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In Your Network: Ulf Brandes

Ulf Brandes is one of our Fellows who make up the RSA Connectors network, putting you in touch with local Fellows. He is based in Berlin and is the co-founder of the go21 network, which seeks to popularise 21st century collaborative tools and approaches. Find out what inspires him:  

1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?
I'm co-founder of the go21 network, and our goal is to contribute to 21st century progress. Obviously, with this name, our mission can't be as perennial as the RSA's.  Yet, it's a small part of it, and we've noticed such promising advances around us during recent times, that we believe a pattern has emerged such as:

  • from a mechanical, industrial view of man towards one that's human, organic. 
  • from a 'telling', demanding posture towards one that's suggesting, learning. 
  • from a cultural tendency to dominate, towards one that creates level playing fields. 

Like Maria Montessori's work for children and education a hundred years ago, we see this shift today, which is focused on collaboration and organisation. It manifests in new organizational approaches such as Design Thinking and 'Agile' production, as well as in numerous new reform movements such as Scrum, Beyond Budgeting, the Service Design Network, or the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI). 

At we build bridges between these reform approaches, and provide simple entry points for organizations to tap their potentials -- without the need to acquaint with all of these new movements individually.  We've just started this year, grew quite a body of knowledge already, and we're happy to get in touch with anyone interested. 

2) Why did you join the Fellowship?
Impressed by the RSA's work and mission, I looked for a similar institution for me that I could support in Germany, but found none. I got invited to serve as Fellow and later as German connector, which I both happily accepted.

3) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society/the Fellowship?
Through the RSA and the go21 network, I'm keen to help popularize our 21st century ideals and approaches. Having worked 9 years in international management at US corporations and another 9 years in German start-up firms, I see lots of underrated potential in human nature that I'd love to tap for economics and business.

4) What would you change in society given the chance?
I'd wish for mankind’s collaborative capabilities to advance as much as our technological capabilities have advanced so far.

5) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
Talking with a friend who works closely with the CERN Labs in Switzerland where thousands of leaders of the most diverse fields collaborate on complex uncharted costly challenges, I got excited over the idea of tapping their insights and learnings for broader application e.g. in industry. 

6) What did you learn last week?
We had always gone on holiday with friends and family, but having recently gone away it struck us this time how fulfilling, meaningful and recreational it is to spend two weeks time with our three children alone, just the five of us!

7) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
Of the few FRSA in and near Germany, Manoushehr Shamsrizi is the Fellow I’ve met the most often.  Manou is a highly promising young man with an incredible talent to promote unorthodox views - much to learn from!

8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? Please tell us if there is anything you would like from other Fellows.  
I’d love to know:  How did you or your firm organize work and leadership to be more in line with people’s ideals and values?  How did it all come about, and when did it reach a tipping point?  We're collecting stories and approaches for later publication, to inspire others to try something similar! 


Ulf Brandes

Ulf Brandes



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Ulf Brandes