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The RSA hosts one of the world’s leading public events programmes, delivering over 100 lectures, talks, screenings and debates a year. These events provide a platform for our most exciting public thinkers, and encourage intelligent exploration of today’s most urgent social challenges. Our public programme welcomes speakers from across the world and across disciplines – all united by a belief in the power of ideas to inspire and motivate social change.
 
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show series
 
'Fashion has to reflect who you are' Pharrell Williams. Despite its fun reputation, the fashion industry isn't a trifling part of the climate change equation. The UN Environment programme estimates that it is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. But it's not just a case o…
 
What would our cities look like if they were designed with mental wellbeing, equity, and restoration at their core? Many cities around the world are built on models that haven’t kept pace with growing urban populations and the imperative to halt damage to the climate – which means millions living high-cost, high-stress lives in polluted, overcrowde…
 
The pandemic exposed the risks and weaknesses of the market-driven global system like never before, revealing a critical lack of institutional preparation and failings of the basic apparatuses of state administration. It also revealed that states could exercise experimental policy and control over the economy when necessary: governments around the …
 
We know climate change is the big existential challenge of our time and must be matched by the scale of our global response. Some have expressed scepticism about the potential for COP26 to bring about meaningful change, but with public appetite for climate action reaching new heights, is now the time when people power and formal politics could conv…
 
Work allows us to pay the bills – but for lots of people, it’s become about more than that. Many of us derive a sense of purpose or identity from our work: is this a consequence of more people being able to choose work that’s meaningful to them, or simply of work consuming more of our lives than ever? And what if we don’t get meaning or purpose fro…
 
Now is the time to rethink our future and how we get there. Can we harness digital technology to tackle poverty and increase social mobility? Could reforming work help reverse the mental health crisis? And what could happen if we empower communities to imagine and shape their futures? We are facing big questions about the kind of society and econom…
 
The role of imagination for thriving and prosperous communities.  As we emerge from the pandemic there is a collective opportunity to rethink and to create bold, community-led practices that can steer us towards a better future. This is the time for imagining radical initiatives that match the size and complexity of the challenges we face. The gove…
 
As Chief Negotiator for the EU, Michel Barnier was at the very heart of the Brexit process over four turbulent years. He visits the RSA to reveal insights from one of the most complex sets of talks in modern political history, to share his perspective on the lessons learned on both sides of the negotiating table, and to look forward to a new chapte…
 
r versus g? Or a Debt Jubilee? David Graeber’s bestselling book “Debt: The First 5000 Years” revolutionised our understanding of the origins of money and the role of debt in human societies. But intellectual revolutions take time, and David’s sudden and untimely death left this revolution unfinished. David’s widow Nika Dubrovsky has established ‘Th…
 
How can we make progress together when faced with increasingly complex challenges? The major challenges of our time demand creative and collaborative solutions. But they’re not always easy to come by: we face increasing complexity and, often, decreasing control. We need to work with people across more divides. How can we move forward in ever less s…
 
How did the world become addicted to fossil fuels? How did we discover that electricity may be our saviour? Who first sounded the alarm bell for climate change, and how could we seemingly ignore all these papers from the 1960s or 1970s musing that “if” we didn’t do anything, climate change could worsen significantly after the year 2000? As we look …
 
What is fear costing you? Your career; connection with others; believing in yourself? Fear is part of all of our lives but left unchecked it can drive many negative emotions and hold us back from finding fulfilment. Fear of failure, inadequacy and rejection can make us jealous, self-critical or turn us into perfectionists. Cultures of fear in the w…
 
Where are the opportunities for young people navigating an era rife with challenges? Studies show that many of the social and economic consequences of the pandemic have hit younger people the hardest, in a time when many were already facing adversity. Declining living standards, heightened insecurity, and deepening social divisions are changing wha…
 
Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia within families and within communities drives thousands of young people into homelessness. In the US, studies show that LGBTQ+ youths make up 40% of the nation’s total homeless youth population, despite LGBTQ+ youth comprising merely 5% of the overall youth population. In the UK, it is estimated that one in four…
 
Rethinking Education III | Beyond the School Gates: the role of schools in the wellbeing of communities Throughout the pandemic, schools have played a central role in the wellbeing of local communities, especially in the most disadvantaged areas. School leaders have provided high quality and safe learning environments, reassurance for staff, parent…
 
