ideas for a 21st century enlightenment - RSA

Ideas for a 21st century enlightenment


  • Democracy and governance
  • Economy

Just 21% of Britons we surveyed think the UK will be a better place to live in 2030 than today. In a series of four essays the RSA’s Action and Research Centre maps out how a more optimistic future might be secured.

Since 1754 the RSA has sought to unleash the human potential for enterprise and creativity. The current mission of the RSA is 21st century enlightenment; enriching society through ideas and action. 

We believe the following 10 foundations are necessary to bring the Enlightenment values of freedom, universalism and humanism to 21st century society:

  • Mass ownership of the assets of the new economy – and a Universal Basic Opportunity Fund to support economic security.
  • A national dialogue about expanding investment in the public services of the future after a decade of cuts.
  • A ten-year transformational Agriculture Plan to meet our commit­ments to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Pilot Universal Basic Income as a platform for real economic security and welfare.
  • New devolution settlement for the UK to empower neighbourhoods, towns, cities and regions to combat inequality.
  • Mission-led schools with the freedom to provide a more complete and generous education of the ‘head, hand and heart’ – a precondition for a 21st Century Enlightenment.
  • Devolve power to teachers, parents, communities and pupils to support a rich education for all.
  • A new social contract including Personal Training Accounts to help safeguard good work amidst widespread technological change.
  • Embed deliberative democracy in the UK constitution at national and local level.
  • A new data commons to ensure rights are protected and the benefits of the AI revolution are shared.

These foundations are explored in the 4 essays featured in 'Ideas for a 21st century enlightenment', also available to read online:



Download 'Ideas for a 21st century enlightenment' (PDF, 1MB)



Picture of Anthony Painter
Former Chief Research & Impact Officer (CRIO)

Picture of Brhmie Balaram
Brhmie Balaram
Associate Director, Economy, Enterprise and Manufacturing (family leave)

Picture of Benedict Dellot
Benedict Dellot
Former Head of the RSA Future Work Centre and Associate Director

Picture of Julian Astle
Former Director of Creative Learning and Development

Picture of Laura Partridge
Former Associate Director, Creative Learning and Education

Picture of Ed Cox
Ed Cox