What We Talk About When We Talk About RSA Events (with apols to Raymond Carver) - RSA

What We Talk About When We Talk About RSA Events (with apols to Raymond Carver)


  • Climate change
  • Cities
  • Leadership
  • Social innovation

Hello world! The indefatigable members of the events team have just emerged - blinking in the bright sunlight - after an inspiring,  provocative, and (blisteringly exhausting) triad of events. 

Of course a week doesn't go by without an acclaimed thought-leader or practitioner popping up on our stage, so this week is in many ways ‘business as usual’ for us. But I think this particular trifecta really encapsulates the unique ambitions of the RSA’s programme of activity, and thanks to some propitious stars aligning (and, regrettably, a lot of refined sugar) we managed to deliver something approaching our Platonic ideal of an event offering.

First up – President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Judith Rodin. A deeply eloquent, cerebral, and inspirational woman, Judith has not only broken through some traditionally impermeable barriers (she was the first female president of an Ivy League University) , she has steered the Rockefeller Foundation to a new 21st century goal – enabling cities and their constituent communities to not just withstand, but thrive despite both chronic and acute stresses and disruptions. Merging classic disaster preparedness protocols with the latest urban planning innovations (whilst dodging stifling bureaucracy and outdated governance models), she beautifully outlined the way resilience can be built into a system. This new paradigm speaks to our ‘power to create’ worldview, and neatly shows the varied ways in which design innovations (both literal and more abstract systems change), devolved responsibility and multilateral collaboration can work nimbly to achieve larger societal goals. Spotting some influential faces in the audience reminded us of the powerful ideas transfer that takes place between our speakers and audience members, all of whom are in some way in the position to implement far-reaching changes in their professional and personal lives.

Next up was our eagerly anticipated comedy revue – the first in our innovative (read: potentially perilous!) series on shaking up the somewhat stale conversation around climate change. Working alongside comedian Pippa Evans and Jonathan Rowson in the Action and Research Centre, we curated a line-up of seven acts to provide a fresh perspective on what we feel are the seven key dimensions of climate change. Dodging the two equally undesirable pitfalls of either a) direly unfunny and pious or b)TOO funny and flippant, our talented comedians (including Radio 4 stalwarts Marcus Brigstocke and Steve Punt) landed firmly in the perfect space, encouraging serious reflection and action via satire and provocation. I was assailed with requests from keen future-Fellows-to-be in the drinks afterwards – showing how the RSA’s chain of thought-leadership (Events and ARC team) to platform (Public Events) to engagement (Fellow recruitment) to potential action (Fellow-led initiatives) works at its best.

And last but not least, we welcomed organisational mastermind Frederic Laloux, who is the living, breathing embodiment of the soulful practices he prescribes. Arguing for the kinds of egalitarian, non-hierarchical working structures pioneered by RSA Albert Medallist Jos de Blok, Frederic and our own Matthew Taylor really drilled down into how devolving power and agency to capable individuals can result in better outcomes for all – whether in large-scale health services or small tech start-ups.

With members of the public and Fellows swapping emails and excitedly arranging networking meetings in front of me, I again felt the warm, fuzzy glow at seeing the RSA’s many platforms work so well in concert together. Or perhaps it was just a spot of indigestion from all the chocolates Frederic (now our undisputed guru of choice) brought us from Belgium.

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