Please meet Sally Hardy, CEO of the Regional Studies Association
I began work for the RSA on 3rd December 1986 at a time when the RSA owned a desktop computer (an Amstrad), but it was in a cardboard box and I was advised by the then, RSA Secretary, that I wouldn’t need it to do the job. It seems several lifetimes ago now.
Almost straight away, I knew that the RSA was a good place for me. I am a geographer by training. I’d worked in the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council straight from university and was committed to science administration as a career. I knew that I didn’t want to do research, I wanted to make a difference by buffering between research and policy. I honestly did not expect to still be enjoying the RSA more than three decades after I started.
I’ve learned new skills while with RSA. I was an early adopter of database writing and personally wrote the first two iterations of our membership database. I learned HTML to construct the early RSA websites. I know that my current colleagues will be astonished that I could do this and will be frustrated that I’m not so agile now. We have gone from using metal plate addressograph machines for managing multiple annual print mailings, to a current situation of rapidly falling numbers of mailings which are pleasingly plastic free and “naked”. The use of our amazingly good RSA Hub app (free from your app store and available for desktops and mobile phones) is growing.
Our conference programme has shifted in 35 years, from primarily UK based, to truly global (interrupted only by COVID). The numbers of people engaging with RSA have grown sharply. Our reputation for friendliness brings people to our events and many choose to join after attending our events.
I still enjoy the policy engagement side of my role. The establishment of RSA Europe following the UK Brexit vote in 2016 has been pleasing, and I now wear two hats, being also the General Secretary of that organisation. Engagement with the EU institutions is always interesting and opens opportunities for our field to showcase its work.
Just as my working life has evolved, my personal life has too. In the 80s and 90s, I was a competitive canoeist. My highest-ranking was 18th in the UK Whitewater C2 Slalom. My partner and I were the highest ranked mixed crew at the time (man and a woman in the boat) and we were very pleased with that. When my children were little, I spent time playing badminton and golf, but for the last 15 years, I’ve been a road and touring cyclist.
My love of cycling is fairly well known in our community, and this year I’ve already got tours booked in France and the Netherlands. My favourite tours in the past were London to Ljubljana 2012; San Francisco to Mexico 2016; and John O’Groats to Land’s End 2022. I love travelling at cycling speed, watching the countryside, chatting to ride buddies and eating as many scones as I want. I enjoy the great outdoors and the feeling of physical fatigue at the end of the day.
I have two wonderful children whom I love and am so proud of. My son founded and manages a global tutoring business, and my daughter has recently joined the publishing industry with a major UK-based publishing company. It’s so great being able to discuss journals and the shift to open access with her.
My non-sporting interests are in sewing (British Sewing Bee watch out 😊); I’m an active member of the Brighton Book Club and a relatively new joiner of the Brighton Belles Women’s Institute. My next outing with them is the sport of Axe Throwing … which we are hoping to feature as our sport of the conference in Ljubljana in June this year. Come and join in, or come and watch! All welcome.