If you think about this question of “What’s next?”, in no trivial way, what’s next is what we make of it. What we are able to convince others of, what we are able to do, what we are able to show. The morals we set, the ethical examples that we give. These things are passed on to others through global continuous engagement. That’s why the battle of ideas has to be joined, that’s why being on the side-lines is no longer an option for any of us. That’s why we have to engage because if we don’t, others will drive the agenda. We have a responsibility to create the world we want. Ian Goldin, 2018

The discontinuity in our lives triggered by the CoVid pandemic creates a unique peacetime opportunity to recalibrate our priorities, reconsider our possibilities, and reconfigure our politics, economies and business models.

The  Conversations at the Crossroads series offers an accessible public platform that seeks to explore and reflect the experiences (good and bad), the potential of the time we’re in and the impact of decisions we make moving forward.

We believe there is a moment to co-create a shared narrative that collectively determines what is worth holding on to and what we can let go. With a commitment to an open, inclusive society, this conversation series strives to engage and reflect the diversity of views, voices and experiences that may support, design, create, contest, challenge and regenerate a common future from our collective stories of meaning-making.

In this Prologue to the first conversation of the series, Dr Gary Kendall will set the scene by sharing some thought provoking perspectives on the trouble with the perception of the “pandemic as an event” and highlight why our collective reluctance to reconceptualise paradigms commits us to a future of growing systemic risk. The conversation will be moderated by Dr Gerry Salole of the European Foundation Centre.

Participants are invited to engage, support and drive the direction of discussion with their authentic and thoughtful contributions.

THE PROLOGUE SESSION: June 18th 2020 at 18h00 CET / 17h00 BST / 12h00 EST Register through Eventbrite here

This week’s speaker biographies

Dr Gary Kendall has been working at the intersection of business strategy and sustainability for more than a decade. Prior to joining Nedbank in 2013, he was Deputy Director at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and previously served as Executive Director at SustainAbility in London, where he advised numerous blue-chip organisations on how to strengthen their business strategies with enhanced systems intelligence.

Gary’s career in sustainable development began when he joined WWF International’s Climate & Energy team in 2006. Gary is the author of the WWF publication on electromobility titled “Plugged In”. He has a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Liverpool and has held a season ticket with Liverpool FC since 1991.

Dr Gerry Salole is the Chief Executive of the European Foundation Centre (EFC) since 2005. The EFC is an association of over 200 public-benefit foundations and corporate funders active in philanthropy in Europe and elsewhere. His previous posts have included serving as Representative at the Ford Foundation’s Southern Africa office, based in Johannesburg, and Director of the Department of Programme Documentation and Communication of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, based in The Hague. He has also worked for Save the Children Federation (USA) in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, and Redd Barna (Norwegian Save the Children) and OXFAM UK and UNHCR in Ethiopia.

Gerry studied Social Anthropology and African History at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He holds an M.A. (Econ.) and Ph.D. from the University of Manchester. Gerry sits on the board of the Impact Trust, the Advisory Board of the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (Parma), the Supervisory Board of the European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam), The Board of the Firelight Foundation (Palo Alto) and the Advisory Board of the African Centre for Philanthropy and Social Investment (Johannesburg).

More about this series

The idea of this conversation series started from collegiate conversations between ourselves and various audiences, networks and colleagues as the rise and spread of CoVid transformed both the way we lived in the present and the visions we had for the future. It morphed into discussions about whether this pandemic could, in all its destructiveness and in all that it exposes of our fractured societies, offer the potential for a seismic shift in our worldview. As an “equally dangerous” unilateral, global and pervasive threat, it is another shock to a system already in crisis, though perhaps experienced as more urgent, wake up call.

Most crucially, we have wondered whether “the pause” (as it has come to be known) would give rise to the required “reset” in the way we live our lives and go about our business, whether a reset would go far enough, or how a reconfiguration and regeneration could be effected. The biggest concern we saw emerge in early conversations was that society’s fear and anxiety at living with the “unresolved tension” of an unclear “new way of living” would (again) prevail and fuel frantic efforts to drive a “recovery” that would be as swift a return to business as usual as was (humanly) possible.

Whilst the pressure is mounting for a return to normality, there is an equally growing pressure from those who want to make sure this is not simply about switching off the pause button. Many want to be sure that this pandemic invokes the reconfiguration of how we live in the world; that it considers a new operating system which is sensitive to and cognisant of the many experiences, alternatives, solutions that individuals, families and communities arrived at during lockdown, ways of being and doing things that they would like to hold on to.

What we offer

These conversations are intended to be open to emerging themes contributed by participants within them. We will offer a range of initial contributors to the issues we think may ignite conversation, but our open forum, both within each session and on our interactive discussion board, is intended to allow the conversation – and the possibilities and opportunities it seeks to uncover – to move in the direction of the participants. Whilst some may engage with only one conversation, you are encouraged to join the series and contribute openly both to the live conversations that will take place on a fortnightly basis and to recorded audio / video and blog / community discussion board posts between, so that there are a variety of ways in which to engage.

We will mediate the conversation, by managing the collection of contributions, seeking out rejoinders and responses, and identifying key points that are highlighted by participants for deeper exploration.  The discussion hub will thus reflect an evolving conversations indicative of the dialogue created.  We hope that the live and online platforms will provide generously for thinking through the issues.

Participation is open to all who are willing to think deeply and engage authentically in challenging, contesting, resolving and reflecting on lessons and possibilities. We would encourage you, the (ordinary) person living in extraordinary times, to participate, to add your voice, experience, deep reflection and ideas of the rituals and rhythms that have sustained your hope and built your resilience – individually and systemically – that could contribute positively to the design and co-creation of a new road forward.

Each presented, fortnightly conversation will be moderated by Dr Gerry Salole.  A recording of the session and the curated conversations and submissions of all of this community will be available and emailed to all subscribers.