Innovations are emerging worldwide to address the challenges of a rapidly changing future of work. The pandemic is likely to accelerate the pace of technological change and automation globally. To secure a future where good work is available to all, we will need new approaches to skills, training and lifelong learning, to economic security and to w…
 
As nation-states grapple with generation-defining issues from the Covid-19 pandemic to the climate crisis, what role does civil society play in addressing the issues of our time? For the first time since President Biden took office and the UK left the EU, the G7 countries will come together at the 2021 summit in England to discuss the pandemic, pro…
 
In ordinary times, our exam system ensures that a third of young people finish school without the qualifications they need to progress. Now, after two years of cancelled exams, public dismay at algorithmic blindness to the true nature of student achievement, and after millions of the most disadvantaged children have missed out on key learning miles…
 
The more we spend time with people unlike ourselves, doing things together, the more understanding, tolerant, and even friendly we become. And yet, increasingly, most of us spend less and less time with people who are different - as defined by age, race, or class, earning power or education. The pandemic may have forced us apart, but it also remind…
 
What if women’s untapped power to make change was harnessed to fight the climate crisis? Climate change affects us all globally – but it does not affect us all equally. Vast social and economic inequities mean we don’t all contribute to the climate crisis to the same degree; nor are its effects evenly distributed. Racialised women are the most like…
 
We need a solid base camp from which to map new routes forward for humanity. One that’s built on a shared understanding of how core human needs and motivations interact with social forces to shape and drive the dynamics of change. Imagine a theory that united perspectives from human psychology to anthropology, from the sociology of groups and organ…
 
Government policies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have reignited the universal basic income (UBI) debate, showing us the vital lifeline that income support can provide. In the US, Congress has distributed nearly $850 billion through three rounds of stimulus checks. In the UK, the furlough scheme and self-employed income support schemes have …
 
If the way we give to those in need reflects on our values and virtue as a society, what do we see today? Charitable giving has grown in response to the huge areas of need that the Covid crisis has exposed and intensified, in the form of mutual aid groups, donations, and volunteering. How has this changed our communities, our public values, and the…
 
The speed with which Covid-19 vaccines have been developed represents a significant achievement for humanity and is providing hope for a way out of the pandemic, but the rollout so far has been unequal: high and middle-income countries are able to secure more vaccines than they need and vaccinate populations at speed, whilst low-income countries re…
 
How should we understand the ‘value’ of nature? The natural world provides all the building blocks of our lives and societies; we are embedded within it, and nothing without it. But our economies currently operate as though separate from nature, with consumption outstripping its supply of resources, and environmental degradation and instability wor…
 
How can we all play a part in changing our ‘fast fashion’ culture? The fashion industry accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions and a huge amount of pollution and waste. Sustainable fashion means change across the system: from how makers source and produce materials through to how we all consume and value clothing. Designers and collecti…
 
Over the course of the last year, the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement have exposed deep fault lines that show us how much work there is still to be done to make our societies equitable. At the same time, we are witnessing increased momentum for change, with individuals, communities and organisations embracing opportunities to tackle dispar…
 
The 2021 Albert Medal Event Sarah Gilbert is the scientist who designed the Oxford Vaccine – one of the most significant breakthrough developments in the global fight against coronavirus. As she receives the 2021 RSA Albert Medal for ‘collaborative innovation for the global common good’, Professor Gilbert joins RSA Chief Executive Matthew Taylor to…
 
Catching the creative wave: digital learning after lockdown The pandemic, and worldwide lockdown that accompanied it, required schools across the globe to redesign their delivery models overnight. Teachers, some for the first time, had to rethink their practice to engage with learners and parents in a virtual classroom. At the same time, schools ha…
 
There is no secret formula for success, but what if there was a pattern you could follow to help you accomplish your goals? Certain features of accomplishment are universal: it might not be an exact science, but if you look at the successes of others there are definite patterns. Sir Michael Barber has spent many years advising governments, business…
 
