went to some of the meetings in the days when one could. They left me at best, feeling no different, and at worst, a little foolish for having been flattered out of my membership fee to support other people’s agendas.