In less than an hour I will give my sixth annual chief executive lecture to the RSA. If you want to watch it you can here.
Over the years I have spoken about:
2007: The future it’s up to us
(a bit pious but helped me identify the issue of social capacity as a key one for the RSA)
2008: The Social Brain
(basically, giving the audience a Cook’s tour of evidence on the brain and behaviour, but it did help to put a stake in the ground for our growing interest in behaviour change)
2009: Left brain, right brain
(got people talking but was guilty of a slightly deterministic way of thinking about the brain, for which people like Raymond Tallis have mocked me ever since)
(the one of which I am most proud. Doesn’t really cut the mustard as scholarship but seems to have gone down quite well on YouTube)
2011: Enlightened enterprise
(helped to link our modern mission to longer established themes such as commerce and enterprise but – although we had a good event – didn’t seem to make much impact)
Preparing for these lectures is just like cooking a dinner for guests. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it but it is a bit nerve-wracking, and even when it seems to have gone well the contrast between the time taken to research and write the speech and the time taken for it to be consumed (and forgotten) inevitably leaves me feeling deflated.
It is an honour to deliver the lectures but although I hope they are one of the things that shapes the Society’s thinking (along with our historic mission, Trustee guidance, Fellows views and partners suggestions), I am not a politician who can pass laws or even a scholar who can claim to have unearthed new findings.
So tomorrow as always I will no doubt be asking ‘why do I bother?’ and this time next year despite having failed to answer the question I will once more be re-reading my notes, checking my flies are done up, taking a deep breath and secretly hoping to change the world.
We shouldn’t underestimate how far our societies have pulled apart. Yet there is hope for renewal, says Anthony Painter. The question is not whether we come together – but how.