What does it take to challenge the status quo? And when and how does society’s understanding of what’s ‘normal’ start to change? From the civil rights movement to #MeToo, we’ve seen that individual and collective action has the power to disrupt and re-define our prevailing social norms – leading in turn to changes in institutional policy, practice …
 
Crisis can bring us together, if we let it remind us what really matters. In March 2020, as the pandemic took hold across the world, beloved children’s author Michael Rosen became seriously ill with coronavirus. During several months in hospital, he observed first-hand the many different kinds of love that bind us to one another, and recorded his p…
 
The social contract shapes everything: our political institutions, legal systems and material conditions, but also the organisation of family and community, our well-being, relationships and life prospects. And yet everywhere, the social contract is failing. At a time of global crisis, when we have an opportunity to think afresh about the future we…
 
Over recent months, we have seen individuals, communities and organisations embracing uncertainty as an opportunity for innovation, experimentation and renewal. Last year gave us all the signals we need to actively question whether the old normal is healthy and sustainable for the long term, as pandemic shock exposed deep fault-lines in our social …
 
As interest in green business models increases all over the world, how can we make sure we’re eliminating destructive practices and not merely greenwashing them? What can we do to achieve growth that is regenerative rather than wasteful, and which instils equity rather than exacerbating inequalities? Per Espen Stoknes, Director of the Center for Su…
 
As we strengthen our connection with one another, we are healthier, more resilient, more productive, more vibrantly creative and more fulfilled. - Dr Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General As humans we’re hardwired for connection; the need for community and family have deep roots in our health and wellbeing. The impact of strong relationships and social …
 
A year of crisis and confusion has led many of us to think hard about what we really want and need from our working lives. Pandemic shock has up-ended conventional ways of working and prompted profound re-examination of our work-life priorities, practices and pathways. Professor Herminia Ibarra is a leading expert on career development and transiti…
 
Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, right? Wrong. This neoliberal ideal of “doing what you love” is actually a recipe for exploitation that is wreaking havoc on our lives and communities. Whether it’s working for exposure and experience, or enduring long hours and poor treatment in the name of ‘being part of the family,’ many…
 
How can 2021 become a turning point for progress on climate change? With COP26 on the horizon and the incoming Biden administration poised to rejoin the Paris Agreement, climate action will be high on the agenda in 2021. But to make urgently necessary progress towards decarbonisation, the world must go further, embedding transformative economic cha…
 
Societies showed remarkable resilience and adaptability in 2020: in the face of public health crisis, political polarisation, and economic insecurity, we witnessed extraordinary examples of community solidarity and social innovation. And yet deep uncertainties and challenges lie in wait in the year ahead. To meet these challenges, we need to streng…
 
An unprecedented global pandemic. The worst global economic recession since the Great Depression. The tipping point for systemic racism. Growing polarisation and conflict. One of the biggest non-nuclear explosions of all time. An alarming increase in wildfires across five continents. 2020 has presented huge challenges for us to respond to. It is hu…
 
Competition laws are failing us on a whole host of issues vital to the public interest. But campaigning lawyer Michelle Meagher has a bold new agenda for reform. We live in the age of big companies, where power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, monopolies are the gold standard, and workers’ rights, the environment and democracy ar…
 
Changing what we do with our money could be one of the most powerful tools at our disposal for tackling the climate crisis – but putting our money where our values are can be complicated. How do we match our priorities with the opportunities available for investing ethically? Is divestment the only way? And how can we tell what is genuinely transfo…
 
RSA President’s Lecture 2020 As we navigate a series of urgent global crises, how might cities and communities be empowered to respond in ways that are ecologically safe and socially just? Doughnut Economics proposes a set of core principles for creating economies that are regenerative and distributive by design. What happens when these principles …
 
Creativity matters now more than ever. But for too long we’ve been told that it’s a mysterious gift granted to a select few. Nonsense, says Seth Godin. Creativity is a choice. The turbulent events of 2020 have presented an opportunity for pause and self-reflection. A moment to look at our lives, and to ask what truly gives them meaning and purpose.…
 
There is growing concern that Covid-19 disruption is creating the conditions for a rise in school exclusions. Who do we need to listen to, what needs to change, and how can we work better together to support educators, parents and policymakers to address the problem of exclusions at its roots? The RSA’s Pinball Kids project explores the underlying …
 
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