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RIO Lead Developer becomes Chair of RSA in South West

By 20th January 2015 No Comments

RIO (the Real Ideas Organisation) – one of the region’s best known social enterprises, is set to further support the work of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) across the region as RIO’s Ed Whitelaw takes up the role of Regional Chair.

Ed Whitelaw, Lead Developer and Senior Consultant for RIO, takes on the leadership of the region’s 800 strong RSA fellowship network with the view to broadening the work of the RSA in the region and adding support and voice to some of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset’s key sectors and challenges.

RIO, known for its imaginative application of social enterprise thinking to a range of sectors including schools, regeneration and enterprise, has been active across the region from its bases in Plymouth, Liskeard, Truro and Bristol since 2007. Notable current projects include the redevelopment of Devonport Guildhall in the west of Plymouth as a leading cultural hub, the delivery of the Engine Room Programme in Cornwall to support businesses and social enterprise start-ups and the management of the Arts Council’s Bridge Contract designed to connect young people with high quality arts and cultural provision across the region.

Ed Whitelaw said, “As a knowledge-based, purpose driven organisation, RIO has a long-standing relationship with the RSA where we share both values and significant common ground.”

“It is both a challenging and exciting time for the south west peninsular. While we need to keep focusing on ensuring greater connectivity for the region, we also need to be thinking about our own economic and social resilience. We are predominantly an economy of small and medium-sized enterprises; how they can work in a way that better ensures a greater proportion of spend stays in the region, supporting jobs, communities and our outstanding natural environment is very important to us.”

“Our region’s RSA Fellows are already leading on work in the area of manufacturing and enterprise. MakeSouthWest is an innovative partnership that is bringing together and providing development support for ‘make spaces’ across Devon, Cornwall and Plymouth. We’re interested in how this new technology of rapid prototyping and 3D printing can provide greater research and development capacity for key sectors such as farming, green marine and our creative industries, developing a more circular economy.”

Over the next two years social enterprise will be one of the central themes for the RSA South West’s Fellows network, recognising the region’s national leadership in this area of business. The Plymouth Social Enterprise Network alone has over 70 members with a combined annual turnover of £500m. Collectively these companies provide 7000 jobs in the city which equate to 15% of the workforce. Cornwall, Exeter, Torbay, Somerset and North Devon have similar networks and the region is home to some of the UK’s largest and best known social enterprises including the Eden Project, Exeter City Football Club, Plymouth University and of course RIO.

The RSA is an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative and creative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to harness the extraordinary amount of untapped creative potential in society – by empowering people to be active participants in creating a better world and particularly works across areas such as creativity and learning; community and public services and; design, manufacturing and enterprise.

For further information on the work of the RSA Fellowship in the region contact ed.whitelaw@realideas.org.

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