Meaning 2017 – a conference for better 21st Century business
Kirstin Engelmann

Meaning 2017 – a conference for better 21st Century business

Posted on 23rd November 2017 by Kirstin Engelmann

Last week we attended the Meaning conference at the historic Brighton Dome. Since 2012, Meaning has provided a fantastic forum for mind-blowing ideas and alternative perspectives on the role of business in society. This year the core themes included Post-Growth Economics, The Future of Work, Beyond Sustainability, Disruptive Innovation and 21st Century Leadership. The event was composed of ten inspiring talks, a variety of workshops and plenty of networking opportunities.

“Police your cynicism!”

This year the guest director and host was ‘futurenaut’ Mark Stevenson who emphasized the importance of finding purpose in something bigger than yourself, and living accordingly. He preached an unashamed optimism about the future, warning that we all need to police our own cynicism. We loved Mark’s idea of a ‘serendipity fund’ each month – setting aside time and money to do ‘random sh*t’ that you think you will truly hate. He believes this is how you get outside of your comfort zone, and that is where the true magic happens.

Chocolate with a conscience

Perhaps the most charismatic and relatable speaker was Dutch/American entrepreneur Ynzo van Zanten from Tony’s Chocoloney, who reminded the audience of the importance of running a company where core meaning takes precedence over the product. Through some heart-wrenching footage, he demonstrated to the audience that most of our favourite chocolate brands rely on forced child labour in the countries of Western Africa. Ynzo’s brand, ‘Tony’s Chocolonely’, is a 100% slave-free movement away from this industry norm. His message highlighted the importance of a creating a company that leads by example to activate industry, politics and consumers to bring about change.

Back to school

Another highlight was Carl Jarvis, proud of his title as ‘the number one enemy of state education’. Carl is on a mission to revolutionise our education system to reinstate the country’s hunger and uninhibited passion for learning. Told through the lens of his heart-breaking experience with structuralism issues in the RAF and our state education system, Carl revealed the fundamental flaw in our schools – they are designed to kill the zest for learning and instead, enforce mundane obedience to compel future generations to comply to the system without resistance, and with low motivation.

New ways of thinking

We also enjoyed hearing from Kate Raworth about Doughnut Economics and how we can design organisations fit for the 21st Century. Kyra Maya Philips gave us her insights into the Misfit Economy and the dark side of innovation, and Jurriën Mentink talked movingly about his experience in a Dutch care home where students get low-cost rent whilst caring for the elderly 13 hours a week.

Themes that hit home

Meaning 2017 was a highly informative day packed full of amazing talks by inspirational speakers. Many of the core themes resonated with us, particularly the Future of Work and Beyond Sustainability, and it was satisfying to see so many connections to the bold messages and thought leadership campaigns we’ve developed for our global clients.  Our work with Arcadis included the Sustainable Cities Index which was designed to bring new life to the sustainability debate. And we developed the annual Prosperity Index for the Legatum Institute – the world’s only global assessment of national prosperity based on both wealth and wellbeing.

We can definitely see ways in which the wider themes and messages from Meaning 2017 can be applied to ongoing and future projects and campaigns. All in all, the event was a huge success – and we will definitely be back next year.

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